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Your Environment. Your Health.

Stories of Success

NIEHS-funded scientists work in a variety of disciplines, performing groundbreaking research into how the environment influences the development and progression of disease. Through these Stories of Success we invite you to explore the people behind the research in stories that you won't find in a scientific journal. Read about NIEHS grantees who are developing new technologies to better measure environmental exposures and their effects on our body; partnering with communities to help them understand the effects of pollution; and cultivating tomorrow's environmental health scientists.

Featured DERT Success Stories

NIEHS Grantees Establish Working Group to Weigh the Potential Public Health Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing

Trevor Penning Image - Headshot

Trevor Penning, Ph.D.

Using supplemental funds from NIEHS, members of the Working Group on Unconventional Natural Gas Drilling Operations are conducting several pilot projects aimed at examining the environmental health impacts of UNGDO. Data from these pilot projects could be used to launch collaborative research projects with a focus on environmental epidemiology in at-risk populations. Read More...

Understanding How Chemical Exposures Affect Children's Brain Development

Aimin Chen - small

Aimin Chen, Ph.D., M.D.

NIEHS grantee Aimin Chen, Ph.D., M.D., studies how prenatal and early childhood chemical exposures affect brain development in children. Chen, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, published findings showing that prenatal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) from flame retardants is associated with lower IQ and more hyperactive behaviors in children. Read More...

Commercializing a New Portable Mercury Detector

Jay James, Ph.D.

Jay James, Ph.D.

Jay James, Ph.D., launched a start-up company, Picoyune, in 2012 to commercialize a portable mercury detector that he helped develop as an NIEHS Superfund Research Program trainee. The reliable and easy-to-use mercury detector can replace the complex laboratory equipment typically used to analyze samples from contaminated sites. It also allows on-site analysis. Read More...

Understanding the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill's Effects on Communities

J. Glenn Morris, Jr., M.D., leads the UF component of the NIEHS-funded Deepwater Horizon Research Consortia. He received his initial epidemiologic training at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

J. Glenn Morris, Jr., M.D.

J. Glenn Morris, Jr., M.D., leads the University of Florida (UF) component of the NIEHS-funded Deepwater Horizon Research Consortia. He and his collaborators have spent the last four years assessing the oil spill's effects on the Gulf coastline of Florida and Alabama. The UF findings highlight the substantial, long-term, public health impact of this major environmental disaster on coastal communities and people. Read More...

Small Business Offers Innovative, Sustainable Methods of Rodent and Pest Control to Improve Human Health

Loretta Mayer - Small

Loretta Mayer, Ph.D.

As the global population and cities continue to grow, so do challenges in environmental control and management of chemical, physical, and biological factors that impact human health. For example, rodents present major public health issues in that they reduce the quality of life, destroy agricultural crops, and contaminate resources in protein production facilities. They also present a major burden as carriers of serious and often life-threatening disease agents that can be transmitted to humans. SenesTech is an innovative animal health company that offers novel, humane strategies to manage rodent and pest populations by targeting their ability to reproduce. Read More...

Studying Patterns of Exposure and Disease over Space and Time

Verónica Vieira, Sc.D., environmental epidemiologist

Verónica Vieira, Sc.D.

Environmental epidemiologist Verónica Vieira, Sc.D., uses advanced modeling tools to examine how environmental exposures and disease risk change over space, or location, and time. Her methods and modeling expertise have contributed to a number of national and international environmental epidemiological studies examining risk of autism, birth defects, cancer, and other adverse health outcomes. Read More...

Integrating Data to Help Elucidate Causes of Environmentally Influenced Disease

Mattingly Headshot Small

Carolyn Mattingly, Ph.D.

Carolyn Mattingly, Ph.D., and her team have been working for over a decade to develop and expand the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD), a centralized, publicly available resource that systematically integrates the data needed to make connections between chemical mechanisms of action and potential impacts on human health. Read more...

Making Metabolomics More User-Friendly

Patti Headshot Small

Gary Patti, Ph.D.

NIEHS grantee Gary Patti, Ph.D., is developing a new technology that could make it much easier and faster to acquire and interpret metabolomics data. Metabolomics — the analysis of metabolites found in the body — can reveal patterns of metabolic changes linked with environmental disorders or diseases. Read more...

Using Statistical Models to Address Complex Environmental Health Data

Roger Peng, Ph.D.

Roger Peng, Ph.D.

NIEHS grantee Roger Peng, Ph.D., serves as co-director of the data management and statistics core for the NIEHS Center for Childhood Asthma in the Urban Environment at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. As an environmental biostatistician, he recognizes the importance of developing statistical methods and using data science skills to address environmental health issues. Read more...

Using Tooth Matrix Biomarkers to Uncover Developmental Windows of Susceptibility

Manish Arora, Ph.D.

Manish Arora, Ph.D.

Great challenges persist in valid assessment of exposures that occur during the prenatal period and early childhood. For example, chemicals measured in a pregnant woman's blood do not always accurately reflect fetal exposure. Environmental epidemiologist and dentist Manish Arora, Ph.D., from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, recognizes the promising value of using teeth as exposure biomarkers to overcome these challenges. Read more...

Stricter Air Quality Standards May Lead to Better Lung Function in Children

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Frank Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D.

Environmental and preventive medicine specialist Frank Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D., is director of the NIEHS Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, where he leads investigations on air pollution research, gene-environment interactions, respiratory health, and cancer epidemiology. Read more...

Grantee links early lead exposure with behavioral problems in children

Jianghong Liu, Ph.D.

Jianghong Liu, Ph.D.

NIEHS grantee Jianghong Liu, Ph.D., is working to understand how early exposure to lead can affect a child’s brain in a way that leads to emotional and behavioral problems. Read more...

New Tools for Breast Cancer Education

BCERP Website

The Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) is co-funded by NIEHS and the National Cancer Institute and supports multidisciplinary scientists, clinicians, and community partners who study environmental exposures that could predispose women to breast cancer. Read more...


Exploring the Impacts of Particulate Matter on Lung Injury and Cardiovascular Health

Mutlu, Gokhan M.D.

Gokhan Mutlu, M.D.

Pulmonologist Gokhan Mutlu, M.D., has a longstanding interest in investigating how air pollution causes harm to the lungs and triggers life threatening cardiovascular issues, such as blood clots. His research could lead to new therapies for preventing cardiovascular problems related to air pollution. Read more...

Unexpected Discovery Links DNA Repair Gene Variant to Lupus in Mice

Headshot of Sweasy without Text

Joann B. Sweasy, Ph.D.

Joann B. Sweasy, Ph.D., is internationally recognized for her expertise in DNA repair and cancer biology. Her surprising discovery of a link between a DNA repair gene variant and lupus led to the development of a mouse model for lupus that could help researchers understand how environmental factors affect risk for the disease. Read more...

PECASE Awardee Works to Understand the Environment’s Role in Autism

Photo of Young-Shin, Kim

Young-Shin Kim, Ph.D.

Young-Shin Kim, Ph.D., wants to understand why autism prevalence is increasing by studying the role of environmental risks and gene-environment interactions. Read more...

NIEHS Grantee Finds Immunotoxic Effects for PFCs in Children

Philippe Grandjean, M.D.

Philippe Grandjean, M.D.

NIEHS grantee Philippe Grandjean, M.D., published one of the first studies to link childhood exposure to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) with immune system deficiency. Read more...

Mapping Pesticide Exposure Reveals Association with Parkinson's Disease

Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D.

Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D.

NIEHS grantee Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D., uses geographic information systems (GIS) technology to study links between pesticide exposure and risk for Parkinson’s disease. Read more...

High School Teacher’s Research Experience Benefits Students

Tyler Beach

Tyler Beach

Tyler Beach spent a summer conducting environmental health research at the University of Rochester thanks to support from an NIEHS administrative supplement grant. He can draw upon this summer research experience when teaching science at Greece Athena High School in Rochester, N.Y. Read more...

Undergraduate Researchers Contribute to Melanoma Research

James Hoerter

James Hoerter, Ph.D.

James Hoerter, Ph.D., is working to understand the causes of melanoma, a type of skin cancer that claims around 8,000 lives each year in the United States. He is funded through an NIEHS Academic Enhancement Research Award (AREA), a program designed to support small-scale research projects at institutions where primary focus is undergraduates. Read more...

ONES Awardee Studies Ion Channels Activated by Environmental Irritants

Sven-Eric Jordt

Sven-Eric Jordt, Ph.D.

Sven-Eric Jordt, Ph.D., investigates sensory neuron ion channels called transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. The ion channel is found in large numbers in the eyes, where it causes tears, as well as in the throat and larynx, where it initiates the coughing reflex.His early research linked these channels to pain sensing, and more recently he found that the channels are also responsible for the watery eyes and coughing reactions some people have when exposed to cigarette smoke and other environmental irritants. Understanding how TRP channels work could lead to new pain medicines, asthma therapies, and ways to counteract chemical warfare agents. Read more...

Researchers Partner with Community to Study Traffic-related Air Pollutants at Schools

Pollutant Sensor

Patrick Ryan, Ph.D.

Patrick Ryan, Ph.D., is examining the impact of traffic-related pollutants on asthma in inner-city schools through a community-based research project called the Cincinnati Anti-Idling Campaign study. The study involves University of Cincinnati researchers partnering with the Cincinnati Health Department and the Cincinnati Public Schools to develop and implement an anti-idling campaign aimed at reducing children's exposure to traffic-related air pollution while traveling to and attending school. Read more...

Wearable Monitor Tracks Individual Exposures to Air Pollution

Pollution Map

Nongjian (NJ) Tao, Ph.D.

A wearable monitor developed by NIEHS grantee Nongjian (NJ) Tao, Ph.D., tracks and transmits real-time information on multiple air pollution components to which a person comes in contact. This personal exposure information can help researchers identify gene-environment interactions that lead to various health effects. Read more...

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