Department Notes Archive – 2016

Department Notes – 2016

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Dr. Russ Hauser became Acting Chair, and then Chair, of the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on September 1, 2016. Dr. Douglas Dockery was the Chair from 2005 – 2016.

Notes 12/22/2016

Finals are finished and as we all go off to enjoy our winter break and celebrate the holidays, there is once again a lot of news to report in the EH Department.

A number of people received awards in our Department recently:

Joe Brain received an NSF grant entitled “Fate of aerosolized Nanoparticles: the influence of surface active substances on lung deposition and respiratory effects (NANOaers)”.

Diane Gold received two ECHO grants. The first was from NIH via Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, entitled “Common and distinct early environmental influences on cardiometabolic and respiratory health: Mechanisms and methods”. The second was from NIH via the University of Wisconsin, entitled “U.S. Childhood Respiratory and Environment Workgroup (CREW)”.

David Christiani received an NHLBI grant entitled “MicroRNA in ARDS”.

Congratulations to Joe, Diane and David!

Alexander Wu’s study published in Environmental Health about the prevalence of depression in airline pilots got widespread international press publicity, e.g. on CNN , Newsweek, etc. It was also featured on the Harvard Chan’s website. Marc Weisskopf, Eileen McNeely and Theresa Betancourt also contributed, along with senior author Joe Allen.

Many of you may have caught Gary Adamkiewicz as he participated in a recent Forum discussion entitled “The Future of Food”. It was co-sponsored by PRI’s program “The World” and WGBH. If you missed it, you can find it here , or in a Harvard Gazette article here.

Congratulations to Nathalie de Marcellis-Warin for presenting her poster entitled “FrackMap : A Tool to Communicate about Fracking and Potential Environmental and Public Health Impacts in the United States” that won the “Best Poster Award” at the Society for Risk Analysis Annual Meeting in San Diego. Ann Backus and Thiery Warin co-authored the poster.

Congratulations to Diana Ceballos for getting officially voted on to the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) board and also for participating in the Biomonitoring Massachusetts Advisory Panel with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Diana also was first author on a paper published in the Journal of Occupational Health and Environmental Hygiene entitled “Metal Exposures at three U.S. Electronic Scrap Recycling Facilities”.

We neglected to congratulate Feiby Nassan, lead author of an article that appeared in Environmental International back on August 26, entitled “A crossover-crossback prospective study of dibutyl-phthalate exposure from mesalamine medications and semen quality in men with inflammatory bowel disease”. This international study included several authors from Harvard Chan including Brent Coull, Michelle Williams, Ramace Dadd, L. Minguez-Alarcon, Jennifer Ford, and me.

A New York Times article entitled “How big banks are putting rain forests in peril” cited a study published in Environmental Research Letters by Sam Myers, with co-authors Jonathan Buonocore and Joel Schwartz.

Felipe Pedroso was a non-EH student who was taking Rose Goldman’s EH201 course when he decided to apply some of the tools he learned in the course to a final project that was of interest to him; bicycle safety in Boston. The course’s TA, former EH doctoral student and current visiting scientist Katherine (Katie) Taylor, worked with him after the course ended to publish a paper in the American Journal of Public Health. The paper was featured in the Harvard Gazette. This is a wonderful example of how this School’s students can get exposure to environmental health issues whether they are in EH or not.

Cindy Hu gave a webinar to the Groundwater Resources Association of California on the detection of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in U.S. drinking water on Nov 30th. It attracted 162 attendees from government, academia, and industry.

I know we mentioned her accomplishment before, but Christalyn Rhodes was featured on the Harvard Chan website for being named a Harvard Horizons Scholar.

Many of you attended our Whittenberger Lecture at MassArt, with presentations by our own Tamarra James-Todd, Gary Adamkiewicz and keynote speaker Professor Ana Diez Roux, Dean of Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health. All of the presentations were terrific.

Moderators and presenters at the 2016 Whittenberger Symposium: Russ Hauser, Tamarra James-Todd, Gary Adamkiewicz, Ana Diez Roux, Francine Laden, and Doug Dockery

Finally, big congratulations to Patrice Ayers, who marks her 40 year anniversary at Harvard this month!

I want to wish everyone my very best during this holiday season and a happy New Year! Have fun, stay safe, and relax. I look forward to welcoming you all back in the new year!


Notes 11/22/2016

We have some exciting news and updates from over the last month or so.  First of all, we’ve taken the Department to Twitter! Engage with us at !

Bob Herrick, Jim Stewart, and Joe Allen estimating the number of US schools impacted by PCBs received a lot of publicity, as it was cited by both the Washington Post and Senator Ed Markey.  Separately, CHGE’s ‘Healthy Buildings’ team released the ‘9 Foundations of a Healthy Building’ in L.A. at Greenbuild this year which was attended by 20,000 real estate professionals.  Lastly, Joe was interviewed on a UK radio show called “Naked Scientists”, where he discussed his paper on the association between the flavoring chemicals in e-cigarettes and Popcorn Lung.  Lastly, Joe was invited to a White House Round Table discussion on health benefits of the outdoors, and he spoke at the State Department on the UN Sustainable Development goals.  It’s been a busy month for Joe!

Many of you participated in the very successful Harvard-NIEHS Center Retreat, run by Doug Dockery.  It provided an opportunity for many researchers to interact and explore what each other was working on, to learn about the Center resources that are available, and to generate ideas for the upcoming competitive renewal.  Congratulations to Peggy Lai, who won the flash funding competition for her project entitled “Solar Lighting to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution in Rural Uganda”.  We also congratulate Hae-Ryung Park for her winning poster entitled “Identification of novel ER stress regulator miR124 against AS exposure” and Vy Nguyen for her runner up poster entitled “Variations in Blood, Urine, and Toenail Metal Concentrations by Hemochromatosis (HFE) Genotype”.  Thanks to Melanie Radkiewicz who organized the retreat, and to everyone that participated and/or helped staff it.

Doug Dockery presents Peggy Lai her check for winning the flash funding competition at the Harvard-NIEHS Center retreat
Doug Dockery presents Peggy Lai her check for winning the flash funding competition at the Harvard-NIEHS Center retreat

Congratulations to Jie Yin, whose master’s project entitled “Assessing the Health Impact of Exposure to Biophilic Indoor Environment: A Virtual Reality Approach” was awarded a “Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund” ($10,000) from Harvard Office for Sustainability last week.

Also, congratulations to Diana Ceballos for being awarded a couple of small grants.  One is entitled “Assessing the Role of Occupation on Home Exposures in a Disadvantaged Community”. The objective is to determine the contribution that work has on home exposures and how it relates to health disparities by administering an occupational survey and collecting a home dust sample and biomonitoring.  The second is entitled ”Exposure of Nail Salon Workers to Reproductive Toxic Chemicals”.   In addition, Diana is also working with Joe Allen on a similar study of exposures on nail polish employees.  Well done Diana!

Congratulations to Christine Ordija for successfully defending her dissertation entitled “Free Actin and Effects on Lung Macrophage Bacterial Defenses“.  Also congratulations to Joe Beyene from Quan Lu’s lab, who passed his Pre-Qualifying Examination.

I’m proud to say that our department had four of the School’s ten PhD PHS students that were named Presidential Scholars.  President Drew Faust met with Ernani Choma (Jack Spengler), Adjani Peralta (Petros Koutrakis), Zhihui Wang (David Christiani), and Yinnan Zheng (Tamarra James-Todd).  Congratulations to all of them for receiving this honor!

I was heartened to see that the School’s website featured an article entitled “Exposure to phthalates may raise risk of pregnancy loss, gestational diabetes” that highlighted a couple of studies emanating from our EOME program.  The first study, which came out of my research group, was from a publication in Epidemiology entitled “Urinary Concentrations of Phthalate Metabolites and Pregnancy Loss Among Women Conceiving with Medically Assisted Reproduction”.  Carmen Messerlian was the lead author, with co-authors Blair Wylie, Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, Paige Williams, Jennifer Ford, Irene Souter, Antonia Calafat, and me.  The second study, in Environment International, was entitled “Pregnancy urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations and gestational diabetes risk factors”.  Tamarra James-Todd was the lead author, and I was a co-author along with colleagues from the University of Michigan and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  Well done by all involved in both of these studies.

First author Ryan Calder’s article in Environmental Science and Technology entitled “Future Impacts of Hydroelectric Power Development on Methylmercury Exposures of Canadian Indigenous Communities.” garnered a lot of attention.  Last author Elsie Sunderland was quoted in a New York Times article entitled ”Canada’s Big Dams Produce Clean Energy, and High Levels of Mercury”, and was featured on the Harvard Chan website here.  Congratulations to them and co-authors Amina Schartup, Miling Li, Amelia P. Valberg, and Prentiss H. Balcom.

Rick Rogers hosted a very successful international workshop at the Martin Center entitled “New Horizons in Inflammation and Synthetic Biology”.  It featured 20 speakers, including Rick and lab members Yohann Grondin and Adam Bartos.  Kudos to Jean Lai for organizing this, with assistance from Patrice Ayers, Jon Lavigne and Brad Francis.  Well done, all!

Les Kobzik has reached his 35 year milestone at the School.  Congratulations Les!

By the way, we’re looking forward to several exciting Department events in December. CHGE is hosting a couple of excellent presentations; our EH Colloquium Series continues on December 12; and our flagship 18th annual Whittenberger Symposium on December 15 will feature presentations by Tamarra James-Todd and Gary Adamkiewicz.  The keynote speaker will be Dean Ana Diez Roux from Drexel University.  She will speak about “Integrating Social Determinants and Environmental Factors: Implications for Research and Policy”.  Get details and check out all of our Department’s events on this calendar.

I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving.  It’s a holiday when we can all stop to count our blessings – of which I’m sure there are many!


Notes 10/5/2016

Biomarkers, Organic Chemicals, Reproductive, Perinatal, Pediatric, Epidemiology
Russ Hauser MD, ScD, MPH
Acting Chair, Department of Environmental Health

I always looked forward to reading Doug’s Department of Environmental Health Notes.  As Acting Chair I plan to continue the tradition of updating everyone on the news of faculty, staff, trainees, and students in the Department.  If you have achievements or exciting updates please send them to Glenn Stern and me.

First, I want to first thank Doug for his 11+ years of serving as Chair!  In my first month as Chair, I have quickly gained an appreciation of how multifaceted and complex the position is. I have also been in awe of the amazing research, teaching, and training we are accomplishing every day in our department.  I also want to congratulate Doug for his 40 years of benefits eligible service at the School.   Unfortunately, I could not attend the Welcome Back party when this was celebrated, as I was speaking at a NIEHS workshop celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Endocrine Disruptors Research.

As you will see, this was a stellar month for our Department.  Many of us attended the ISEE (International Society for Environmental Epidemiology) conference in Rome, Italy.  It is a testament to our Department’s productivity to have been so well represented.  There were too many posters and presentations from members of our Department to list individually in this newsletter, but you can use this ISEE link and enter “Harvard Chan” in the search author/affiliation box to see our School’s 73 posters and presentations, most of which involve our Department.    There were a few highlights that I would like to mention.  We were delighted to see Marc Weisskopf receive the inaugural ISEE’s Tony McMichael Mid-term Career Award.  Named for Tony McMichael, a distinguished scientist in the field, the award is meant to honor a mid-term career scientist for their scientific contributions to the field of environmental epidemiology as well as their commitment to, and demonstration of, exceptional mentoring. Congratulations, Marc!  Also, Philippe Grandjean was awarded the John F. Goldsmith Award for outstanding contributions to environmental epidemiology. The award is named after the late prominent epidemiologist John R. Goldsmith, who in the mid-1970s recommended that the young physician Philippe Grandjean study the adverse health effects of lead in air pollution.  Philippe follows in the footsteps of former recipient Douglas Dockery, who had previously won the same award.  Finally, I want to congratulate Francine Laden for a job well done, as she completed her term as President of the ISEE.   You can read more about the ISEE conference here, which in turn contains some links to videos of some of our Department members.  Congratulations to all the awardees and researchers that gave presentations or displayed posters!

There is a lot of other news to celebrate in our Department this month.  Congratulations to the Center for Health and the Global Environment for kicking off its 20th anniversary celebration with the first Sustainability for Health Leadership Series featuring Dean Michelle Williams and Rick Fedrizzi, who co-founded the organization that developed the LEED green building rating system.  You can read about this event here.  Don’t miss the remaining seminars in their outstanding series which can be found here.

Marc Weisskopf received an R21 from the NIEHS for his proposal entitled “Air Pollution and Autism in Israel: A Population-Wide Study”.  He is collaborating with his former postdoc, Raanan Raz, who is now on the faculty at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Also, Marianthi Kioumourtzoglou accepted a faculty position at Columbia in Environmental Health.   Congratulations to Marc, Raanan and Marianthi for these achievements!

Rick Rogers received an award from the Office of Naval Research for his proposal entitled “Biophysiokinetic effect of NIR on cochlear oxidative stress and TTS”.  Yohann Grondin, a Research Scientist in Rick’s lab, received his own award from ONR for his project entitled ”Genotyping of Completion Samples in the Marine Recruit Archive”.  Congratulations to both Rick and Yohann!

Congratulations to lead author Glen Deloid and co-authors Georgios Pyrgiotakis, Sandra Pirela, Anoop Pal, Jiying Liu, Jelena Srebric and Philip Demokritou for winning the inaugural Particle and Fibre Toxicology Prize Paper Award. Selected from all papers published in 2015, the winning paper, entitled “Advanced computational modeling for in vitro nanomaterial dosimetry”, was determined by a panel of judges on their editorial board.

Jack Spengler and Gary Adamkiewicz were featured in the Harvard Public Health Magazine’s spring edition in an article entitled “The Fixer-Uppers”.   It highlights the work that they did with the Boston Housing Authority and the residents of public housing.

Sam Myers, Jonathan Buonocore, Joel Schwartz and others published an article in Environmental Research Letters entitled “Public health impacts of the severe haze in Equatorial Asia in September-October 2015: demonstration of a new framework for informing fire management strategies to reduce downwind smoke exposure”.  It reports that the 2015 haze episode led to about 100,000 excess deaths. You can read the letter here.

Congratulations to Liuhua Shi for successfully defending her dissertation entitled “Estimating Health Effects of Temperature and PM2.5 in the United States Using Satellite-Retrieved High-Resolution Exposures”.  Likewise, congratulations to Piers MacNaughton for defending his dissertation entitled “Green Buildings and Health.”  We also had several students pass their oral qualifying exams.  Congratulations to Rosie Martinez, Cheng-Kuan Lin, Elizabeth Loehrer, and Jongeun Rhee.

 Also, congratulations to Zhiping Yang, a Research Scientist in the Kobzik lab, for reaching his 15 year milestone anniversary.

Some things go on behind the scenes that take a lot of time and effort but most of us don’t even realize they are happening.  Thank you Marshall Katler and Rachel Link for completing the PwC equipment audit.

Since the School just celebrated Postdoc Appreciation Day, I want to thank all of the post-docs in our Department for their tireless and outstanding work.  Every EH faculty member knows that postdocs play an essential role in all of the research that we do.  I also want to thank the Postdoctoral Association for presenting me with the Outstanding Post-Doctoral Mentor Award at the celebration. I am truly honored.

Finally, I want to congratulate three members of our Department that recently welcomed a new member to their families!  Matt Smith, an EER Research Fellow who works with Sam Myers, had a son named Theo.  Maura Sieller, administrator in the John B. Little Center, recently returned from maternity leave after giving birth to Layla.  And Bernardo Lemos recently began his paternity leave with baby Lia.  We wish them all great joy and good health with their new families.

By the way, September 27 marked the 54th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring.  You can read about this seminal moment for the environmental movement in the New York Times here.

Lastly, I’m delighted to welcome Brittany Usiak to our Department as the EH Executive Assistant.  In addition to helping me while I am the Acting Chair, Brittany will also serve as a resource to the Department.

I have very much enjoyed my first month as your Acting Chair.


Notes 8/27/2016

I have just a few notes to pass along this time as we prepare for a new academic year.

First, I want to welcome all of our new students to the department.

New PhD students: Aleshka Carrion-Matta, Ernani Choma, MyDzung Chu, Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi, Anna Iokheles, Hector Maldonado Perez, Adjani Peralta, Zhihui Wang, Zhouwei Zhang, and Yinnan Zheng

New MS students: Khaled Almansour,  Nicholas Arisco, Qianxin Gu, Lejia Jiang, Man Liu, Michael Mannen, Mehvish Mehrani, Lacy Reyna, May Woo, Yanjun Wu, and Anna Young

New MPH students: Michael Chin, Rachel Cluett,  Stefanie Lane, Kofoworola Onagbola, Bibhaw Pokharel, David Rainey, Andrew Shapero, and Clifton Wilcox

Thanks to the faculty and staff that participated in our Department orientation.  It is a challenging, exciting and hopefully rewarding adventure that you new students are embarking upon with us.  Welcome!

I inadvertently did not mention previously that Phil Demokritou’s NIEHS U24 grant, “Engineered Nanomaterial Synthesis, Characterization and Method Development Center for Nano-safety Research”, has been awarded.   This is a tremendous accomplishment for Phil and his team.  Congratulations!

Also, congratulations to Xindi Hu, lead author for a study summarized on the School website entitled “Unsafe levels of toxic chemicals found in drinking water for six million Americans”.   Philippe Grandjean, Courtney Carignan and lead author Elsie Sunderland all contributed to the study.  Congratulations to you all!

Quan Lu was senior author on a study appears in Environmental Health Perspectives this week and was  featured on the School website under the heading  “ Mechanisim identified through which lead may harm neural cells, children’s neurodevelopment”.   Peter Wagner, PhD ’16, led the study while a doctoral student at the School; Hae-Ryung Park, Zhaoxi Wang, Rory Kirchner, Yongyue Wei, Li Su and David Christiani also authored this important paper.  Look for it to be featured in Environmental Factor (NIEHS’s News portal) in its next issue.  Congratulations to all of the authors!

Jeff Fredberg’s work was highlighted in an August 16th article in Quanta Magazine entitled “Jammed Cells Expose the Physics of Cancer”.  Research has been pointing to the importance of the mechanics, and not just the genetics, governing cell behavior. New findings about cell jamming suggest that there may be new avenues for fighting cancer that focus on tumor cells’ transitions between being jammed and unjammed. Great work, Jeff!

I heard that we had two wedding celebrations in our community this month.  Georgios Pyrgiotakis from the Demokritou lab got married, as did former ADF Amy Cohen (who is now at HMS).  We wish both new families many years of marital bliss!

As you all know, this will be my final “Department Notes” as your Chair.   I am so proud of the accomplishments that our Department has been able to achieve over the past 11 years.   As I look back, I marvel at the incredibly dedicated group of faculty, staff and students for whom I have been honored to serve as Chair.   Having met with the incoming students this week, I know the future of the Department is brighter than ever.

I will officially be starting my sabbatical on September 1.  I am off to the ISEE meeting in Rome, and then on to teach in India for a few weeks before flying back to our EH welcome back party on September 19th  (I couldn’t pass up one more chance to celebrate “International Talk Like a Pirate” day).   I will also be teaching and maintaining my role as PI of the HSPH NIEHS Center grant in the coming year, so you will still be seeing me around.  I leave the Department in the very capable hands of Russ Hauser, Interim Department Chair, and Francine Laden, Associate Chair, who I’m sure will do a fine job.   Again, it’s been a pleasure.

And that, as they say, is that.  Keep up the good work, everyone!


Notes – 8/7/2016

We have plenty of news to report as we enter the last month of summer.

First, we are pleased to welcome Zhi-Min Yuan, Professor of Radiobiology and Director of the John B. Little Center, who officially joined the EH Department on July 1st.  Zhi-Min’s interests can be found here.  We also welcome Zachary (Zac) Nagel, Assistant Professor of Radiation Biology, whose interests can be found found here.  Drs. Yuan and Nagel and the JB Little Center are  located next door to Building 1 in the HMS’ Goldenson Building.  Let’s not let the 2 minute walk get in the way of collaborations.  Welcome Zhi Min and Zac!

Karin Wang, a Research Fellow in Jeff Fredberg’s lab, received an F32 fellowship for her application entitled “Collective cellular migration, cell jamming, and matrix adhesion in breast cancer model systems”.  Well done, Karin!

Phil Demokritou received a NIOSH contract for his proposal entitled “Environmental Health and Safety Implications from engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) released from nano-enabled products (NEPs) during consumer use: Case study of printer emitted engineered nanoparticles (PEPs)”.  Phil will assess in-vivo cardiopulmonary effects of these engineered nanoparticles released from toners used in printers.  Congratulations Phil!

Marc Weisskopf received a subcontract on a University of Miami R01 for a project entitled “Environmental Risk Factors and gene-environment interactions in ALS risk and progression”.   Nicely done, Marc!

It’s great when we see our students and post-docs advance in their careers.  We bid a fond farewell to Christa (Watson) Wright, who is leaving MIPS to become an Assistant Professor in Environmental Health Toxicology within the Division of Environmental Health at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health. Her research focus at GSU will be exploring the pulmonary effects of aerosolized nano-enabled products such as cosmetics and potential adverse outcomes.  Christa was also recently awarded a pilot grant from the Hoffman Program on Chemicals and Health, entitled “Do repeated pulmonary exposures to aerosolized cosmetics alter redox status and lead to sensitization or adaptation”.  Congratulations, Christa, and good luck at GSU!

We also send our hearty congratulations to Michael Grant, who accepted an offer from NIOSH for the position of Industrial Hygienist with the Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance Branch within the Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies.

The NIEHS featured several of our current and former students and post-docs as examples of being “success stories” on the Superfund Research Program.  In a feature called “Training the Next Generation of Environmental Professionals,” Piers MacNaughton, Birgit Claus Henn, Seunggeun Lee, and Kathleen McCarty each have a nice paragraph written about themCongratulations to all of you for being recognized for your accomplishments by the NIEHS!

Joe Allen and Piers MacNaughton actively supported the Office for Sustainability’s Heather Henriksen presentation that won the President’s Administrative Innovation Fund to create the “Harvard Healthier Buildings Material Academy”.   It is wonderful to see that the University leadership is recognizing the importance of prioritizing the effects of chemicals and health in their capital and building projects.  Joe was featured in a Harvard Gazette article entitled “Looking indoors to health” for a talk he gave to the University Construction Management Council.  Philip Grandjean, Jack Spengler, Elsie Sunderland and Russ Hauser were also mentioned in the article.

Francine Laden has accepted an invitation from the NIH’s Center for Scientific Review to serve a as a member of the Cancer, Heart, and Sleep Epidemiology B Study Section.  Congratulations Francine for being selected to such a prestigious honor!

Cheng Peng successfully defended her dissertation ‘Epigenetic and Mitochondrial Biomarkers Linking Air Pollution and Temperature on Human Health: The Normative Aging Study.’  Congratulations Cheng!

Several EH researchers, including Jose Vallarino, Catherine Baranowski, and Jack Spengler, contributed to a study published in mSystems and featured on the Harvard Chan website entitled ”‘Bugs’ on the subway: Monitoring the microbial environment to improve public health”.

Finally, I want to recognize those in our community who reached milestone anniversaries at Harvard this summer.  Congratulations to Ramon Sanchez Pina, Yohann GrandinJae Hun Kim, Amra Dewsnap, Magda Bortoni Rodriguez  and Georgios Pyrgiotakis  for reaching their five year anniversaries;  to Marc Weisskopf for 15 years;  to Ramon Molina for having reached his 25 year anniversary.  Special congratulations to Joe Brain, who celebrated his 50 year anniversary at a Department party in his honor.  Thanks to all for your dedication to our Department and to Harvard!

I hope you all are enjoying this fine summer weather and resting up as we head into the last few weeks before we welcome the students back.

Take care,


Notes – 6/25/2016

Summer is finally here, and although there are fewer students around, our Department has not slowed down at all, as you are about to see.

Let’s start with Phil Demokritou, who organized and co-Chaired the 8th International Congress of Nanotoxicology here in Boston earlier this month. Nearly 500 attendees from 30 countries attended.   This conference brought together scientists from academia, industry, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations to present current research findings, focus their respective talents and expertise, and initiate new collaborations in an effort to ensure the safe implementation of nanotechnology (   Our department was very well represented; congratulations to all of the presenters, including Sandra Pirella, Christa Watson, Jiayuan Wang, Guanghe Wang, Dilpreet Singh, Klara Karbonazei, Georgios Pyrgiotakis, Joel Cohen, Ramon Molina, Nagarjun Konduru, and Joe Brain.  As if Phil wasn’t busy enough, the inaugural edition of a new Elsevier publication entitled NanoImpact came out this month.  Phil is one of its Editors in Chief.  See a preview of it here.  Well done, Phil!

Please join me in congratulating to Marco Sanchez-Guerra, who had been a post-doc in the Baccarelli lab.  Marco is slated to become the new Chair of the Cellular Biology Department at the National Institute of Perinatology in Mexico City in July. Marco credits his work in the Baccarelli lab for preparing him for this new position, and he looks forward to maintaining his EH connections and perhaps collaborating with researchers in the Department.  More about his new department can be found here.

The Center for Health and the Global Environment is having a lot of impact these days.  For example, Joe Allen was quoted  in Newsweek magazine in an article entitled “Your Office Air is Killing You”.  It also cited CHGE’s  Green Buildings and Cognitive Effects study.  This is just a sample of the activities of CHGE; check out their whole site here.

Chensheng (Alex) Lu was also mentioned in the popular press, this time in the Huffington Post in an article entitled “Is Buying Organic Really Worth It” that can be found here.

The Harvard Gazette featured the work of Sam Myers and Christopher Golden in an article entitled “Fishing Gaps Called Malnutrition Threat”.   The point of the article was to shed light on the health impacts of overfishing, and how climate change may impact fish populations and health.  It also proposes solutions that might help to ameliorate the problem.  Nice work, Sam and Chris!

On the fun side, MIPS held its annual food fest contest.  This year’s theme was chocolate.  Thanks to all who entered, and congratulations to the winners:


1st Place:  Klara Kapronezai – Falling heart Cake

2nd Place: Elizabeth Gabriel – Chocolate Chip Brownie with strawberry whipped cream (and a white chocolate molded lung on top)

3rd Place:  Elisa Ghelfi – Chocolate and Apricot Confection

Other 1:

1st Place:   Christalyn Rhodes – Macaroons

2nd Place:  Maureen McGill – Brownie Kalua

3rd Place:  Helen Cho – Chocolate Raspberry Cups

Other 2:

1st Place:   Laura Rubio Lorente – Spanish Chocolate Truffles

2nd Place:  Magda Bortoni Rodriguez – Chocolate Mouse

3rd Place:  Adam Bartos – Truffles – Hot Baron of Hell

Special congratulations to Laura Rubio Lorente for being this year’s grand prize winner.  And thank you Marshall Katler for organizing this whole delicious event!

Last but not least, congratulations to Zhao Dong, who gave birth to Leia Wang, born on June 18th at 7 lb 15 oz and 20 inches.  Mom and family (including big brother Leon)are reportedly home and doing great!

I hope everyone had a chance to get out and enjoy this lovely New England weather.


Notes – 5/26/2016

This is among my favorite times of the year; the weather turns warm, the tests and grades have been submitted and are behind us, and graduation is upon us. We have some terrific news to report in our department.

First, congratulations to Petros Koutrakis, who was awarded a five year, $10 million grant from the EPA for his project entitled “Regional Air Pollution Mixtures: Past and Future Air Quality and Health”. He will establish an Air, Climate and Energy (ACE) Center that will investigate the sources, composition, trends, and effects of regional air pollutant mixtures across the US over a period spanning past and future years (2000 – 2040), and will examine the influence of climate, socioeconomic factors, policy decisions, and control strategies on air pollution, human health and economic outcomes. Congratulations to Petros and his team (along with his MIT collaborator Noelle Selin) for successfully competing for this prestigious award!

Next, congratulations to Les Kobzik who received an R01 from NIAID entitled “Plasma Gelsolin as Immunotherapeutic for Antibiotic-Resistant Pneumonia”. Well done, Les!

Joe Allen, Jack Spengler, and Eileen McNeely have a very timely paper appearing this week reporting that exposure to common flame retardant chemicals may increase thyroid problems in women (see news release here). Joe and Piers MacNaughton also recently conducted a webinar on “Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function” in the EPA “Knowledge in the Air” series which attracted a record number of over 900 participants. Well done Joe and colleagues.

We also congratulate Christa Watson-Wright, who was recently awarded an ATS Minority Trainee Development Scholarship. She was honored at the 2016 Diversity Forum on Sunday, May 15th, at the annual ATS meeting in San Francisco.

Last month , the Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) of the Harvard NIEHS Center for Environmental Health under the direction of Ann Backus participated for the 10th year in the Cambridge Science Festival. The COEC co-sponsored the theme “A Closer Look at Exposures” with the MIT Center for Health and Environmental Sciences. The exhibit focused on air pollution, smoking, and UV damage. Visitors to the demonstrations measured their peak expiratory flow, examined diseased and healthy animal lungs, used LEGO™ blocks to understand the composition of air and how pollution is generated from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. The April® Face Aging Software drew a large crowd of young people who wanted to see how they would age if they smoked, had excessive UV exposure or became obese. The EH faculty, research assistants, post docs, visiting scholars, staff and their friends and children who participated as volunteers included: Nancy Long-Sieber, Henry Sieber, and Fiona Campbell as well as Olivia and Alexis Ask; Zhao Dong; Traci Brown and her friends Sumati and Helena; Luiz Porto and his daughter Amanda; Konstantina Sampi; Nathalie De Marcellis-Warin, her husband Thiery and sons Hugo and Thomas; Nathalie Matthews and Tiffany Sarkissian. Thanks to all the volunteers!

There was a nice feature on how MPH 2016 grad Jeff Vogel created a company called Recover Me during his time spent here. His company delivers a technology-based app system that can help injured individuals recover more quickly. Jeff was in the Occupational and Environmental Health Residency Program. Congratulations Jeff!

Dr. Ed Nardell has been promoted to Professor of Medicine at HMS. Congratulations on this well-deserved appointment, Ed!!

And now, it is my pleasure to congratulate the 2016 graduates of our various programs. They have each met the challenges that getting their degrees entailed, and they have every reason to be extremely proud of their accomplishments. We are, too.

Our Doctor of Science graduates:

Souzana Achilleos, Mohammad Alseaidan (Epi/EH), Michael Grant, Maria Korre, Wan-Chen Lee (Nov 2015 grad), Miling Li, Michael Yi Chao Lin (Nov 2015 grad), Shahir Masri, Eun Joo Park (Nov 2015 grad), Rodosthenis Rodosthenous, Jannah Tauheed, Jinming Zhang, and Jia Zhong.

Our Master of Science graduates:

Ya Gao, Andi Gordon, Yuanyuan Hu, Samantha Lapehn, German Orrego, Rory Stewart, Xulan Zhang, and Yinnan Zheng.

Our Master of Public Health graduates:

Madeleine Bartzak, Elizabeth Casstevens, Li Gao, Lauren Kasparek, Elizabeth Kwo, Renee Salas, Jeffrey Vogel, and Robert Woolley.

I very much look forward to seeing all of our graduates and their families at our Department Lunch and then at the graduation ceremony this afternoon.

One of the things that I mention to all students when they first come to our Department orientation is that I hope they make connections that will last them the rest of their professional lives. These connections include both faculty and fellow students. We hope you stay in touch with us and with each other, and that you keep us informed of your future accomplishments and achievements. And please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you in your professional journey!

Once again best of luck to our graduating class.


Notes – 4/30/2016

While we have some good news to report that I will get to a little later in this version of the notes, this has been a profoundly sad week for the School and our Department.

Jim Ware, former Dean for Academic Affairs at the School from 1990 to 2009, including serving as Acting Dean in 1997 – 1998, passed away on Tuesday just three days before a planned symposium honoring his career which still took place. Over the course of his 37 year career at Harvard, as a member of the Biostatistics Department, Jim had a particularly strong connection to our EH Department given his longstanding interest in longitudinal studies of pulmonary and cardiovascular disease. He was a co-investigator and valued colleague in the Six Cities Study of Air Pollution and Health, which has had a profound effect on Clean Air Act regulations in the U.S. and efforts to limit air pollution around the world. He was a valued friend, colleague, and mentor to many in our Department. I, along with many in our Department, will miss him greatly on a personal level. Our thoughts are with his family.

We are also grieving another loss in our EH community. Amelia Geggel, who graduated from our SM2 program in 2011, passed away after battling cancer. Amelia was passionate about the environment and social justice, and for helping young patients with cancer. She dedicated her life to making the world a better place, and by doing so packed much into her 32 years. Her inspiring obituary can be found here, as well as information about her funeral that will take place on Sunday in Needham at 1:30. Our thoughts go out to her husband Eric and to her entire family and friends who were fortunate enough to have known her.

In spite of the sadness of that overshadows us this week, there is some good news to report.

First, congratulations to Rosalinda Sepulveda in Rick Rogers’ lab for receiving a grant from the Office for Naval Research for her application entitled “Near Infrared (NIR) effect on exosome-mediated inflammation in a cellular model of decompression sickness (DCS)”.

Also, congratulations to Jennifer Ford (EOME) and Jose Vallarino (EER), both of whom were among the 28 Harvard Chan staff members nominated for the Sarah K. Wood Award for Outstanding Staff Performance. The winner will be announced later. Congratulations to both Jose and Jennifer!

Congratulations to senior author Sam Myers, Harvard colleagues Daniel Jacob, Patrick Kim, Shannon Koplitz, and Loretta Mickley, and first author (from Columbia) Miriam Marlier for their article entitled “Fire emissions and regional air quality impacts from fires in oil palm, timber, and logging concessions in Indonesia”. This paper was selected by the Editors of Environmental Research Letters (ERL) to feature in their highlights of 2015 collection. In addition, the editors named it the ‘Best early career article’. Well done Sam and company!

ScD candidate Erica Walker’s on-going research project that measures the city’s noise levels and its relationship with help was featured on the School website here.

Lastly, to balance out the sorrows of this week, I was happy to see a picture of our last year’s graduates grace the Harvard Chan website to remind us of the joys that await this year’s graduates.

2015 Harvard Chan School graduates
2015 Harvard Chan School graduates

Take care, all


Notes – 4/16/2016

We have lots of news to report this week.

First, congratulations to Jeff Fredberg, whose competing T32 training grant from NHLBI was just renewed for another five years. This grant, entitled “Training in Interdisciplinary Pulmonary Sciences”, has been active since 1975 and will continue to provide funding for trainee expenses including stipends, tuition and other related expenses through 2021. At this juncture in the history of our Department and School, it is critical that we now have secured 3 pre-doc and 7 post-doc slots for the next five years. Great job Jeff and everyone who contributed to the successful application for this grant!

Anny Maza, our Accounts Payable specialist for the EH/EER/ MIPS programs, received word that she was named as one of four Harvard Heroes from Harvard Chan School, and one of only 64 from the whole university. The ceremony will take place in June. Congratulations Anny on this huge honor and well-deserved award! Other nominees from our Department were Barbara Zuckerman and Rose West. Congrats to them, too.

Congratulations to Christa Watson in MIPS, who was just notified that she was selected to receive the 2016 Minority Trainee Development Scholarship at this year’s 2016 ATS International Conference in San Francisco.

This is the time of year when some doctoral students present and defend their dissertations. The following students have successfully done that:

Rodosthenis Rodosthenous – “MicroRNAs in Extracellular Vesicles as Novel Biomarkers in Environmental Epidemiology.”

Miling Li – “Environmental Origins of Methylmercury in Aquatic Biota and Humans.”

Jannah Tauheed – “Arsenic, Lead and Manganese Exposure as Risk Factors for Child and Maternal Neurotoxicity.”

Jinming Zhang – “Mixed Metal Exposure, Inflammation, Cardiac Autonomic Responses and DNA Methylation.”

Maria Korre – “Non-Invasive Identification of Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (LVH)/Cardiomegualy in U.S. Firefighters.”

Shahir Masri – “Exposure Characterization and Prediction of Ambient Particulate Matter: From Boston to the Middle East.”

Souzana Achilleos – “Particle Pollution: Trends, Sources, Components, and Health.”

Michael Grant – “Healthcare and Commercial Construction: The Role of Inspections within Health and Safety Interventions in Dynamic Workplaces and Associations with Safety Climate.”

Congratulations to each of you for your achievement!

Our fellows and students ran away with honors at the 2016 Harvard Chan School’s poster day. Freeman Suber received the Best Overall Poster award. Maria Korre and Augusta Williams tied for the Best Student Poster award. And Dilpreet Singh was a winner of the Abstract Booklet Image contest. What a great showing by our outstanding students and fellows! You can find a summary and some great pictures here.

I want to let you know that Erika Eitland is leading a new student group on the Built Environment and Health. Joe Allen is the group’s faculty advisor. Interested students please contact Erika or Joe. Speaking of Joe Allen, he gave the keynote presentation at the American Institute of Architects Design and Health Research Consortium on “Merging Building Science with Health Science” in Washington, D.C.

Several members of our EH community have reached their 15 year anniversary milestones here at the Harvard Chan. Congratulations to Steve Hannah, Francine Laden, and Pat McGaffigan, all of whom recently passed this auspicious occasion.

Many of you have gone to one or more of the excellent CHGE Director’s Lecture Series that wrapped up this week. Thanks to Ramon Sanchez, Joe Allen, Memo Cedeno, Eileen McNeely, and Jack Spengler for their excellent presentations as part of this series. CHGE has so many worthwhile events going on; visit their website here or, better yet, sign up for their newsletter here. By the way, CHGE members Ari Bernstein, Barton Seaver and CHGE Advisory Board member Chef Dan Barber will be among the star-studded participants in the Foodbetter Harvard event that will be happening on April 21-22 at the Science Plaza. Innovation and sustainability food ideas will all be put on the table (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Find out more about it here.

Some of our students have become politically active in the Divest Harvard movement, which advocates freezing and eventually eliminating Harvard’s investments in fossil fuel holdings. Rory Stewart, one of our SM2 students, was arrested for his part in a student sit-in protest.

By the way, as we look for a permanent new EH Executive Assistant to replace Alissa Wilcox, please direct all emails that would have gone to Alissa to Melanie Radkiewicz, She can also be reached at Alissa’s old number, 617-432-1270.


Notes – 3/31/2016

Spring has arrived. Tomorrow we welcome the new students at an Open House.

Earlier this month, Frank Speizer was honored at the Channing in recognition of his 80th birthday and his 50+ years of contribution to the field of public health. Francine Laden and Jaime Hart reviewed Frank’s contributions in air pollution research. The symposium was a fitting way to pay tribute to the Frank’s dedication and record of accomplishments that he continues to build upon. Congratulations Frank!

Stefanos Kales was featured on the School’s website for his study showing that truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea are five times more likely to get into accidents than truckers without the ailment. He suggests that mandatory screening and treatment if necessary would prevent many accidents. The study was published in Sleep and the website feature can be found here.

One of the things I am most proud of about our department is that our affects are felt near and far. As an example of near, Joe Allen, Jack Spengler and Ari Bernstein wrote a letter to Boston City Counselors Michael Flaherty and Andrea Campbell in support of an ordinance to update the fire code. Until last week, Boston was the only major city in the U.S. that enforced a decades-old flammability standard, called TB 133, with no exceptions for buildings equipped with automatic sprinklers. The vast majority of manufacturers can only meet TB 133 by adding large amounts of flame retardant chemicals to furniture. In contrast, other places in the country, including the rest of Massachusetts, follow a newer flammability standard that does not necessitate the use of flame retardants in furniture. There are other non-toxic ways to achieve fire safety, such as sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, and smoking bans. The passage of this ordinance comes on the heels of Harvard’s pledge to purchase chemical flame retardant-free furniture whenever possible.

Jack Spengler has also been featured in talks around the world last month, including:
“Our Common Future Depends on What We do Now!” at the Bridging Climate, Environment, and Public Health – Integrated Approach of Environmental Health across Disciplines, 2nd International Symposium on Environmental Health, Seoul National University School of Public Health, Seoul, Korea, Feb 15-16, 2016. Jack was invited by our former HSPH student Kiyoung Lee, now a Professor at Seoul National University.
“Promoting Health and Wellness: Programs of the Center for Health and Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health” given Feb 19th at the Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. His presentation is part of an initiative called Future Earth.
“Our Common Future’ Depends on What We Do Now!”, the Opening Plenary at the Gro Bruntland Week of Women in Sustainable Development, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taipei, Feb 20-26, 2016. [Invited by former HSPH student Jenny Su, now President at National Cheng Kung University] See a snippet of his talk here.

Jack Spengler Taiwan alumni dinner Feb 2016
Jack Spengler Taiwan alumni dinner Feb 2016

After his talk at Academia Sinica, in Taipei, arranged by Jack’s former student Candice Lung, Jack had an “alumni” dinner with several former students from our Department, as well as our former postdoc (John Wu) and Alex Lu.

FRONT ROW:Jasmine Chao, School of Public Health, Taipei Medical University; Li-Te Chang, Dept of Environmental Engineering & Science, Feng Chia University; James Chan, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University; Belinda Chen, Innovative DigiTech-Enabled Applications & Services (IDEAS) Institute, Institute for Information Industry; Candice Lung, Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica
BACK ROW: Jack Spengler; John Wu, Dept. of Forestry and Natural Resources, National Chiayi University; Alex Lu

Here’s a link to other photos from Jack’s talks.

Speaking of global issues, I wanted to remind people that the Harvard Chan School’s Chinese Student and Scholar Association will be presenting a China Clean Air Forum on Saturday, April 2 at 8:30 a.m. in Kresge G1. This half-day forum brings together eminent researchers and policy makers from a variety of fields to discuss urgent and complex questions related to air pollution in China. Gary Adamkiewicz, Joel Schwartz and I will be among the presenters. Please join us for the breakfast and for what is sure to be a most interesting morning. You can register here.

I want to acknowledge some transitions. We bid good luck to David Gregory in MIPS, who will be moving just across the street to work as a research scientist with Alexey Fedulov at the BWH.

Finally I was shocked to learn that the rumor that Alissa Wilcox is leaving is not an April Fool’s joke. As my Executive Assistant, Alissa has been the face of the Department over the past five years. I expect that everyone reading this has had some interaction with Alissa, in which case you know how special she is. I have no idea how the Department will function without her. Nevertheless, we wish Alissa the best as she enrolls at the University of Virginia’s School of Nursing. Last year she was named a Harvard Hero. No doubt she will also leave a very positive mark in Charlottesville.

Happy Spring, everyone!


Notes – 2/14/2016

It was so nice to see everyone enjoying themselves at our EH Welcome Back Party on January 25.  Thanks to Alissa Wilcox for making the arrangements and Francine Laden for coming up with the games idea.  It seemed like everyone was having a wonderful time.

We have some rather big news to report in the Department.  I am sorry to report that Andrea Baccarelli has informed us that he will be leaving our School to become the Chair of the Department of Environmental Health at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.  Andrea has been one of our most prolific researchers in terms of grants and publications.  He has also a well-deserved reputation as a gifted instructor, collaborator and mentor.  He will be leaving our School at the end of May.  We wish him well in his new position.

On a more positive note, I am delighted to announce that Jin-Ah Park has accepted our offer to become the new Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Airway Biology.  Jin-Ah is well-known as a rising star in our MIPS program.  We welcome Jin-Ah to the faculty, and look forward to the great contributions that she is sure to bring to our Department.  Congratulations Jin-Ah!

Congratulations to Marc Weisskopf and fellow authors Ranaan Raz, Andrea Roberts, Kristen Lyall, Allan Just, Jaime Hart and Francine Laden for their publication entitled “U.S.-wide study links autism with prenatal exposure to fine particulate air pollution.”  This was named as one of the top NIEHS Papers of the Year, a huge honor.  Well done!

We also want to recognize Augusta Williams of CHGE who received the “Best Student Presentation Award” at the American Meteorological Society.  Her presentation was entitled “Adaptation Measures to Extreme Heat Events and their Effects on Sleep Quality and Health Among Senior Residents of Affordable Housing.”  Her fellow authors were Anna Kate Hard, Skye Flanigan, Alex Hem, Jack Spengler, and Jose Guillermo Cedeno Laurent (Memo).  Well done, team!  (Unconfirmed rumor has it that Gus did a great lip sync of Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off as well.)

Sam Myers and Chris Golden were featured in an article in Inside Philanthropy for their leadership roles with the newly-formed Planetary Health Alliance, as was mentioned in my previous notes.

Philippe Grandjean was featured on the Harvard Chan School’s website answering questions about the Flint Michigan drinking water catastrophe, which he says could easily have been avoided.  You can read about it here.

Russ Hauser was also featured on the Harvard Chan website article entitled “Soy-Rich Diet May Offset BPA’s Effects on Fertility.”  His study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and it was also featured in an article on the website This study was a nice collaboration that featured Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón from EH as well as authors from the Epi, Nutrition and Biostats departments.

Let’s all send hearty congratulations to Katherine Silkaitis for passing her oral exams in early January.

Congratulations to masters student Jie Yin who became father to baby Alicia Yin on January 22.

Finally, it was a pleasure to attend the School’s Celebration of the Stars extravaganza.  Congratulations to all of the EH members who attained a milestone anniversary at the School last year.  As you can see, we have a large number of people that have been here a long time:

5 Years: Joe Allen, Andrea Baccarelli, Enrique Cifuentes, Meg Jarvi, Laura Morariu, and Alissa Wilcox
10 Years: Glen Deloid, Jennifer Ford, Hongwu Li, Chan Park.
15 Years: Jeff Adams
20 Years: Ann Backus
25 Years: Ed Dixon
30 Years: Stephanie Shore
35 Years: Steve Ferguson
40 Years: Jim Butler

I hope you all are enjoying this frigid Presidents Day/Valentine’s Day long weekend.