Latest Notes

Notes – 9/1/2015

dckryWelcome back to all of our new and returning students, faculty and staff! It’s wonderful to feel the excitement as the school gears up for another academic year. For those of you who are new to the department, I write these notes every few weeks to catch us all up on news coming out of the department. As you will see from the notes below, our department has not slowed down a bit during the summer. We have lots of news to report!

First, I informed the department faculty that I have accepted Dean Hunter’s invitation to stay on as Department Chair for two more years as the School makes the transition of selecting a newt Dean. It has been an honor and a privilege to Chair such an outstanding department, and I look forward to two more years of serving in that role. I am most grateful that Professor Francine Laden has agreed to serve as Associate Chair. Francine will be concentrating on heading up the academic issues that are particularly relevant as the School and department begins our revamped MPH and PhD degree programs. Francine will also be the new Director of the EER program. I am looking forward to working with her as she oversees many of the changes that our department will be making as it the School as a whole transforms itself.

I want to thank Jim Shine for his leadership of the EER program over the past three years. Jim generously has given his time and energy in service to the EER program and the Department.  During these major transitions in our training programs, Jim has guided our largest degree programs and insured that we remain arguably the premiere environmental health training program in world.

Speaking of Francine Laden, congratulations for receiving a P50 entitled “Disparities in Exposure and Health Effects of Multiple Environmental Stressors Across the Life Course” from the National Institute of Health and Minority Disparities and the NIEHS. Well done!

Welcome to our the newest member of our faculty, Tamarra James-Todd, who officially started in EOME on July 1. Tamarra is the Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Environmental Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology.

Special congratulations to John Godleski for his promotion to Professor. His new title is certainly well deserved. Congratulations Professor! Please join us for his promotion celebration on September 8th (3:30pm, 1302, RSVP here).

Sam Myers has had a flurry of activity lately. The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health came out with a report, “Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch,” which broadly assessed the scale of the threats to health, development, and civilization posed by the multiplicity of environmental changes brought on by human activity. Sam is a Commissioner and co-author of the report. Sam simultaneously had two articles published, one in the Lancet entitled “Effects of decreases of animal pollinators on human nutrition and global health: a modelling analysis” (Matthew Smith is first author) and the other in the Lancet Global Health journal entitled “Effect of increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the global threat of zinc deficiency: a modelling study.”  Joel Schwartz, Itai Kloog and Antonella Zanobetti are co-authors on the zinc article. Sam’s activities are featured on the School website here, on our own departmental page and in the Harvard Gazette here. Sam also just learned that he will be honored with the Prince Albert II of Monaco—Institut Pasteur 2015 Award in November. It is an extremely prestigious international prize awarded for research in the human health impacts of climate change and other types of environmental change. Congratulations Sam for all of your recent accomplishments!

Congratulations to Phil Demokritou for his new R21 entitled “Inactivation of ambient virues using Engineered Water Nanostructures.”  Phil was also named Co-Editor-in-Chief of a new Elsevier Journal entitled “NanoImpact.”  This new international journal will concentrate on issues related to nanosafety. It is scheduled to have its inaugural issue in January 2016. Phil’s lab also published a series of articles that was featured on the school website here. Congratulations to lead author Sandra Pirela, and to Xiaoyan Lu, Dhimiter Bello, and Les Kobzik.

Congratulations also to Dilpreet Singh of the Demokritou lab, who won the New Investigator Award at the National Nanotechnology Initiative International QEEN Conference. Dilpreet’s poster was entitled “Nano-waste: Environmental health and safety (EHS) implications during thermal degradation/incineration of nano-enabled products at their end-of-life.”

Alex Lu published an article in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry entitled “Distributions of neonicotinoid insecticides in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: a temporal and spatial variation analysis for pollen and honey samples.” Doctoral student Chi-Hsuan Chang, research fellow Lin Tao, and research associate Mei Chen are co-authors. The article reports that more than 70% of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter. It received a great deal of publicity in the popular press, and is featured on the school website here. Well done, Alex and team!

Philippe Grandjean had an article published in Environmental Science and Technology entitled “Breastfeeding as an Exposure Pathway for Perfluorinated Alkylates”.  The study proved that PFAS’s, a widely used class of industrial chemicals, are transferred to infants via breast milk.  The school featured the story here, and the study can be found here.

Jeff Fredberg and Jeff Drazen were last authors on an article that appeared in Nature Materials entitled “Unjamming and Cell Shape in the Asthmatic Airway Epithelium.” The Harvard Gazette featured it here and the study itself can be found here. Congratulations to all of the authors, including lead authors Jin-Ah Park and Jae Hun Kim, and the many MIPS co-authors that participated.

Joe Allen and Jack Spengler were awarded an Inaugural Curriculum Innovation Grant to develop courses on sustainable and high-performing buildings. Congratulations Joe and Jack!

Congratulations to post-doc Alex Carll, who received Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Spring Post-doc Travel Award as well as an American Thoracic Society Environmental and Occupational Health Assembly Abstract Award. Alex will be joining the University of Louisville as Assistant Professor of Physiology next month.  Congratulations and good luck.

Michael Yi Chao Lin successfully defended his dissertation entitled “Moving Away from the Traditional Desktop Computer Workstations: Identifying Opportunities to Improve Upper Extremity Biomechanics.” Well done Michael!

Rose Filoramo was featured with Les Kobzik in an article about her work on sepsis in the spring edition of the Harvard Public Health magazine. You can read the story here.

By the way, you may have seen me on the school’s website in a Take 2 segment entitled “How Does Air Pollution Affect Health?”

Finally, I would am sorry to report that our department’s Associate Director of Finance, Chris Kelly, will be leaving the school to pursue other career opportunities. Chris has done a tremendous job for our department and for the school over the past 3 plus years. Please join me in thanking him for his efforts and wishing him the best of luck in his bright future! I also want to welcome Jonathan Lavigne, who has joined us as the new department ADF. We look forward to working with you, Jon!

I hope you all are enjoying these precious last days of summer. Welcome back all to what I am sure will be another great academic year in the department!

Take care,
Doug