Center New Investigators

New Investigator Funds

The Harvard-NIEHS Center provides partial salary support for outstanding scholars entering a career in environmental health science research. Center New Investigator funds are leveraged against School, Department and other academic resources to fund start-up packages, which typically include three years of guaranteed salary plus flexible funds for starting a research program. Through this mechanism, we have been able to jump-start the careers of several exceptionally promising early career scientists.

New Investigator candidates may be nominated to the Career Development Director, the Center Director, or the Dean for Academic Affairs at any time. New Investigator Funds are administered and distributed by a selection committee consisting of the Center Director, the Center Executive Committee, and the HSPH Dean for Academic Affairs, along with the Chairs of other Departments in the case of joint appointments.

Current Center New Investigator

Dr. Tamarra James-Todd, Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Environmental Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology in the Departments of Environmental Health and of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was named the Center New Investigator as of January 1, 2017. Dr. James Todd is studying and improving women’s reproductive and long-term health by: 1) evaluating the role of environmental chemicals on adverse maternal health outcomes; 2) assessing racial/ethnic disparities in environmental chemical exposures and adverse health outcomes; and 3) developing pregnancy and postpartum interventions to improve women’s chronic disease risk. She currently has a Center Pilot Project entitled “Phthalates, PPAR-ϒ target gene expression, and maternal obesity measures in the perinatal period”.



Former Center New Investigators

HartJamieDr. Jaime E. Hart, Assistant Professor in Medicine at the Channing Division of Network Medicine and in the Department of Environmental Health was appointed as the Center New Investigator in 2015.   Dr. Hart’s research focuses on the impacts of environmental exposures (primarily air pollution and traffic exposures) on chronic disease risk. She is also interested in elucidating the biological mechanisms that underlie these adverse health effects.   A key area of her research is incorporating geographic information system (GIS) technologies and spatial statistics into the fields of exposure assessment and environmental epidemiology to improve exposure assessment, control for area level confounding by factors such as socioeconomic status (SES), and to explore the geographic distributions of disease. Dr. Hart is Director of the Particles Research Core of the Harvard Chan-NIEHS Center.

LemosDr. Bernardo Lemos, Assistant Professor Environmental Epigenetics, was the Center New Investigator in 2012-2014.  Dr. Lemos’ is developing a functional and populational understanding of the mapping between genotypes, phenotypes, and environments through careful genomic experimentation and integrative computational analyses. Dr. Lemo’s work has expanded the Center’s abilities to bring modern molecular and genetic methods to bear on environmental health problems. Dr. Lemos is currently Assistant Professor Environmental Epigenetics In the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

BaccarelliDr. Andrea Baccarelli, New Investigator 2010-2012 and Mark and Catherine Winkler Associate Professor of Environmental Epigenetics, assessed epigenetic changes associated with environmental exposures in epidemiologic studies. His work focuses on examining the effects on DNA methylation of a variety of environmental pollutants, including particulate air pollution, airborne benzene, metals, pesticides, dioxin-like compounds, and persistent organic pollutants, which are known to be relevant to disease causation. Dr Baccarelli was instrumental in building capacity in the application of molecular and genetic analyses in epidemiologic and laboratory environmental health studies. Dr. Baccarelli is Chair and Leon Hess Professor Environmental Health Sciences and Director of the Columbia Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan, at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

SunderlandDr. Elsie Sunderland, New Investigator in 2010 and Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Aquatic Science, combines field studies with modeling tools to study how the fate, transport and bioaccumulation of chemicals affect human exposures and risks. Her research has focused on characterizing the relationship between anthropogenic mercury emissions, changes in ambient environmental concentrations at a variety of scales, and human exposure. Dr. Sunderland is Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the John A. Paulsen School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and in the Department of Environmental Health in the Harvard T.H. Cahn School of Public Health.

LuChenshengDr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu  was a Center New Investigator in  2008-2009.  Dr. Lu is very accomplished in the area of exposure assessment and analysis, specifically in the area of pesticide exposure. His research includes the implementation of a longitudinal study on children to determine the impact of dietary intervention on their exposure to pesticides. He developed saliva bio-monitoring as a valuable alternative for measuring chemical exposures in humans. He also developed a molecular marker of pesticide adducts in blood to measure long-term exposure to pesticides, considered one of the major obstacles in pesticide bio-monitoring for epidemiologic health studies. The issues he grapples with in pesticide research are relevant to other non-persistent environmental chemicals, including phthalates, bisphenol A, and other modern synthetic chemicals. Dr. Lu is Distinguished Professor in the College of Environment, Zhejiang University of Technology in Hangzhou, China.

LuQuanDr. Quan Lu was appointed Assistant Professor of Lung Biology in the Department of Environmental Health in 2007. Dr. Lu has expertise in functional genomic screening to identify novel genes critical to important cellular responses. He was recruited because of his interest in applying this powerful approach to environmental health questions. His interest is illustrated by a project to identify human genes, whose inactivation renders cells more susceptible to dioxin-initiated cell transformation—a crucial step in the breast carcinogenesis process. Dr. Lu collaborates with other members of the Metals Research Core to apply these novel approaches to functional genomic screening for genes involved in metal toxicity to neural cells and for identification of genes that mediate the ability of certain air pollution components to down-regulate macrophage anti-bacterial function. Dr. Lu is Associate Professor of Environmental Genetics and Pathophysiology in the Departments of Environmental Health and of Molecular Metabolism, and Director of the Integrated Health Sciences Facility Core of the Harvard Chan-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health Sciences.

WeisskopfDr. Marc Weisskopf  was appointed Assistant Professor of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology in the Departments of Environmental Health and of Epidemiology in 2007.  Dr. Weisskopf has an unusual background with dual doctoral degrees – one in neuroscience and one in environmental epidemiology.  This background helped him develop a research niche in neuroimaging and noninvasive measures of brain neurochemistry and effects of environmental neurotoxicants. Dr. Weiskopf was until recently the head of the Center’s Metals Research Core. He is now Professor of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology in the Departments of Environmental Health and of Epidemiology, and Deputy Director of the Harvard Chan-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health Sciences.

Dr. Christopher Paciorek  was a Center New Investigator in the 2006/7 academic year. Dr. Paciorek is appied Bayesian statistics, spatial statistics, and statistical computing to environmental health studies in the Particles and the Metals Research Cores.  His primary interest was in the use of Bayesian models to integrate information from diverse sources to make predictions about latent spatial and temporal processes. Much of his work involved the use of spatial and spatio-temporal models to estimate exposure to pollutants and then using these exposure estimates in epidemiological models for health outcomes. One example is a project funded by the Health Effects Institute which used monitoring data, satellite observations, and a deterministic model to estimate chronic exposure to particulate matter (PM) in the eastern U.S.  He also proposed a method for optimally sampling contamination at Superfund Sites. Dr. Paciorek is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Statistics at University of California Berkeley.

LadenDr. Francine Laden  was appointed Assistant Professor of Environmental Epidemiology in the Department of Environmental Health in 2004.  She also had appointments in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH, and Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She was a Center New Investigator in the 2005/6 academic year. Dr. Laden’s research focuses on the environmental epidemiology of cancer and respiratory disease. She has been working with the Nurses’ Health Study, a large prospective cohort of U.S. women, to examine possible environmental risk factors (including exposures to PCBs and DDT) of breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In the Harvard Six Cities Study, she has studied the associations of specific sources of particulate air pollution with mortality. Dr. Laden is Professor of Environmental Epidemiology in the Departments of Environmental Health and of Epidemiology, and Associate Chair of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

TschumperlinDr. Daniel Tschumperlin was appointed Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and Airway Biology in 2003. He was a Center New Investigator in the 2006/7 academic year.  Dr. Tschumperlin’s research focuses on the interface of mechanics and biology in the lung, specifically how lung cells respond to their mechanical environment, and how in turn they modify the lung’s mechanical behavior. His interests focus on chronic environmental lung diseases like asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, which are characterized by tissue remodeling that can be both irreversible and relentlessly progressive. Dr. Tschumperlin is Associate Professor in the Department

Dr. Xin Xu graduated from Beijing Medical University and received his doctoral degree in molecular pharmacology from the University of Cincinnati in 1996.  He then came to the Harvard School of Public Health as a post-doctoral fellow. He was appointed Assistant Professor of Genetic Epidemiology in 2002.  He was a Center New Investigator in 2003 and 2004.  Dr. Xu’s primary research interest was the genetic epidemiology of complex traits in humans. Dr. Xu worked on several gene-mapping projects, including two large HSPH-China collaborative studies on essential hypertension and asthma, and in collaboration with colleagues in Biostatistics, in developing novel statistical methods and tools in genetic analysis.

Dr. Heather Nelson was appointed as Assistant Professor of Environmental Epidemiology in the Department of Environmental Health in 2002.  Dr. Nelson received an M.P.H. in Toxicology from the University of Minnesota in 1993 and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Harvard University in 1998. Dr. Nelson was a Center New Investigator in the 2003/4 academic year. Dr. Nelson’s investigations focused on cancer susceptibility and etiology using both laboratory and epidemiologic tools, blending information on population exposures and life histories with both constitutional and somatically acquired changes to develop a global picture of tumorigenesis. Her work aimed to identify high-risk subgroups, as well as define new molecular disease classifications for future translational work. Dr. Nelson is now Associate Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.