Group Leader: Jane Hoppin (NCSU)
Who we are:  Approximately 20 full CHHE members whose research focuses on the diverse aspects of emerging contaminants including toxicology, chemistry, exposure assessment, bioinformatics, engineering, and biology as well as science communication.  “Emerging Contaminants” is a broad label for chemicals of public health significance about which little is known regarding toxicology, fate and transport, or human health implications.  Examples of chemicals of interest include GenX and other per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), nanoparticles, and beta-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) associated with algal blooms.  Our group includes researchers at NC State, ECU, and North Carolina Central University.
Main goal: Foster collaboration and exchange ideas among members and provide resources to address emerging environmental health issues throughout NC.



Baars, Oliver
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Entomology & Plant Pathology
Email  | Personal website

We are interested in small-molecule-level interactions between microbes, primary producers (plants or phytoplankton), and the environment. Using chemical approaches in a biological context, we characterize and profile important groups of secreted metabolites to understand their impact on biogeochemical cycles, crop productivity, and human health.


Baker, Erin 
Associate Professor, Dept. of Chemisty
Email Personal website

The Baker research group utilizes multidimensional separation techniques such as solid phase extractions, liquid chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry, and mass spectrometry to evaluate molecules present and changing in biological and environmental systems. Research projects include the development of high-throughput analyses to study numerous samples in a short time period as well as informatics studies to evaluate and connect the complex multi-omic data with available phenotypic data.


Bang, John
Professor, Dept. of Environmental, Earth and Geospatial Sciences, NCCU
Email  |  Personal website

The overall theme of my research is understanding the behavior of small (nano scale)material for its practical applications by tackling environmental and biomedical challenges. Finding a way to contribute for building an integrative sustainable system is a goal for my research.  Environmental Health: Exposure and Risk Assessment of particulate matter (PM),Engineered Nanomaterials, and Persistent Organic Pollutants.  Environmental Science & Engineering: Characterization and Synthesis of Photocatalytic Nano Hybrid material for Environmental Remediations (water and air). Biomedical Sciences:Reduction of Biofilm formation; Balancing oxidative stress;Impacts of nanomaterial on inflammatory process.


Belcher, Scott
Associate Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Email  | Personal website

Current research using transgenic/knockout mouse models of human disease focuses on assessing the mechanisms and impacts of estradiol and estrogen-like endocrine disruptors on cardiovascular health, reproductive health, and the etiology of childhood brain cancers.


Binder, Andrew
Associate Professor, Dept. of Communication
Co-Director, Community Engagement Core
Email  |  Personal website

Andrew conducts research on controversial science topics, including how information about those topics is transmitted through various communication channels and what impact that communication has on risk perception and public understanding of science. His research has been published in the journals Science Communication, Public Understanding of Science, Communication Research , and Journal of Health Communication, among others.


Bonner, James C.
Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Email  |  Personal website

Our goal is to explore and elucidate mechanisms of lung disease pathogenesis (asthma, fibrosis, cancer) caused by environmental or occupational exposure to engineered nanomaterials. We also seek to identify physical and chemical properties of nanomaterials that trigger fibrotic or allergic reactions in the lung in order to provide information for the design of safer products containing nanomaterials. Our research provides fundamental information for determining the potential human health risks of emerging nanotechnologies, which will be essential for the design of safe nanotechnologies in the future.


Buchwalter, David B.
Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Email  |  Personal website

Research in the Buchwalter lab focuses on comparative and ecological physiology. We are particularly interested in issues that affect water quality (e.g. trace metals, salinity and thermal stress) and differentially affect the organisms that inhabit freshwater ecosystems. Our focus on aquatic macroinvertebrates (insects) is based on the ecological importance and widespread use these organisms in monitoring programs. Our work relies heavily upon the use of radioisotopic tracers to examine osmoregulatory processes and trace element bioaccumulation. Respirometry, RT-qPCR and biochemical measures are routinely used in our work.


Collier, David N.
Associate Professor, Dept. of Pediatrics and the Center for Health Disparities, ECU
Email  |  Personal website

Clinical and research interests are focused on the treatment and prevention of childhood obesity and related co-morbidities including insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, dyslipidemias and impaired vascular reactivity and hypovitaminosis D. He is particularly interested in the role of environmental xenobiotics in the maintenance of obesity and/or weight loss failure in clinical populations and is currently investigating the role of benzoic acid in weight loss failure. Dr. Collier is also interested in facilitating a broad range of bidirectional translational research that will leverage the strengths of the CHHE and the large pediatric patient population served by the Brody School of Medicine.


Crook, Nathan
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Email  | Personal website

The Crook Lab develops new high-throughput experimental and computational genetic engineering techniques. In doing so, we hope to uncover novel biological phenomena and accelerate applied research and development in the broad areas of metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, and microbial ecology.


Cutts, Bethany
Associate Professor, Dept. of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management
Email  |  Personal website

Bethany uses geospatial analytics to identify science-driven solutions to enhance the social, economic, and ecological well-being of communities, particularly through recognizing and ameliorating historical patterns of marginalization. She combines geographic information systems with social network analysis and innovative public participation methods to explore local and regional sustainability solutions in the context of global change. Her interests include participatory mapping, environmental justice, and geovisualization.


DeWitt, Jamie C.
Associate Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology, ECU
Email  |  Personal website

Our environmental developmental neuroimmunotoxicology research program explores relationships between biological organisms and their developmental responses after exposure to environmental toxicants. Early life exposure to a variety of agents impacts the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, resulting in altered development that may present as diseases or disorders in childhood or much later in life. We are particularly interested in how impacts to the immune system lead to downstream effects on the nervous system and our current research efforts target autism spectrum disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.


Duckworth, Owen
Professor, Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences
Email    Personnal website

We study the biogeochemical processes that control the fate, transport, speciation, and bioavailability of nutrients and contaminants in soil and water. Understanding these processes at the fundamental level is essential to solving critical modern societal problems, including managing and remediating polluted sites and improving nutrient metal uptake by crops or other plants. We utilize a wide variety of chemical, microbiological, analytical, spectroscopic, and field-based approaches to study biogeochemistry at molecular to field-scale


Ercumen, Ayse
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Forestry and Environmental Resources
Email   |   Personal website

My group’s research is focused on environmental transmission of infectious diseases, including waterborne infections associated with drinking water and recreational water exposures, soil-transmitted helminth infections, and community carriage of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. We use epidemiological approaches to study the risk of acquiring infections through environmental and zoonotic pathways and conduct health impact evaluations to assess the effectiveness of environmental interventions, such as WaSH improvements, in reducing environmental disease transmission.


Grieger, Khara
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Applied Ecology
Email   |   Personal website

Dr. Khara Grieger is currently an assistant professor in Environmental Health & Risk Assessment in the Department of Applied Ecology. She conducts interdisciplinary research focussed on potential environmental, health, and safety of emerging technologies and their societal implications.


Hipp, Aaron
Associate Professor, Dept. of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management
Email  |  Personal website

My work focuses on how our built environments (home neighborhood, parks, streets, worksites, schools, etc.) impact our health and how this impact differs spatially and across populations. I’m an expert in emerging technologies and active transportation and physical activity including the use of crowdsources, webcams, accelerometry, GPS, and GIS.  I’ve evaluated Open Streets programs, Complete Streets policies, park use and access, and worksite environments that support movement and healthy eating. I teach courses on data management and analysis, GIS, and built environment and public health.


Hoppin, Jane A.
Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Email  |  Personal website

My research focuses on the human health effects of pesticides and phthalates with particular focus on respiratory and allergic outcomes. We are currently evaluating the impact of specific pesticide exposure in populations with different types of exposure (farmers, rural residents, families living in banana plantations).  Using epidemiologic tools to assess exposure and different measures to assess exposure (questionnaires, biological markers, geospatial mapping), we are able to better understand the potential human health consequences of these common exposures.


Knappe, Detlef
Professor, Dept. of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering
Email  |  Personal website

My research interests encompass (1) developing and evaluating physical-chemical treatment processes for the control of disinfection byproduct precursors and trace organic contaminants (taste and odor causing substances, carcinogenic volatile organic contaminants, 1,4-dioxane, perfluoroalkyl substances, endocrine disrupting chemicals, antibiotics, and other pharmaceutically active compounds), and (2) overcoming gaps between the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act by developing information about the effects of reactive and unregulated wastewater contaminants on drinking water quality and treatment.


Kullman, Seth W.
Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Email  |  Personal website

The Kullman laboratory is particularly interested in neural and endocrine pathways that govern critical steps of embryonic development. Much of our work is focused on the role of nuclear receptors and ligand activated transcription factors that regulate key organizational pathways during embryogenesis. A major emphasis of the Kullman laboratory is the application of small aquarium fish models (zebrafish, medaka ) to establish developmental bases of adult disease. Overall, the laboratory is geared towards facilitating a mechanistic understanding of the relationship between chemical-receptor interactions, resultant pleotropic effects and onset and progression of disease etiology.


Langley, Ricky
Dept of Health and Human Services, Public Health Division
Email  |  Personal website

Our goal (Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch) is to investigate environmental/occupational issues that may have adverse impacts on humans. This may be accomplished by site visits, recommendations on environmental testing, and risks assessments. The scope of our work ranges from indoor air issues to superfund sites, cancer clusters, fish consumption advisories, occupational injuries, pesticide poisonings to name a few.


Lea, C. Suzanne
Associate Professor, Dept. of Public Health, ECU
Email  |  Personal website

Obesity and cancer: Cancer is the #1 cause of death in North Carolina. As our population ages, more of North Carolina’s children and adults will find themselves facing a diagnosis of cancer, a majority of whom will also be obese. My research interest include exploring associations between epigenetic markers of obesity, environmental endocrine disruptors, and diabetes as precursors to pancreatic, colon, and breast cancers. Longitudinal studies from childhood will allow measuring changes in precusor markers and interactions over time. Are obese children likely to develop colon, pancreatic, prostate or breast cancers earlier than non-obese children when reaching adulthood? What are gene-environmental interactions or mediators along the causal pathway? Collaborations within the CHHE center provide opportunity to explore these questions.


Mattingly, Carolyn J.
Professor/Head, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Email  |  Personal website

The goal of my research program is to improve understanding about environmental influences on human health and disease using different approaches including: development of the publicly available Comparative Toxicogenomics Database and using the zebrafish model to understand how environmental exposures perturb vertebrate development.


May, Katlyn 
Co-Director, Community Engagement Core
Email  |  Personal website

I received my masters degree in Environmental Management from Duke University in 2014, where I focused on community-based action, and the interplay between social and environmental issues. As Director of the COEC, I help facilitate bi-directional communication between CHHE researchers and community stakeholders, aid in research translation and dissemination, and support community-based environmental health efforts in North Carolina.


Muddiman, David
Professor, Dept. of Chemistry
Email  |  Personal website

The ultimate goals of our work are to quantitatively define biology and understand the role of individuality across a wide range of diseases. Our program requires a significant level of interaction with clinicians, basic scientists including biologists and chemists, statisticians as well as maintaining a large interdisciplinary group of scientists within our group driving innovations including advanced separations, state-of-the-art mass spectrometry, and bioinformatics.


Pan, Xiaoping
Associate Professor, Dept. of Biology, ECU
Email  |  Personal website

The research in the Pan Lab investigates the toxicological mode of action of various environmental substances and materials including crude oil-dispersant mixture and metallic nanoparticles, etc. The model organisms Caenorhabditis elegans and Rattus norvegicus are used to identify and characterize genetic pathways underlying reproductive toxicity, with a particular interest in the role of small noncoding RNAs in gene regulation and stress response. We are also interested in developing C. elegans as a time and cost-efficient non-mammalian model in toxicity screening and risk assessment.


Patisaul, Heather B.
Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Email  |  Personal website

Our laboratory examines how endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) impact sexually dimorphic neuroendocrine pathways and behaviors. We are particularly interested in how developmental exposures can alter hormone-dependent pathways and explore this using a variety of animal models including rats, mice and voles.  Our ongoing research is investigating the mechanisms by which early life exposure to EDCs including BPA and fire retardants alter social behaviors associated with mental health disorders such as autism.


Reif, David M.
Associate Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Email  |  Personal website

The overarching goal of research in the Reif Lab is to understand the complex interactions between human health and the environment. To accomplish this goal, we focus on developing bioinformatical/statistical methods, visual analytics, experimental design, and software for the integrated analysis of high-dimensional, multi-scale data from diverse sources. Data sources include epidemiological studies of human health, high-throughput screening (HTS) of environmental chemicals, in vitro studies, and model organisms.


Yoder, Jeffrey A.
Associate Professor, Dept. of  Molecular Biomedical Sciences
Email  |  Personal website

Three goals of our laboratory are to 1) evaluate how exposure to environmental agents influences immune function, 2) identify novel genetic mediators of innate immunity and 3) develop models for the evolution of innate immune receptors. Nearly all of our research begins with the experimentally amenable zebrafish as a model vertebrate species with the goal of better understanding human immune function and the evolution of immune genes.