Today is Thursday, Sep. 24, 2020

Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences

Center for Environmental Genetics

Coronavirus COVID-19 Updates:


News & Events

  • CEG News at a Glance, 2010 July\Aug: PDF
  • CEG News at a Glance, 2020 June\July: PDF

CEG members Chia-I Ko, PhD, and Kelly Brunst, PhD, have received awards from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS):  Dr. Ko, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences, has been awarded nearly a quarter of a million dollars in year 1 for her study, “Disruption of Pluripotency by Dioxin Exposure,” R21 ES031190, project start date: 7/1/2020; total 2020 funding: $240,750 (direct costs $150,000).  Dr. Brunst, an assistant professor in the Division of Epidemiology, has been awarded more than a half million dollars in year 1 for her 5-year R01 study, R01 ES031054, “Epigenetics, Air Pollution, and Childhood Mental Health,” project start date 7/2020; total 2020 funding: $632,113 (direct costs: $486,168).

Photo of Kelly Brunst, PhDBrunst’s study seeks to determine whether exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) during childhood and adolescence impacts the epigenome and whether changes in DNA methylation can be used to identify children at increased risk for anxiety and depression. Using the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS) and Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) study birth cohort, the Brunst team will conduct an epigenome-wide search for DNA methylation biomarkers associated with PM2.5 and TRAP exposure prenatally through age 12 years (n=500) and identify unique and pollution-related DNA methylation signatures associated with anxiety and depression. The team will aim to replicate its findings in a third, independent birth cohort, Project Viva (n=652), with similar sociodemographic characteristics and available air pollution and neuro-developmental outcome data. Brunst is a former CEG New Investigator Awardee (2018–2020) and recent CEG Pilot project recipient: 2018 New Investigator Award (NIA) “Epigenetic mechanisms linking traffic-related air pollution and brain structure and function ($40,000) and 2020 Innovator Award, “Fluoride exposure, mitochondrial function and mental health” ($29,465)

Portrait photo of Dr. Chia-I Ko, CEG member and 2020 Pilot awardeeKo’s R-21 study will use an advanced 3D chromatin structure approach to study toxic effects in pluripotency networks resulting from environmental exposure. Dr. Ko’s in vivo model is expected to lead to better understanding of the mechanisms of developmental toxicity of dioxins, making it possible to arrive at prevention and intervention approaches to deal with embryonic environmental injury. Earlier this year Dr. Ko received a $15,000 Pilot award (innovator award category) from the CEG for her project, “Disruption of pluripotency and differentiation of preimplantation embryonic cells by dioxin exposure.”

UC photo of Dr. Patrick Tso Dr. Ko is among several researchers recently honored by the UC College of Medicine Office of Research in its July 2020 Gallery of Awardees. The Gallery features faculty members who have been awarded external grants of $100,000/yr or more in direct costs and is displayed in the CARE/Crawley Atrium, as well as via electronic posters\digital signage throughout east campus. The Gallery of Awardees also features CEG members Katie Burns, Ph.D., and her funded study, “Targeting Neutrophilic Responses in the Initiation of Endometriosis,” and Patrick Tso, Ph.D., Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, for his work on the “Evaluation of Structural and Compositional Lipid Technologies Upon Nutrient Absorption and Deposition.”

The ground-breaking work of CEG member Zalfa Abdel-Malek, Ph.D., and her team reminds us that sun-safety is important year-round, even as we take extra precautions during summer: Swope VB, Starner RJ, Rauck C, Abdel-Malek ZA. Endothelin-1 and α-melanocortin have redundant effects on global genome repair in UV-irradiated human melanocytes despite distinct signaling pathways. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2020 Mar;33(2):293-304. doi: 10.1111/pcmr.12823. PMID: 31505093

CEG members Changchun Xie, Ph.D. and Liang Niu, Ph.D. have been welcomed to the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design (BERD) core of the UC Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training (CCTST) in the UC College of Medicine.

Eula Bingham and Gwen Collman PhD of NIEHS 2015 The CEG lost a great friend upon the June 13 death of Emeritus member Eula Bingham, Ph.D.  Our heartfelt condolences go out to her family.  Dr. Bingham became one of the first female PhD faculty members in the UC College of Medicine Department of Environmental Health in 1961 and devoted a lifetime of advocacy to environmental health and worker safety. Dr. Bingham was appointed as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health from 1977 until 1981 under President Jimmy Carter and was the fourth director of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since its inception in 1970. There she distinguished herself as a champion of environmental safety and workers’ right to know about potential environmental exposures and their immediate and long-term implications for human health. In the video linked here, Dr. Bingham shares the story of her career and the deeply held principles that drove it. In the photo above Dr. Bingham poses with NIEHS program officer Gwen Collman, Ph.D., during our Department's 50th anniversary celebration of its founding

Navigating ASSIST for human subjects and clinical trials: The Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking (ASSIST) system is used to submit applications electronically to NIEHS and other NIH and Public Health Service agencies. It is also used to ensure PIs' compliance with timely reporting of Human Subjects Study inclusion enrollment data, etc. Delays and errors in Human Subjects reporting via ASSIST can delay or jeopardize individual and Center funding; hence, this guidance from NIEHS staff specialist Martha Barnes, M.S. is important for PIs and their staff: PPT slides accessible here (PDF). Webinar recording accessible here (mp4 file).

CEG Internal Advisory Board approved as of May 2020 the admission of three new CEG Associate members and New Investigator Awardees (NIAs): Drs. Angelico Mendy, Jun Wang, and Patrick Ray. As an NIA, each early career investigator will receive limited Jr faculty salary support and active mentoring in EHS research.

Dr. Engelico Mendy portraitAngelico Mendy, MD, MPH, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the UC Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences. Dr. Mendy completed a postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award in the Environmental Cardiopulmonary Disease Group at NIEHS. His research there covered the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals on respiratory health and examined whether these effects might be mediated by epigenetic changes, recently reporting the association of bisphenols F and S used as bisphenol A (BPA) substitutes with asthma and allergic outcomes. His other interests include the identification of phenotypes of complex diseases and the effect modification by serum levels of antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E) on the relationship of ambient air pollutants and asthma outcomes. 

Portrait of Jun Wang, CIH, PhDJun Wang, PhD, PE, CIH, CSP, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Environmental and Industrial Hygiene, where he oversees the Workplace Aerosol and Gaseous Lab (WANG Lab) in the UC Center for Health-Related Aerosol Studies (CHRAS).  His research interests include measuring emission of airborne toxins from notable environmental sources; developing methodologies to quantify cytotoxicity, oxidative potential, and respiratory deposition of ultrafine aerosols and nanoparticles; and designing next-generation sensory detection and engineering control to reduce inhalation exposure. Dr. Wang has proposed as part of his commitment to the mission of the CEG a multi-faceted study aiming to understand how metal exposures (manganese, lead, mercury, etc.) introduce neuroinflammation through magnolia activation and cytokines overproduction, and how learning, memory, and other developmental markers in youth are affected by environmental exposure to metals.

Portrait of Patrick Alexander Ray, PhD, UC CEASDr. Patrick Ray, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering in the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science.  Dr. Ray completed his undergraduate and graduate studies in Massachusetts: B.Sc., University of Massachusetts, Amherst 2001. M.Sc., Tufts University, 2006 (Civil & Environmental Engineering, Water Resources). Ph.D., Tufts 2010 (Water Resources Engineering). Postdoc, UMass-Amherst, 2014 (Water Systems Modeling under Uncertainty). He has served as Principal Investigator on awards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Ohio Water Development Authority (Multi-dimensional risk assessment on riverine Contamination: Case study of Cincinnati) and World Bank (Group Climate Change Risk Assessment of Expanded Upper Arun Hydropower Facility, Nepal).  In 2015 Dr. Ray received the World Bank Knowbel Prize Team Award.

The CEG Internal Advisory Board approved in 2019 the admission of five new CEG Associate members Ashley Merianos, Ph.D.; Katherine Vest, Ph.D.; Sakthivel Sadayappan, Ph.D., M.B.A.; Wen-Hai Shao, Ph.D. and Maobing Tu, Ph.D.

AshleyMerianosPhDDr. Ashley Merianos is an Assistant Professor of Health Education and Promotion. Her primary research and teaching interests include substance use prevention and control, health services research, social and behavioral epidemiology, and program evaluation. She holds a K01 award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2017-2022) for a study on Reducing Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among Pediatric Patients in the Emergency Department Setting, and is a co-investigator with CEG member Melinda Mahabee-Gittens, M.D., Ph.D., on a study of the Prevalence and Clinical Correlates of Thirdhand Smoke Exposure in a Pediatric Patient Population (NIEHS R01 ES030743; 08/15/2019 – 07/31/202.

KatherineVestDr. Ketherine Vest is an Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics in the UC College of Medicine. The Vest lab is currently investigating how RNA binding proteins regulate expression of genes important for mitochondrial metabolism and MuSC function.She was an Ohio Eminent Scholar (2018) and from 2016 through 2019 studied myogenesis and RNA biogenesis in a mouse model of OPMD with a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship (F32 award) from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

WenHai ShaoDr. Weh-Hai Shao is an Assistant Professor in the UC College of Medicine and its Division of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology.  He currently holds a nearly three-quarters of a million dollars R01 award from NIDDK for his study of AXL Receptor Tyrosine Kinase, a Potential Therapeutic Target in Glomerulonenephritis (R01 DK116789, 04/1/19 – 03/31/22). He has received repeated travel awards to the International Congress of Immunology, where he was a recent invited speaker (Beijing, 2019) and is an editor of the Journal of Molecular Epidemiology.

Sakthivel Sadayappan, PhD, MBADr. Sakthivel Sadayappan is a Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and Director of Heart Branch of the Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute.  Goals of the Sadayappan lab include (1) elucidating the causes of muscle-specific diseases at the molecular level, and (2) identifying therapeutic targets that will lead to the development of effective cures. In October 2019 Dr. Sadayappan was among the faculty members, staff and trainees honored by the UC College of Medicine Division of Cardiovascular Disease and the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute  for distinguished contributions toward understanding, diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease and stroke.  At the event, called "Celebration of the Heart," Dr. Sadayappan was recognized for receiving a pre-doctoral Institutional Research award from the American Heart Association.

Maobing Tu, PhDDr. Maobing Tu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering, UC College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. His research interests include chemical & environmental engineering, bioprocess engineering, yeast and bacterial metabolomics, microbiome analysis, and biodegradation.In 2018 her received a UC CEAS Master Educator Award and was named a UC Trans-disciplinary Research Leadership Program Scholar.  He serves as a reviewer for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, the Journal of Biotechnology, Green Chemistry, and numerous other journals.

Congratulations and welcome!