Speaker Bios (alphabetically listed by last name)
Manish Arora, BDS, MPH, PhD, FICD
Dr. Manish Arora is the Edith J. Baerwald Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Arora is an environmental epidemiologist and exposure biologist. He graduated with a PhD from the University of Sydney in 2006, and undertook postgraduate fellowship training at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Arora’s research focuses on effects of prenatal and early childhood chemical exposures on life-long health trajectories.
He is known for his work on biomarkers that utilize human deciduous and permanent teeth to reconstruct the timing of exposure to various harmful chemicals and essential nutrients, and biological response to those environmental factors. His methods are being applied to the study of outcomes that are national health priorities, including autism, schizophrenia, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). In recognition of his research, he was awarded the PECASE medal by the office of President Obama.
Christine Austin, PhD
Dr. Christine Austin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Head of Chemical Mapping at the Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Environmental Health Sciences Laboratory. Dr. Austin’s research focus is developing novel analytical techniques to reconstruct environmental exposures during the prenatal and early childhood periods.
Research projects include developing biomarkers of exposure to toxic and essential metals, environmental chemicals, diet and stress, in diverse matrices such as teeth, hair and placenta, where biomarker distribution can provide important information. Dr. Austin received her PhD on the development of novel quantification procedures and applications of laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) analysis of biological tissues at the University of Technology, Sidney. She completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Sydney and at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
David Balshaw, PhD
Dr. David Balshaw is Chief of the Exposure, Response, and Technology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Dr. Balshaw oversees a team focused on building research capacity in the environmental health sciences through planning and administration of NIEHS-funded research programs in bioengineering, integrated systems, and computational methods to understand complex systems; development of sensor technologies for environmental exposure assessment; discovery and validation of emerging biomarkers; and application of innovative "omics" research for reducing the risk of exposure and disease including development of databases.
His primary focus is on the development of emerging technologies with particular emphasis on enabling innovative approaches to improve exposure and risk assessment. To this end, Dr. Balshaw has been a leading figure in the development of the Exposure Science and the Exposome Program to develop a new generation of tools to characterize the personal environment integrating direct, personal assessment of multiple chemical factors, dietary intake, physical activity and psychosocial stress as well as assessment of the biological response to these factors on major biological pathways.
Dr. Balshaw received training in pharmacology and biophysics from the University of Cincinnati and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His interdisciplinary training has enabled him to effectively bridge disparate communities including engineering, mechanistic toxicology, and both clinical and public health application. These successes have led to recognition of his leadership as an expert translational scientist at the NIH and leadership roles in the NIH Common Fund, the NIH Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative Exposure Biology Program, and the NIEHS Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource (HHEAR).
Robert Barouki, MD, PhD
Dr. Robert Barouki is Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Paris and head of the Inserm unit T3S: “Toxicology, Therapeutic Targets, Cellular Signaling and Biomarkers”. He also heads the clinical metabolomics and proteomic biochemistry laboratory at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital.
Dr. Barouki’s research is focused on the impact of environmental contaminants on human health, in particular persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and endocrine-disruptive chemicals (EDCs). He is involved in several EU projects: HBM4EU (linking exposure to health), Heals and Neurosome (exposome), HERA (setting the research agenda in environment and health) and Oberon (EDC testing). He has also been involved in the networking of French and European research in the field of environment and health as well as in communicating scientific data to citizens.
Elza Bontempi, PhD
Dr. Elza Bontempi is Full Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Brescia. She received her PhD in Materials for Engineering in 2001. Her doctoral studies were mainly focused on materials characterizations using advanced X-rays characterization techniques. During her PhD studies, she worked in Grenoble (France), at the “Laboratoire de Crystallographie” in the group of Professor Raoux, director of the Soleil Synchrotron.
Dr. Bontempi has expertise in all the aspects connected with circular economy, with an interdisciplinary skill set. She has extensive knowledge about materials and eco-materials, because she focused her research on sustainability innovation (e.g., alternatives to waste landfilling), strategic environmental management, and sustainable raw materials recovery. Moreover, she also contributed to develop new strategies to promote the circular economy diffusion, by proposing preliminary simplified approaches to LCA, mainly dedicated to SMEs and legislators.
She is currently responsible for sustainability development actions for the INSTM consortium. Dr. Bontempi was named a Top Italian Scientist in Natural & Environmental Sciences for environmental chemistry.
Laura Borgese, PhD
Dr. Laura Borgese is Associate Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Brescia. She works in the INSTM Unit of Brescia at the Laboratory of Chemistry for Technologies of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. Her main research activities deal with innovative methods for sampling and analyzing elemental composition of environmental, food and biological samples by means of total reflection X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy.
She is chair of the “European Network for chemical elemental analysis by TXRF” funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Program of the European Union, including representatives from 29 countries all around the world. She is a founding partner and CEO of Smart Solutions srl, an innovative spin-off company of the University of Brescia and affiliated with INSTM established in 2014. The core business is dedicated to air particulate matter analysis for air quality monitoring. She is an expert for the Italian Unification Body (UNI) on the ISO technical table dedicated to the chemical analysis of surfaces (TC201), in which she is project leader of two ISO standards. She is the author of 84 peer-reviewed scientific publications in international journals (h-index 24) and four patents.
Elena Colicino, PhD
Dr. Elena Colicino is Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Colicino works on methods development for environmental health data in order to assess the effects of individual and joint environmental exposures on human health throughout the life course. She also adapts novel machine learning and Bayesian algorithms to high-dimensional molecular markers to reconstruct prior environmental exposures, predict future health conditions, and characterize vulnerable populations. She strongly supports reproducible and rigorous science creating novel R-packages and making her codes publicly available on GitHub repositories.
P. Lee Ferguson, PhD
Dr. Lee Ferguson is an Environmental Analytical Chemist who joined Duke in 2009 after six years as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina.
Research in the Ferguson laboratory is focused on development of novel methods for trace analysis of organic and nanoparticulate contaminants in the aquatic environment. Specifically, the laboratory uses high performance mass spectrometry techniques (e.g. UHPLC-Orbitrap MS/MS) to detect, identify, and quantify emerging contaminants (including endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals, and surfactants) in wastewater and drinking water. Another significant research thrust involves the development of sensitive trace analytical techniques for quantifying and characterizing single-walled carbon nanotubes in water, sediment, and aquatic organism tissues. For this work, near infrared fluorescence spectroscopy (NIRF) is used as a primary tool for resolving these novel nanoparticulate contaminants in highly complex environmental mixtures.
The analytical methods developed in the Ferguson laboratory laboratory (for both nanoparticles and organic contaminants) are applied to both process-oriented environmental chemistry experiments in the field and laboratory as well as to toxicity bioassays (including whole-organism assays and molecular endpoints). The overarching goal is to gain an increased understanding of how emerging contaminants are transported, transformed and induce deleterious effects within aquatic ecosystems.
Megan K. Horton, PhD, MPH
Dr. Megan Horton, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is an environmental and life course epidemiologist. Her research combines state-of-the-art environmental exposure assessment with structural and functional neuroimaging and behavioral phenotyping to understand how early life exposure to developmental neurotoxicants affects typical brain development and leads to aberrant cognitive and behavioral outcomes in children. Recently, her research extends to investigate how environmental, social, and occupational stressors impact later life health outcomes including PTSD and cognitive impairment.
Dr. Horton is currently the principal investigator (PI) or multi-PI of several NIH and NIOSH funded research grants and a key co-investigator on several other large NIH grants. Recently, she was awarded NIOSH funding to characterize the World Trade Center exposome and how it relates to risk and resilience for adverse health outcomes in the men and women involved in the rescue and recovery efforts following the events of September 11, 2001. She was a recipient of an early career NIH Pathway to Independence Award and during her doctoral studies received a prestigious EPA STAR Fellowship. Dr. Horton joined Mount Sinai in 2013 after earning a MPH and PhD at Columbia University. In addition to dedication to rigorous and innovative science, Dr. Horton is heavily involved with mentorship, faculty development, and wellness initiatives within Mount Sinai.
Xihong Lin, PhD
Dr. Xihong Lin is Professor and former Chair of the Department of Biostatistics, Coordinating Director of the Program in Quantitative Genomics at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and Professor of the Department of Statistics at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University, and Associate Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Dr. Lin’s research interests lie in development and application of scalable statistical and computational methods for analysis of massive data from genome, exposome and phenome, as well as complex epidemiological and health data. Dr. Lin received the MERIT Award (R37) (2007-2015) and the Outstanding Investigator Award (OIA) (R35) (2015-2022) from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Dr. Lin has been active in COVID-19 research. She is a corresponding senior author of the landmark JAMA and Nature papers on analysis of the Wuhan COVID-19 data on transmission, public health interventions and epidemiological characteristics. In Spring 2020, Dr. Lin served on the State of Massachusetts COVID-19 Task Force, and testified in the UK Parliament’s Committee of Science and Technology on COVID Responses.
Dr. Lin is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and has received many prestigious awards including the 2002 Mortimer Spiegelman Award from the American Public Health Association, and the 2006 Presidents’ Award of the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS), which parallels the Fields Metal in Mathematics. She is an elected fellow of American Statistical Association, Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and International Statistical Institute. Dr. Lin is the former Chair of the COPSS (2010-2012) and a former member of the Committee of Applied and Theoretical Statistics of the National Academy of Science. She is the founding chair of the US Biostatistics Department Chair Group, and the founding co-chair of the Young Researcher Workshop of East-North American Region (ENAR) of International Biometric Society. She is the former Coordinating Editor of Biometrics and the founding co-editor of Statistics in Biosciences. She has served on a large number of committees of many statistical societies, and numerous NIH and NSF review panels.
Getjan Medema, PhD
Prof. Gertjan Medema is a principal microbiologist at KWR Water Research Institute in The Netherlands, a position he has held since 1996. His main area of expertise is detection methods, transmission, risk assessment and epidemiology of waterborne pathogens. He initiated research on sewage surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and has published on this topic and was invited for keynotes on this by many organizations (WHO, US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, International Water Association). He coordinated the epidemiological investigation of the Legionella outbreak in Flint, Michigan. His experimental, field, and modelling research focuses on occurrence, transport, and inactivation of waterborne pathogens in the environment by removal and water treatment/disinfection.
He has served as part-time chair on Water & Health at Delft University of Technology (Sanitary Engineering) since 2009 and Visiting Hannah Professor on Water & Health at Michigan State University since 2018. He has coordinated the joint research program of the Netherlands water utilities. He is director of KWR’s WHO collaborating centre on Water Quality & Health and has served as advisor to the WHO on waterborne pathogens and QMRA since 1991, on SARS and WASH in 2003, and Ebola and WASH in 2014, and of EU DG Environment on water reuse guidelines and drinking water guidelines. He has over 20 years of experience in European research projects at KWR.
Donatella Placidi, MD
Dr. Donatella Placidi is Associate Professor of Occupational Medicine in the Department of Medico-Surgical Specialities, Radiological Sciences and Public Health in the University of Brescia. Dr. Placidi’s research has focused on worker populations and the health effects of neurotoxic chemicals and the biological mechanisms by which metals, particulate matter, and other toxic chemicals in the environment affect the human nervous system and the interaction of environmental and genetic factors in the genesis of various cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Placidi’s career has included clinical positions in hospital settings, including at the Spedali Civili Hospital of Brescia and the Carlo Poma Hospital of Mantova. She is a member of the Italian Society of Occupational Health, the International Commission on Occupational Health, and the Italian Association of Epidemiology.
Roberto Ranzi, PhD
Dr. Roberto Ranzi is Professor of Hydraulic Structures and of River Basin Monitoring and Restoration at the University of Brescia. Dr. Ranzi received his PhD in Hydraulic Engineering at Politecnico di Milano. He is author of over 70 scientific papers in journals about hydrology, environment and water engineering. He chairs the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Committee of IAHR-International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research, and he served as Rector's Delegate for International Affairs and Development Cooperation.
S. Mark Tompkins, PhD
Dr. S. Mark Tompkins is Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Center for Vaccines and Immunology at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens, Georgia. He is a member of a NIAID Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) and NIAID Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (CIVIC).
His research focuses on understanding the emergence, pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of influenza and other emerging respiratory pathogens. These studies include surveillance for influenza virus in animal populations, susceptibility of different species to influenza infection, and the host response to infection. Dr. Tompkins collaborates extensively, supporting development of novel vaccines, antiviral drugs, and treatments for human and animal influenza. Most recently, his laboratory has focused on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has established animal models to assess dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and is testing the efficacy of novel antiviral drugs and COVID-19 vaccines.
Roel Vermeulen, PhD
Dr. Roel Vermeulen is Professor of Environmental Epidemiology and Exposome Science at the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University and at the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands. He is the director of the Utrecht Exposome Hub, and co-chair of the Personalized Health and Medicine Program of Utrecht Life Sciences at Utrecht University. He previously held positions at the National Cancer Institute, USA. His scientific research focuses on environmental risk factors for cancer and neurological diseases with a strong emphasis on integrating epidemiology, high quality exposure assessment, and molecular biology into multidisciplinary investigations.
One of the current research areas is the exploration of new methods for quantifying the external and internal exposome. He is the PI of the EXPANSE project part of the European Human Exposome Network, which he currently coordinates, and leads the Dutch national program on Exposome research (Exposome-NL). Dr. Roel Vermeulen has served on many international committees, including the WHO and the National Toxicology Program in the US. He is a member of the Dutch Expert Committee for Occupational Standards of the Dutch Health council. He was elected chair of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), Scientific Committee on Epidemiology in Occupational Health (EPICOH) in 2015. He has published over 650 publications.
Douglas I. Walker, PhD
Dr. Douglas Walker is Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. His research focuses on continued development and application of advanced analytical strategies for measuring the occurrence, distribution and magnitude of previously unidentified environmental exposures and assist in delineating the mechanisms underlying environment-related diseases in humans.
Through application of high-resolution mass spectrometry platforms, Dr. Walker has shown it is possible to provide measures of 10,000-100,000 chemical signals in a cost-effective manner using a single human blood sample, providing a key advance for nutritional assessment, precision medicine and exposome research. Dr. Walker received his BS in 2009 from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and completed his PhD in 2017 from Tufts University in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering. During his postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University, he acted as Director of Exposome Research for the Clinical Biomarkers Laboratory and was a member of the HERCULES Exposome Research Center.
Robert O. Wright, MD, MPH
Dr. Robert Wright is a pediatrician, medical toxicologist, and environmental epidemiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He is the Ethel H. Wise Chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Co-Director of the Institute for Exposomic Research, and Principal Investigator of an ongoing longitudinal birth cohort in Mexico City (Programming Research in Obesity, Growth, Environment and Social Stress--PROGRESS) in collaboration with the National Institute of Public Health, Mexico. He also founded the (Metals Assessment Targeting Community Health) MATCH study in Tar Creek, Oklahoma.
In September 2018, he joined the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council (NAEHSC), a Congressionally mandated body that advises the secretary of Health and Human Services, the director of NIH, and the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) on matters relating to the direction of research, research support, training, and career development supported by the NIEHS.
Dr. Wright studies chemical mixtures, social stressors as a modifier of chemical toxicity, and the role of genetics/epigenetics in modifying or mediating chemical toxicity. He is an international advocate for research on exposomics—the measure of all health relevant human exposure throughout the lifespan. He has published over 200 research studies and has served on numerous international and national committees and advisory boards. Dr. Wright founded the Senator Frank Lautenberg Laboratory of Environmental Health Sciences at Mount Sinai in 2014 and in 2020 launched the Laboratory for Innovation in Exposomic Precision Medicine. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School and completed residency in Pediatrics at Northwestern University, as well as the following fellowships: Emergency Medicine, (Brown University), Medical Toxicology (Harvard University), Environmental Epidemiology, (Harvard University) and Genetic Epidemiology (Harvard University). Finally, he also established the Mount Sinai Transdisciplinary Center on Early Environmental Exposures—a NIH funded Core Center grant program that provides infrastructure support to Mount Sinai environmental researchers.
Rosalind J. Wright, MD, MPH
Dr. Rosalind Wright is Co-Director at the Mount Sinai Institute for Exposomic Research, Dean for Translational Biomedical Sciences, and the Horace W. Goldsmith Professor in Life Course Health Research in the Departments of Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Wright is an internationally recognized clinician scientist and life course epidemiologist with transdisciplinary training in molecular biology, environmental health, social determinants, and stress mechanisms. Her background includes transdisciplinary training and expertise in environmental exposure assessment as well as genetics, epigenetics, and psychosocial stress measurement applied to environmental health studies across the life course.
At Mount Sinai, Dr. Wright also is Program Director and Principal Investigator of Conduits, the Institute for Translational Sciences (the NCATs-funded CTSA), and Director of the Physiological Assessment of Children’s Environmental Risk (PACER) Laboratory. The PACER Laboratory has established and validated protocols that can be implemented to assess functioning of key regulatory systems susceptible to environmental influences from early development through childhood to adolescence. Dr. Wright and her team provide expert consultation on environmental and physiological stress measures to promote a better understanding of social context as a modifier of chemical toxicants.
Dr. Wright obtained her medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School and completed an internship in Internal Medicine at the Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Medical School. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Northwestern University and fellowship training in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Harvard Medical School. As part of her training, she obtained a Master’s degree in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. Before joining Mount Sinai in 2012, she was a member of the clinical faculty at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the research faculty at the Channing Laboratory, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.