News stories of health risks from toxic waste spills, polluted water supplies, hazy air, contaminated foods, and other environmental problems abound. Sorting through the headlines to figure out what environmental risks really might be important to your health or your community’s health and figuring out how to decrease those risks can seem an insurmountable task. My research seeks to illuminate what individuals, communities, and policymakers can do to make the biggest and most lasting improvements in public health by improving the quality of our environment.
My students and I parse complicated environmental problems into manageable elements that can be modeled mathematically and re-integrated to inform environmental and public health policy decisions. We examine environmental risks to health at the scale of communities, building models that integrate knowledge of how pollutants are distributed through communities, how people become exposed to pollutants and other environmental risks factors, and how these exposures, in turn, increase risks of illness or premature death. Our main tools are drawn from applied mathematics and statistics, but we also conduct field research. My students have collected and analyzed water and air samples, administered surveys, and conducted focus group interviews, in order to develop the knowledge needed to understand environmental risks to public health and advance policies to reduce those risks. Given an important environmental policy question, we find the tools needed to analyze potential solutions.