Paige Bippus (Third Year)

Paige, having jumped from marine ecology to engineering, is a third-year PhD student in Dr. Claudia Gunsch’s lab in Civil & Environmental Engineering. She is completing the Toxicology certificate. She works on bioremediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Her proposed research will use quantitative molecular methods to evaluate conjugation efficiency of PAH-degrading plasmids and optimize environmental and biological conditions for enhanced degradation. Contact: 



Laura Childers (Third Year)

Laura studied History and Plan II Honors at The University of Texas at Austin. Witnessing the impact of pollution on human and ecological health in California’s bread basket, the San Joaquin Valley, inspired her interest in studying toxicology. At Oregon State University-Cascades, Laura studied Biology and participated in ecotoxicology research, using threespine stickleback as a model organism to detect endocrine disrupting chemicals in the Deschutes River. As a member of the Laurie Sanders and Joel Meyers labs at Duke, Laura hopes to explore the links between pesticide exposure, disruptions to the gut microbiome, and the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. In addition, she plans to investigate gut-centered therapies that may relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. 


Christine Figan Crute (Third Year)

Christine earned her B.S. in Environmental Science from George Mason University, where she researched the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on microbial communities. She spent the year following graduation at NIAID studying malaria genetics. Passionate about the intersection of biomedical health sciences and the environment, she came to Duke to pursue research in reproductive and developmental toxicology. Christine recently joined the Susan Murphy lab to study how exposure to environmental chemicals during pregnancy affect placental and fetal development. She is also involved with the Duke Global Health Institute. Contact:



Elizabeth Fleming (Court Hull, Ph.D. – Sixth Year)




Risa Gearhart-Serna (Gayathri Devi, Ph.D. – Fourth Year)

Risa is a native New Mexican, and an avid believer in interdisciplinary science to protect human and environmental health. She has a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Mills College in Oakland, CA. She is a trainee of the Department of Pathology and a member of the Devi lab in the Department of Surgery at the Duke University School of Medicine. Her primary interests are a fusion of environmental toxicology and cancer biology, specifically the role of toxicants on cancer development, progression, and outcome.


Marissa Guttenberg (Second Year)

Marissa earned her B.S. in Nanoscale Science at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. She also completed Minors in Business and Mathematics at SUNY University at Albany. Marissa has been conducting research in Toxicology and Occupational Health at CNSE since 2013. At Duke, she looks forward to conducting research on proactive solutions to current and future human and environmental impacts. Contact:


Samantha Hall (Third Year)

Sam earned both a B.S. in Biology and B.S. in Environmental Sciences from Duke University in 2015. During undergrad, she delved into toxicology research by studying how mitochondrial dynamics and environmental exposures impact neurodegeneration. Prior to starting grad school at Duke, she spent two years in a toxicology lab at NIEHS researching the toxicokinetics of novel brominated flame retardants. She is currently researching per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and their presence in the placenta in the Stapleton Lab. Contact:


Dillon King (Second Year):

Dillon earned a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.S. in Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University in 2017. As an undergraduate she conducted research in environmental health, organic chemistry, and cellular biology. During her time at Duke, she hopes to pursue research in mechanistic toxicology. Contact:



Tess Leuthner (Joel Meyer, Ph.D. – Fifth Year)

Tess received her B.S. in Environmental Science from Indiana University, where she studied mechanisms and trade-offs of adaptation to phosphorus and heavy metal pollution in Daphnia populations. She then conducted research at the UW Milwaukee School of Public Health for two years, studying the effects of developmental exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins on nervous and immune system development. Currently, Tess is a fifth-year in the Meyer lab, investigating persistent metabolic effects of developmental exposures to mitochondrial toxicants. Her interests include investigating inter-individual variability in stress response, and how genomic variation (specifically mitochondrial DNA sequence variation) may influence response to stressors at a population level. She plans to develop C. elegans as better prospective ecotoxicological model organism.


Casey Lindberg (Richard Di Giulio, Ph.D. – Sixth Year):

Casey received her B.S. in Marine Science with a concentration in Chemical Oceanography from the University of South Carolina in 2014. She is currently sixth-year student in the Di Giulio Lab. Her research interests involve Atlantic killifish populations that have adapted to withstand contamination from anthropogenic sources and the effect that resistance has on overall organismal fitness in response to other stressors. More specifically, she studies how co-exposures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and hypoxia impact killifish and zebrafish during embryonic development and how resistance to one stressor or chemical contaminant can influence an organism’s response to another stressor. Contact:


Kirsten Overdahl (Lee Ferguson, Ph.D., Heather Stapleton, Ph.D. – Fourth Year)

Kirsten graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, with a B.A. in Chemistry (2015) and a B.M. in Vocal Performance (2016); she also spent time abroad in Scotland working in Dr. Lee Cronin’s Complex Chemical Systems lab at the University of Glasgow. Kirsten is now in her fourth year at Duke and is a member of the Ferguson and Stapleton labs. Her dissertation research focuses on using high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) and non-targeted analysis to identify azobenzene-based compounds in indoor environments (house dust), and on using in silico, in chemico, and in vitro models to explore the compounds’ potentials to elicit immune sensitization. Her long-term research interest considers how best to create data-driven, high-throughput workflows for identifying and monitoring previously-unrecognized contaminants in the environment and predicting what might happen when humans are exposed. Ultimately, she hopes to find efficient ways to use comprehensive data to create proactive, preventative measures and policies. Contact:


Allison PhillipsAllison (Alli) Phillips (Heather Stapleton, Ph.D. – Sixth Year):

A native of many western states, Alli moved to Durham from Boulder, CO, in 2014. Prior to coming to Duke, she worked at SomaLogic, LLC, a biotechnology startup, FLSmidth, a global engineering company, and Alta Ski Area. She graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, in 2012 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. As a graduate student, Alli has been involved in the collection and analysis of samples from indoor home environments to determine children’s exposure to industrial chemicals. Her thesis is focused primarily on isopropylated triarylphosphate esters (ITPs), one of 5 chemicals that have been prioritized for risk assessment by the U.S. EPA. Contact:



Rose Schrott (Susan Murphy, Ph.D. – Fourth Year)

Rose received her B.A. in Biology and Sc.M. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Johns Hopkins University. Her areas of interests include reproductive and developmental toxicology. She ultimately hopes to be involved in research and science communication and education.


matthew ruis

Matthew Ruis (Heather Stapleton, Ph.D. – Fifth Year)

After completing rotations with Drs. Wiesner, Stapleton, and Bernhardt, Matt is now working with Dr. Heather Stapleton and is investigating the mechanisms driving sex-specific accumulation of flame retardants in the placenta. Currently, he is developing a novel method to quantify polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and thyroid hormones (TH) in micro-dissected placenta tissue (separating fetal from maternal placental tissue) in both rats and humans. The goal is to understand whether flame retardants can disrupt endocrine concentrations in paired placenta, cord blood, fetus, and maternal serum and if there are any sex-specific effects. Contact:



All UPEH/ITEHP alumni can be found here.

jessica_brandt_thumbnailJessica Brandt (Richard Di Giulio, Ph.D.; Emily Bernhardt, Ph.D.):

Jessica’s dissertation research focuses on the biogeochemical cycling and impacts of coal ash waste streams in freshwater lakes and selenium toxicity in the context of fish bioenergetic processes. In her work, she considers ecological influences on element distribution between abiotic and biotic environmental compartments, the use of strontium isotopes and element ratios to trace coal combustion residuals (CCRs) through aquatic food webs, and how to pair field assessments with lab-based experiments for effective study of environmentally relevant problems. Her training bridges the fields of environmental toxicology, ecology, public health, and science policy.

Prior to Duke, Jessica obtained undergraduate and master’s degrees from The Johns Hopkins University and spent a year abroad on a Fulbright research grant to Italy.


Xiaoxing Cui Qi (Jim Zhang, Ph.D.):

For Xiaoxing’s dissertation research, she designs epidemiological studies, implements interdisciplinary research projects and performs statistical analysis in examining the cardiopulmonary health impact of air pollution and exposure reduction with exploratory investigations on the toxicological mechanisms.

She is leading a randomized crossover trial among asthmatic children (N=43) to investigate the potential health benefits of indoor air filtration intervention in areas with high ambient air pollution (funded by Underwriter Laboratory Inc). Previously, Xiaoxing led the implementation and statistical analysis of a crossover study on the cardiopulmonary impact of overnight air filtration among healthy adults (NCT02736487). For both studies, her responsibilities included: formulating the study design, identifying the time points and biomarkers for health outcome evaluation, designing subject inclusion/ exclusion criteria and related questionnaires, composing IRB application, studying registration at, recruiting and managing research staff and study subjects, budgeting, assessing cardiovascular outcomes and respiratory inflammation during clinical visits, overseeing the collection, unique numbering, storage and biochemical analysis of biological specimens (urine, saliva, nasal fluid, blood) and budgeting. Currently, Xiaoxing is conducting mixed-effects models using R to examine the cardiorespiratory impact of indoor filtration intervention and personal exposure to airborne pollutants.

Previous to PhD training at Duke, she obtained a Master of Science in Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University, and completed a five-year Bachelor of Medicine program at Peking University.



Rashmi Joglekar (2019 Graduate; Advisors: Susan Murphy, Ph.D.; Joel Meyer, Ph.D.):

Rashmi received her B.S. in Biotechnology from Indiana University in 2013. Her passion for molecular biology and the environment brought her to the UPEH at Duke University where she worked in the laboratories of Dr. Meyer and Dr. Murphy investigating the epigenetic mechanisms that regulate brain sexualization. Specifically, Rashmi used rodent models to better understand the effects of maternal cigarette smoke exposure on the sexual differentiation of the brain. She was actively involved in student leadership at Duke, and hopes to someday pursue a career in policy and environmental justice. Contact:



Jordan Kozal (Richard Di Giulio, Ph.D.)

Jordan holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Stanford University (2013). The overarching aim of her dissertation is to characterize the role of mitochondria in the maternal and transgenerational toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, with applications in both human disease etiology and organismal ecological fitness. She is particularly interested in the potential for transgenerational exposures to reduce an organism’s fitness in multiple stressor scenarios, which are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the environment due to anthropogenic activities. 



Latasha Smith (__ Graduate; Advisor: Joel Meyer, Ph.D.):

Latasha completed her BS degree in Biology and Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. As part of the Meyer Lab, her work focused on toxicant-induced changes to the dopamine-mediated behaviors of the nematode Caenorhabditis



Savannah Volkoff (2019 Graduate; Advisor: Claudia Gunsch, Ph.D.):

Savannah graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice. She practiced science communication and community engagement with Duke University’s Superfund Research Program prior to attending graduate school. Savannah’s research focused on using biofilms at the sediment-water interface to degrade complex chemical pollutants. Contact: