UPEH Adjunct Faculty

Other professionals that do research locally and study the fields of toxicology and/or environmental health are listed below. They often work with Duke University’s UPEH program and its students, faculty and staff. 



Linda Birnbaum, PhD: Linda is the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). She is a board-certified toxicologist, with degrees in Microbiology and Biochemistry, and has been a federal scientist for nearly 38 years. Dr. Birnhaum started her federal career at NIEHS with 10 years as first a senior staff fellow, then as a principal investigator (PI) and research microbiologist, and finally as a group leader for the Institute’s Chemical Disposition Group. Dr. Birnbaum is a very active member of the scientific community, both locally and globally. She was vice president of the International Union of Toxicology, the umbrella organization for toxicology societies in more than 50 countries, and former president of the Society of Toxicology, the largest professional organization of toxicologists in the world. She is the author of more than 800 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and reports. Birnbaum’s own research focuses on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals, mechanisms of action of toxicants including endocrine disruption, and linking of real-world exposures to health effects. She is also an adjunct professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Curriculum in Toxicology, and the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in addition to our University Program in Environmental Health at Duke University.

Paul Foster 

William Copeland, PhD: Bill Copeland is Chief of the Genome Integrity and Structural Biology Laboratory and head of the Mitochondrial DNA Replication Group, which studies mitochondrial diseases at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The primary goal of the Mitochondrial DNA Replication Group is to understand the role of the replication apparatus in the production and prevention of mutations in mtDNA. Because the genetic stability of mtDNA depends on the accuracy of DNA polymerase gamma (pol γ), this project focuses on understanding the role of human pol γ in mtDNA mutagenesis. Furthermore, nearly 300 disease mutations in the POLG gene for the catalytic subunit of pol γ have been linked to several mitochondrial disorders, including progressive external ophthalmoplegia, sensory and ataxic neuropathy, Alpers syndrome, and male infertility. We are studying the molecular effects of disease mutations in pol γ, its accessory subunit and the mitochondrial DNA helicase. The current projects address the role of human pol γ in mtDNA mutagenesis; study of the molecular effects of disease mutations in pol γ; and are elucidating the role of the human pol γ in induced mitochondrial toxicity caused by anti-HIV nucleoside analogs. Our group has over 20 years of experience in research of mitochondrial DNA replication and this group has pioneered the characterization of the human mitochondrial DNA polymerase complex.


–U.S. EPA–

Kevin Crofton 

Stephanie Padilla 


–North Carolina Central University–

Greg Cole, PhD: My longstanding research interests have focused on characterizing the functional role of extracellular matrix (ECM) genes in neural development and disease.  My current research focus is the biology of heparan sulfate proteoglycans and their target growth factors and morphogens, specifically with regard to their role in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).  The focus of this researchis on gene-ethanol interactions that manifest in FASD.   My recent research has employed zebrafish to elucidate the function of agrin, a major basement membrane and cell surface HSPG, in nervous system development. This research has shown that agrin plays an integral role in eye (retina) development, with microphthalmia resulting from loss of agrin function in zebrafish.  My current research  is assessing the effects of ethanol exposure on nervous system development that is dependent on agrin-binding ligands, such as sonic hedgehog (Shh) and fibroblast growth factors (fgfs).  An emphasis is being placed on CNS development in response to embryonic ethanol exposure, and ECM function in response to ethanol exposure and how perturbation of the function of ECM molecules may impact juvenile and adult behavior as a consequence of ethanol exposure. 


–North Carolina State University–

Seth Kullman 

Gerald LeBlanc 

Robert Smart, PhD: The research in the Smart Lab involves the identification and characterization of genes/signaling pathways that are determinants of susceptibility to cancer, particularly as it relates to gene-environment interactions. Smart’s lab utilizes genetic/molecular/cellular-based systems and powerful genetically engineered mouse models to define mechanisms by which environmental stressors induce skin cancer. The lab is especially interested in how cells respond to DNA damage and tumor stress to make decisions to live or die. These decisions and the ability to influence these programmed cell death decisions have important implications for tumor development and tumor regression. Lab research is active in studying the role of the basic leucine zipper transcription factors, CCAAT/enhancer binding proteins (C/EBPs) and long noncoding RNAs in this process.


–University of North Carolina–

James Swenberg



Updated 10/17/17 SP