Current Trainees

Andrew Wrench

Andrew earned his B.S. in Psychology from Howard University in 2021.  In his undergrad, he conducted research at Howard on the formulation of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs involving CBD, as well as research on physiological responses to racialized events and stereotypes.  He also completed an internship at UCLA, with the UC-HBCU program, aimed at identifying the potential uses of biosensors in mice models to improve therapy for alcoholism.  In his doctoral studies at Duke, he aims to research how very specific pathways related to the development of cancer can be influenced by environmental pollutants.  His long term goals include becoming a professor, and addressing health disparities are a big part of his research focuses. 
PhD Program: TBD
Faculty Advisor: TBD
2021-2022 Status: 1st year
Pronouns: he / him / his

Anna Lewis

Anna completed research in marine and aquaculture molecular genomics at The Virginia Institute of Marine Science prior to her acceptance as an Environmental Health Engineering track PhD student. Now in an organic chemistry lab, she is interested in the use of non-target LC-HRMS for characterization of polymer additives in microplastic fibers. More specifically, she is studying disperse azobenzene dyes and PFAS-related compounds in synthetic fabrics. Her research focuses on measuring the “movement” or desorption of these compounds from the fibers into water, plus their biological uptake in oysters.
PhD Program: Civil & Environmental Engineering, EHE track
Faculty Advisor: Lee Ferguson, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 5th year
Contact: aml105@duke.edu

Beverly Jones deSouza

Beverly earned her B.S. in Biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology then worked as a research technician in several labs studying a range of topics, including immunology, cancer biology, and sex determination.  Afterward, she devoted several years to being a stay-at-home mom, then returned to school at Duke and earned a Master of Environmental Management degree with a concentration in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health.  Her Master’s Project examined the toxicity of metabolites created during bioremediation of environmental contaminants.  In the Hirschey Lab, she will be studying how environmental exposures influence epigenetic regulation of metabolism.
PhD Program: Pharmacology
Faculty Advisor: Matthew Hirschey, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 2nd year

Chrissy (Figan) Crute

Chrissy earned her B.S. in Environmental Science from George Mason University, where she conducted lab and field research studying the ecological impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Following graduation, she was an NIH postbac trainee where she studied 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. Chrissy is a member of the Murphy lab and Feng lab in the Division of Reproductive Sciences, OBGYN, where she studies how exposure to environmental chemicals during pregnancy affects placental and fetal development. She is also a Doctoral Certificate member of  the Duke Global Health Institute, who has supported her field research in China.
PhD Program: Environment
2021-2022 Status: 5th year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Christina Bergemann

Christina graduated with her B.S. degree in Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Since graduating, she has been working in the Nicholas School for the past two years, looking at how preconception exposure to toxicants alters mitochondrial function in offspring.  In the future, she hopes to explore how diet and the microbiome can influence chemical susceptibility and mitochondrial function.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Joel Meyer, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 2nd year

Dillon King

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. Her current research focuses on understanding sexual dimorphisms in mitochondrial function and sex-specific susceptibility to mitochondrial toxicants.
PhD Program: Environment
2021-2022 Status: 4th year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Elizabeth Fleming

Elizabeth Fleming is a PhD candidate in the Neurobiology Graduate Training Program and Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Certificate Program. Before coming to Duke, Elizabeth received her BA in Biology from Berea College. Elizabeth’s dissertation work focuses on neural signaling in the input layer of the cerebellum.
PhD Program: Neurobiology
Faculty Advisor: Court Hull, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 8th year

Emily Green

Emily earned her B.S. in Biology and her B.S. in Marine Science at the University of Miami.  After graduation, she joined the Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Branch at the US EPA as an ORISE Fellow, where her research focused on assessing toxic mixture interactions with in vitro bioassays, applying mathematical models to predict mixture responses, and screening water samples for endocrine activity.  Throughout her doctoral studies, she is excited to investigate genotoxicity and the ways populations respond and adapt to high levels of toxic exposure.  When she is not in the lab, Emily enjoys rock climbing, hiking, and taking care of her excessive amount of indoor house plants. 
PhD Program: TBD
Faculty Advisor: TBD
2021-2022 Status: 1st year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Ilaria Merutka

Ilaria graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017 with a dual B.S. in Biochemistry and Chemistry, where she studied developmental sleep deprivation using C. elegans.  Then she worked in the Tafesse Lab at OHSU to develop nanobodies and used them to interrogate and disrupt M. tuberculosis pathogenesis.  Ilaria’s thesis work in the Jayasundara lab investigates the interaction between chronic chemical and heat stress as drivers of kidney injury using D. rerio (zebrafish).
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Nishad Jayasundara, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 2nd year
Pronouns: she / her / hers
 

Katherine (Kate) Morton

Kate earned her B.S. in Biochemistry and B.A. in Political Science (National Security) from Virginia Tech, where she studied mosquito genome modifications and colonial-indigenous interactions in colonial South America.  Her interest in toxicology emerged with the hopes of understanding anthropogenic impact on the environment and the ability of research and policy to mediate these negative effects.  In her time at Duke she hopes to pursue research in mechanistic toxicology and science policy.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Joel Meyer, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 3rd year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Kirsten Overdahl

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 sixth 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 silicoin 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.
PhD Program: Environment
2021-2022 Status: 6th year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Marissa Guttenberg

Marissa earned her B.S. in Nanoscale Science at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering as well as Minors in Business and Mathematics at SUNY University at Albany in 2018. Marissa conducted research in Toxicology and Occupational Health in relation to nanoparticle exposure at CNSE since 2013. At Duke, she joined the Robert Tighe lab, where she is currently working to better understand physiologic and mechanistic outcomes of acute ozone exposure.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Robert Tighe, MD
2021-2022 Status: 4th year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Paige (Bippus) Varner

Paige received her B.S. in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston where she studied the invasion of a Gracilaria algal species. She spent the following year as a lab technician in Dr. Helen HsuKim’s lab at Duke researching mercury exposure in communities practicing artisanal scale gold mining in Peru. She now is a 5th year PhD student in Dr. Claudia Gunsch’s lab in the Civil & Environmental Engineering department. Her research focuses on bioremediation of organic contaminants. Specifically, she looks at the biological associations between bacteria and how they effect horizontal gene transfer for the purpose of PAH degradation. Ultimately, she hopes to pursue a career in science policy.
PhD Program: Civil & Environmental Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Claudia K. Gunsch, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 5th year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Rebecca Hoehn

Rebecca received her B.S. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, majoring in Pharmacology and Toxicology with certificates in Global Health and Environmental Studies.  During her time at UW-Madison, she conducted undergraduate research on the fate, transport, and transformation of environmental contaminants.  Her work focused primarily on the mechanisms by which polar and ionizable organic compounds present in treated wastewater accumulate in crop plants.
Rebecca is interested in the mechanisms by which humans and other organisms are exposed to toxins, the health effects associated with toxic exposures, and the ways in which these pathways may be altered or disrupted.  She hopes to utilize her time at Duke to explore her passions for environmental toxicology while also developing her growing teaching skills.  Outside of the lab, she enjoys tending to her many plants, exploring the outdoors, dancing, cooking, traveling, and attending live music and theatre events.
PhD Program: TBD
Faculty Advisor: TBD
2021-2022 Status: 1st year
Contact: rmh79@duke.edu
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Samantha (Sam) Murphy

Samantha earned her B.S. from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Chemistry. During her undergraduate years, she completed a summer internship with the Duke Superfund Program, which broadened her passion for environmental studies. She later conducted research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory investigating the fate of methyl mercury in the presence of manganese dioxide solids. During her doctoral studies, she is excited to pursue investigation of the entry, fate and consequences of exposure to environmental toxins. Her long-term goal is to continue with research and teaching in academia. Outside of research, Samantha is crazy about her two cats, Mikko and Nino, her retired racing greyhound, Evie, indoor plants, the Carolina Hurricanes, and fundraising for Children’s Hospitals. At Duke, she is investigating how trace element contamination impacts the evolutionary change of mitochondria in Atlantic Killifish and C. elegans.
PhD Program: Environment
2021-2022 Status: 2nd year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Sam (Samantha) Hall

Sam earned both a B.S. in Biology and 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 in 2017, 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) in the Stapleton Lab, with her thesis research focusing on PFAS exposure in humans and the environment and PFAS health effects. 
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Heather Stapleton, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 5th year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Shaunacee Howell

Shaunacee earned her B.S. in Biology from Elizabeth City State University (ECSU).  During her undergraduate years at ECSU, she studied the adverse effects of the chemotherapy drug, Taxol, on microtubule structure in planarian flatworms during regeneration following amputation.  After graduating, Shaunacee pursued a Master’s in Biological and Biomedical Science at North Carolina Central University in efforts to expand her research experience.  She investigated the long-term cellular and behavioral effects of a developmental acute ethanol exposure on zebrafish.  Specifically, she examined sustained changes in microglia precursor cell populations, proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha mRNA expression, and swimming disorientation in juveniles previously exposed to ethanol during early development.  After successfully defending her thesis, Shaunacee worked as a lab manager / research technician in a toxicogenetics laboratory at NC State University for two years.  Her project observed craniofacial abnormalities and variations in gene expression triggered by developmental toxicant exposures in zebrafish.  Shaunacee hopes to observe the effects of an early-stage toxicant / drug exposure on zebrafish, mice, or cultured cells as a PhD student at Duke.
PhD Program: Pharmacology
Faculty Advisor: Sven-Eric Jordt, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 2nd year

Shaza Gaballah

Shaza is a third-year PhD student in the Stapleton lab.  Growing up, Shaza lived all over the Triangle, and received her B.S. in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Medical Anthropology from UNC Chapel Hill in 2017.  After graduating, she completed a two-year fellowship at the US EPA, where she investigated how exposure to GenX and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) impacts developmental toxicity and developmental neurotoxicity in zebrafish.  Her work identified shared toxicity phenotypes in zebrafish based on varying PFAS chemical structures.  Shaza’s work at the EPA was her first time delving into toxicology, and she loved it so much that she applied to Duke’s environmental toxicology program.  She is currently investigating how flame retardants and PFAS cross the placental barrier and impact fetal growth and development.  Shaza is also interested in the impacts of in utero exposure to these environmental contaminants may have on endocrine disruption.  When she’s not in the lab, Shaza loves cheating at crosswords, hiking in Durham, and hanging out with her cat, Olive.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Heather Stapleton, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 3rd year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Taylor Hoxie

Taylor earned a B.S. in Chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry at Wake Forest University in 2017.  As an undergraduate she conducted research in organic chemistry synthesizing novel PI3K inhibitors for prostate cancer treatments.  Prior to starting grad school at Duke, she spent two years working at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI).  At DHVI, she genotyped human and non-human primate samples to characterize Fc receptors and their role in HIV pathogenesis.  In the Stapleton lab she is investigating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in consumer products and in the indoor environment.  Her interests include understanding if other materials (besides silicone) can be used as wristbands to sorb and thus detect PFAS, discovering known and unknown PFAS in consumer products, and assessing the role of the indoor environment in exposure to PFAS.  Outside of the lab Taylor enjoys playing with her dog Cocoa, binging Netflix shows, and eating a lot of food at restaurants across the Triangle!
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Heather Stapleton, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 3rd year
Pronouns: she/ her /hers

Tess Leuthner

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 seventh-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.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Joel Meyer, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 7th year

Zoie Diana

Zoie earned her B.S. in Environmental Science, with a double-major in Philosophy, from Allegheny College. She studied the mechanisms of underwater adhesion as a Masters of Coastal Environmental Management at Duke University and at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. She is currently a fourth-year PhD student in Dr. Daniel Rittschof’s lab in the Marine Science and Conservation department. She is completing the Toxicology certificate. Her research focuses on the toxicological impacts of plastic pollution on marine invertebrates and potential policy solutions to this global issue.
PhD Program: Marine Science & Conservation
Faculty Advisor: Daniel Rittschof, PhD
2021-2022 Status: 4th year
Contactztd@duke.edu
Pronouns: she / her /hers