Current Trainees

Alex George

Alex earned his B.S. in environmental science from the University of South Carolina in 2016. Afterwards, he was a technician in an environmental chemistry lab, then did microbiology in a vaccine manufacturing facility. Most recently, he spent two years working on cancer immunotherapy (CAR-T cell) research in both clinical and pre-clinical settings. At Duke, he will combine his backgrounds in environmental and biomedical sciences to better understand mechanisms by which xenobiotics affect human health. He is particularly interested in chemical carcinogenesis and effects on the immune system. Outside the lab, you can find him enjoying comedy in all its forms, finding weird things at thrift stores, and spending time with his dog.
PhD Program: TBD
Faculty Advisor: TBD
2022-2023 Status: 1st year
Pronouns: he / him / his

Amelia Foley

Amelia earned her B.S. in Environmental Health Science from the University of Georgia in 2022. As an undergraduate she conducted research in environmental microbiology, working on projects relating to aquatic microbiology, freshwater microplastics, and molecular epidemiology/COVID-19 surveillance. In the Gunsch lab, she aims to focus her doctoral research on bioremediation and emerging contaminants.
PhD Program: Civil & Environmental Engineering, Environmental Health Engineering track
Faculty Advisor: Claudia Gunsch, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 1st year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

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 researches how bacteria you might otherwise find on healthy skin can influence immune activity through cytokine production and contribute to worsening infection. When he’s not in the lab, or class, you can probably find him thinking about his project car!
PhD Program: Civil & Environmental Engineering
2022-2023 Status: 2nd 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, Environmental Health Engineering track
Faculty Advisor: Lee Ferguson, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 6th year
Contact: aml105@duke.edu
Pronouns: she / her / hers

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
2022-2023 Status: 3rd year

Brittney Mitchell

Brittney earned her B.S. in Marine Biology and B.A. in Chemistry with a minor in Astronomy-Physics from Humboldt State University. As an undergraduate, she conducted research studying climate change impacts on urchin-macroalgae feeding relationships, and pollution impacts on bryozoan larval settlement and metal bioaccumulation in macroalgae. She is currently a first-year PhD student in Dr. Daniel Rittschof’s lab. Brittney is excited to engage in interdisciplinary research to investigate the toxicological impacts of antifouling management on biofouling communities. Ultimately, she hopes her research will contribute to the development of environmentally responsible solutions that help satisfy the needs of marine industries while conserving marine habitats.
PhD Program: Marine Science & Conservation
Faculty Advisor: Daniel Rittschof, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 1st 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.  After graduating, she worked in the Nicholas School for 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
2022-2023 Status: 3rd 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
2022-2023 Status: 5th year
Pronouns: she / her / hers
Twitter: @dilloneking

Elizabeth Boxer

Elizabeth Boxer earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies with a Biology minor from Northeastern University in Boston. While at Northeastern she conducted research on the social and scientific discovery of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute. This work included helping to create the first national database and map of U.S. PFAS drinking water contamination. After undergraduate she worked at Accenture in their Health and Public Service practice for two years before moving to California to pursue her MPH in Environmental Health Sciences at UC Berkeley. While at Berkeley, she interned at California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in their Reproductive and Cancer Hazard Assessment Branch and conducted a meta analysis of maternal PFHxS exposure and infant birthweight for her master’s capstone. She is excited to continue to follow her passions in reproductive and developmental health at Duke working under Dr. Kate Hoffman evaluating maternal and infant exposure to semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and childhood immune outcomes.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Kate Hoffman, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 1st year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

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 and mathematical models. Emily’s thesis work in the Jayasundara lab is part of the Superfund Research Center. She is interested in studying the effects of the microbiome on the ability of Atlantic Killifish populations to adapt to pollution exposure. When she is not in the lab, Emily enjoys rock climbing, hiking, biking, snowboarding, and taking care of her excessive amount of indoor house plants. 
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Nishad Jayasundara, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 2nd 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
2022-2023 Status: 3rd year
Pronouns: she / her / hers
 

Joshua Prince

Josh is a graduate student in the Systems for Engaging the Environment Lab headed by PI A-Andrew Jones in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Duke.  His research focuses on the interactions between biofilms and nanoparticles in both environmental and medical contexts, and has three major arms.  The first arm focuses on developing novel bacterial growth models for planktonic bacterial growth when exposed to metal oxide nanoparticle dispersions.  The second arm focuses on quantifying quantum dot accumulation in Bacillus subtilis biofilms using a combination of microfluidics and confocal microscopy.  The final arm focuses on higher-level ecotoxicological of nano-particulates in the environment by synthesizing common environmental fate and exposure modelling into a single framework.
Josh’s research interests include confocal microscopy imaging of bacterial biofilms, finite-difference simulations, modelling of bacterial growth, metal oxide nanoparticle preparation/characterization, quantitative environmental fate modelling, and application of mass-transport to nanoparticle contexts.
PhD Program: Civil & Environmental Engineering
Faculty Advisor: A-Andrew Jones III, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 4th year
Pronouns: he / him / his

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. Her thesis work in the Meyer lab utilizes C. elegans to investigate the role of mitochondrial toxicants in dopaminergic neurodegeneration. Outside of the lab you could find her baking, travelling, or spoiling her puppy Stitch.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Joel Meyer, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 4th year
Pronouns: she / her / hers
Twitter: @kmortpro

Laura Jameson

Laura earned her B.S. in Cognitive Science, Neuroscience track from University of California, Davis then worked as a research technician in Dr. Maxwell Leung’s lab at Arizona State University studying the possible co-exposure effects of cannabinoids and contaminants in the neurological function of model organism c. elegans. In order to assess which contaminants pose risks to consumers, she led the effort to make a comprehensive list of all regulated contaminants in cannabis across the U.S. As an undergraduate she studied nuclear anchorage and migration proteins creating CRISPR mutations in Dan Starr’s lab at UC Davis.
PhD Program: TBD
Faculty Advisor: TBD
2022-2023 Status: 1st year

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
2022-2023 Status: 5th year
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Paige (Bippus) Varner

Paige received her B.S. in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston. She spent the following year as a lab technician in Dr. Helen Hsu-Kim’s lab at Duke researching mercury exposure in communities practicing artisanal scale gold mining in Peru. She now is a 6th-year PhD candidate 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 upon graduating in Fall 2022.
PhD Program: Civil & Environmental Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Claudia K. Gunsch, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 6th year, graduating Fall ’22
Pronouns: she / her / hers

Rebecca Hoehn

Rebecca is a 2nd year PhD student in the Stapleton lab. She earned her B.S. in Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2020, alongside certificates in Global Health and Environmental Studies. Her undergraduate research on the fate and transport of organic contaminants in crop plants fostered her interest in environmental chemistry and human health, which drew her to join Duke’s Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program (ITEHP). Alongside her doctorate, Rebecca is also pursuing a Certificate in College Teaching. During her time at Duke, Rebecca is excited to investigate personal exposure to volatile organic contaminants, and hopes her work will aid in deducing sources of contaminant exposure in the indoor environment. She is particularly interested in understanding the linkages between contaminant exposure and human health outcomes. Outside of the lab, Rebecca enjoys spending time outdoors, trying new local cuisine, painting and crafting, and tending to her many houseplants.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Heather Stapleton, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 2nd year
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
2022-2023 Status: 3rd 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. 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 developmental alcohol exposures in zebrafish. 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 genetic susceptibility to developmental toxicant exposures in zebrafish. Shaunacee hopes to examine mechanisms of mitochondrial toxicity that contribute to neurodegeneration following environmental toxicant exposures.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Joel Meyer, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 3rd year

Shaza Gaballah

Shaza is a fourth-year PhD student in the Stapleton lab. Growing up, she 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 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 brominated flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) cross the placental barrier and impact fetal growth and development. Shaza is also interested in how in utero exposure to these environmental contaminants can impact endocrine disruption. When she’s not in the lab, Shaza loves cheating at crosswords, rock climbing, and hanging out with her cat, Olive.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Heather Stapleton, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 4th 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 discovering known and unknown PFAS in consumer products and assessing the role of the indoor environment (as well as behaviors and housing characteristics) 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
2022-2023 Status: 4th year
Pronouns: she/ her /hers

Tenley Weil

Tenley earned her B.S. in Neurobiology from the University of Washington in 2018 where she conducted undergraduate research in chronobiology. Upon graduating she worked at the National Institute of Mental Health for 4 years, researching how environmental light directly affects mood-related behaviors and sleep architecture in the Section on Light and Circadian Rhythms. At the NIMH she became interested in environmental health and applying her experience to public health research. At Duke University Tenley plans to use her background in neuroscience to study how environmental factors affect human health and physiology.
PhD Program: TBD
Faculty Advisor: TBD
2022-2023 Status: 1st year
Pronouns: she / her / hers
Twitter: @TenleyWeil

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 during internships at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. She is currently a fifth-year PhD Candidate in Dr. Daniel Rittschof’s lab in the Marine Science and Conservation department. She is completing the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Certificate. Her research focuses on plastic consumption in marine animals, plastic additive extraction by marine animals, and potential government and business solutions to this global issue.
PhD Program: Marine Science & Conservation
Faculty Advisor: Daniel Rittschof, PhD
2022-2023 Status: 5th year, graduating Spring ’23
Contactztd@duke.edu
Pronouns: she / her /hers