Current Trainees

Anna Lewis

Anna graduated from The College of William and Mary, in 2015, with a B.S. in biology and a marine science minor from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. In Dr. Lee Ferguson’s lab, she is investigating the fate of microplastic fibers and the leaching of associated chemical additives and dyes. She enjoys time with friends and family, the beach, and teaching fitness classes at Duke.
PhD Program: Civil & Environmental Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Lee Ferguson, PhD
2019-2020 Status: 3rd 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
2019-2020 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 how early life exposures to mitochondrial toxicants alter epigenetic patterning that occurs in neurodevelopment.
PhD Program: Environment
2019-2020 Status: 2nd year

Elizabeth Fleming

Elizabeth Fleming is a 6th year 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
2019-2020 Status: 6th year

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: TBD
Faculty Advisor: TBD
2019-2020 Status: 1st year

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 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 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
2019-2020 Status: 4th 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
2019-2020 Status: 2nd year

Matthew Ruis

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.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Heather Stapleton, PhD
2019-2020 Status: 5th year

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 3rd 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
2019-2020 Status: 3rd year

Risa Gearhart-Serna

Risa is a native New Mexican, and has a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Her primary interests are a fusion of environmental toxicology and molecular cancer biology. As a trainee in the department of pathology in the Duke University School of Medicine, she is particularly interested in how environmental factors such as endocrine disrupting chemical exposures can exacerbate progression and treatment resistance in breast tumors which are characterized by hormone driven signaling pathways. She is an avid translational and health disparities researcher.
PhD Program: Pathology
Faculty Advisor: Gayathri Devi, PhD
2019-2020 Status: 4th year
Contact: lmg51@duke.edu

Rose Schrott

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.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Susan Murphy, PhD
2019-2020 Status: 4th year

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
2019-2020 Status: 3rd year

Shaza Gaballah

Shaza 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 neurotoxicity in zebrafish.  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 Ph.D. program.  When she’s not in the lab, Shaza loves cheating at crosswords, eating hot sauce with a side of food, and hanging out with her cat, Olive.
PhD Program: TBD
Faculty Advisor: TBD
2019-2020 Status: 1st year

Taylor Schronce

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. During her time at Duke, she hopes to pursue research on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), explore exposure science and complex mixtures, and implement analytical chemistry techniques.
PhD Program: TBD
Faculty Advisor: TBD
2019-2020 Status: 1st year

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 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.
PhD Program: Environment
Faculty Advisor: Joel Meyer, PhD
2019-2020 Status: 5th 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 second-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.
PhD Program: Marine Science & Conservation
Faculty Advisor: Daniel Rittschof, PhD
2019-2020 Status: 2nd year
Contact: ztd@duke.edu