Ami Zota, ScD

  • Community Engagement Core Co-Director, Columbia Center for Environmental Health and Justice in Northern Manhattan
  • Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
Profile Headshot


Ami Zota is a population health scientist with expertise in environmental health, environmental justice, and maternal and reproductive health. Her research focuses on understanding social and structural determinants of environmental exposures and their consequent impacts to women's health outcomes across the life course. Her long-term goal is to help secure environmental justice and health equity among systematically marginalized populations by advancing scientific inquiry, training next generation leaders, increasing public engagement with science, and supporting community-led solutions for structural change. Dr. Zota was among the first to frame the disproportionate burden of toxic chemical exposures from beauty and personal care products among women of color as an environmental justice concern. She co-developed an intersectional framework called "the environmental injustice of beauty", which links systems of power and oppression, such as racism, sexism, and classism, to Eurocentric beauty norms, racialized beauty practices, and adverse environmental health outcomes. She currently works with community-based research collaboratives in New York City and Los Angeles to reduce risks from unregulated chemicals in consumer products among Black, Latinx, and Asian women and femme-identifying individuals. Another key area of Dr. Zota's research is understanding how state and federal policies can impact environmental health risks. She is a PI of a study whose goal is to examine whether federal housing assistance programs reduce exposures to lead, second-hand smoke, and other environmental chemicals among low-income households. Lastly, Dr. Zota also has expertise in evaluating social, environmental, and molecular determinants of women's health across the life course, including pregnancy outcomes, gynecologic outcomes, cardiometabolic outcomes, and cancer. For example, Dr. Zota is PI of the FORGE study, which leverages the intersectionality exposome to identify modifiable drivers of racial inequities in uterine fibroids. Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, California Breast Cancer Research Program, and private foundations. Dr. Zota is the founding director of the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice program which seeks to foster more diverse, equitable and inclusive leaders in environmental and climate justice. Agents of Change in Environmental Justice trains early career scientists from systematically marginalized backgrounds in science communication, storytelling, community engagement, and policy translation. The program empowers its fellows to shift mainstream narratives on environment and climate by broadly disseminating their voices, stories, and research contributions over multi-media platforms. Multiple authoritative bodies in the field of environmental public health have recognized Dr. Zota's innovative approaches to addressing public health problems. In 2011, she was the recipient of a K99/R00 Career Development Award by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. In 2017, Dr. Zota was recognized as a Pioneer under 40 in Environmental Public Health by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. Her scholarly contributions have been honored by the American Public Health Association and the International Society for Exposure Science. Dr. Zota is equally committed to developing innovative approaches for science translation so that her research can more effectively be used to inform individual and collective decision-making. Her research and perspectives have been featured in high-impact national and international media including the Washington Post, LA Times, USA Today, The Hill, Atlantic Monthly, and CNN. Dr. Zota's scholarly and translational work has helped shape health and safety standards for consumer product chemicals.

Office Location: 722 West 168th Street, ARB 1106

Academic Appointments

  • Community Engagement Core Co-Director, Columbia Center for Environmental Health and Justice in Northern Manhattan
  • Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences

Administrative Titles

  • Director, Agents of Change in Environmental Justice

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BS, 1999 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • MS, 2003 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • ScD, 2007 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Editorial Boards

Associate Editor, Environmental Health Perspectives

Associate Editor, Environmental Justice


Securing environmental and climate justice is the biggest challenge of our time. My work seeks to build a more just and healthy future by advancing scientific inquiry, training diverse leaders and supporting community-led strategies for structural change.

Research Interests

  • Chronic disease
  • Community Health
  • Environmental Health
  • Food Policy and Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Maternal and Reproductive Health
  • Urban Health

Selected Publications

Edwards LE, Ahmed L, Martinez L, Huda S, Shamasunder B, McDonald JA, Dubrow R, Morton BT, Zota AR.  Beauty Inside Out: Examining beauty product use among diverse women and femme-identifying individuals in Northern Manhattan and South Bronx through an environmental justice framework. Environmental Justice, 2023

Zota AR and VanNoy BN. Integrating intersectionality into the exposome paradigm: a novel approach to racial inequities in uterine fibroids. American Journal of Public Health. 2021, 111(1):104-109.

Zota AR, Chu ML, Marfori CQ, Khati NJ, Al-Hendy A, Taggart T. Adverse childhood events and health-related quality of life among women undergoing hysterectomy for uterine leiomyoma. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2022, 227 (2): 351-353.e5.

Preston EV, Hivert MF, Fleisch AF, Calafat AM, Sagiv SK, Perng W, Rifas-Shiman SL, Chavarro JE, Oken E, Zota AR*, James-Todd T*. (Zota and James-Todd share senior authorship) Early-pregnancy plasma per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) concentrations and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in the Project Viva cohort. Environment International 2022, 165:107335.

Zota AR, Geller RJ, Calafat AM, Marfori CQ, Baccarelli AA, Moawad G. Phthalate exposure and uterine fibroid burden among women undergoing surgical treatment for fibroids: a preliminary study. Fertility and Sterility. 2018, 111(1):112-121.

Zota AR, Geller RJ, Romano LE, Coleman-Phox K, Adler NE, Parry E, Wang M, Park JS, Elmi AF, Laraia B, Epel EE. Association between persistent endocrine-disrupting chemicals (PBDEs, OH-PBDEs, PCBs, and PFASs) and biomarkers of inflammation and cellular aging during pregnancy and postpartum. Environment International. 2018, 115:9-20.

Zota AR and Shamasunder B. Environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from the beauty industry as a health disparities concern. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2017, 217(4): 418.e1-418.e6

James-Todd TM, Chiu YH, Zota AR. Racial/ethnic disparities in environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals and women's reproductive health outcomes: epidemiological examples across the life course. Current Epidemiology Reports. 2016, 3(2):161-180

Branch F, Woodruff TJ, Mitro SD, Zota AR. Vaginal douching and racial/ethnic disparities in phthalates exposure among reproductive-aged women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004. Environmental Health. 2015, 14(1):57.

Adamkiewicz G, Zota AR, Fabian MP, Chahine T, Julien R, Spengler JD, Levy JI. Moving environmental justice indoors: understanding structural influences on residential exposure patterns in low-income communities. American Journal of Public Health. 2011,101(Suppl 1):S238-S245.