Sep. 03 2019

New Faculty Bring Diverse Research Expertise

Since last fall, nineteen public health researchers have joined the Columbia Mailman School faculty, in all six of the School’s academic departments. Their diverse research profiles span interests in infectious and chronic diseases, social and environmental determinants of health, quantitative methods, and economics and business strategies.

Research they have led has examined all manner of threats to human health—climate change, cancer, fracking, radiation, discrimination, mass incarceration, substance use, ticks, rats, tobacco, and more.

Among them are some faces already familiar to the Columbia Mailman community, including Seth Prins, Tiffany Sanchez, and Hui-chen Wu who trained at the School, and Xiaoyu (Jason) Che, Nishay Mishra, Norman Kleiman, and Rafal Tokarz, who previously worked at the School as research scientists.


Xiaoyu (Jason) Chen, assistant professor in the Center for Infection and Immunity, has led research on identifying risk factors and biomarkers in patient surveys and omics profilings for autism spectrum disorder and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, and on pathogen discoveries in emerging infectious diseases.

Environmental Health Sciences

Joan Casey, assistant professor, uses electronic health records and spatial statistics to study the relationship between emerging environmental exposures and population health. She also investigates a range of exposures from unconventional natural gas and oil development to concentrated animal feeding operations through an environmental justice lens.

Norman Kleiman, assistant professor, chairs the Faculty Steering Committee, is vice chair of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and directs the SHARP Radiation Safety Officer training course. His research focuses on radiation or heavy metal exposures, including risk for radiation cataract, Chernobyl radioecology, and toxic metals in e-cigarette aerosol.

Tiffany Sanchez, PhD '16, assistant professor, pursues research into the links between exposure to metals and lung disease and identifying molecular signatures of environmental and metal-related lung disease. Sanchez also collaborates on studies investigating the respiratory consequences of secondhand tobacco smoke and non-cigarette tobacco use in adulthood.

Hui-Chen Wu, DrPH '07, assistant professor, conducts research to understand the role of environmental exposures, lifestyle, and genetics on cancer risk, with a concentration on liver and breast cancer. She has published extensively on DNA methylation and is currently examining aspects of DNA repair related to breast cancer risk.

Lewis Ziska, associate professor in the Climate and Health Program, brings 20 years of scientific experience studying the links between plant biology and climate change. His current research examines efforts to exploit CO2 to increase seed yield, global food security, and understanding the impact of climate on pesticide usage. (Read more about Prof. Ziska here.)


Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, assistant professor in the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, is a social epidemiologist whose research focus pertains to how social and cardiovascular exposures from across the life-course influence cognitive aging and other related health outcomes in old age.

Daniel Belsky, assistant professor in Columbia Aging Center, is interested in elucidating how genes and environments combine to shape health across the life-course, with the goal to reduce social inequalities in aging outcomes. His work focuses on quantification biological aging and genetic analysis of human development.

Dustin Duncan, associate professor, is an internationally recognized social and spatial epidemiologist who studies neighborhoods, population health, and health disparities, especially among sexual and gender minorities. He leads several NIH-funded studies and has co-authored multiple books including Neighborhoods and Health and The Social Epidemiology of Sleep.

Jeremy Kane, assistant professor, is a psychiatric epidemiologist with interests in global mental health, adolescent health, and substance and alcohol use. His research investigates the impacts of culture and migration on substance and alcohol use patterns and how these relationships are related to experienced trauma and co-occurring mental health problems.

Nischay Mishra, assistant professor in the Center for Infection and Immunity, is a virologist and molecular biologist who developed a differential diagnostic tool for Zika virus, dengue virus, Chikungunya virus, and other arboviruses. He also developed or co-developed tests for Zika and other arboviruses, acute flaccid myelitis, and tick-borne infections.

Seth Prins, PhD '16 MPH '10, assistant professor, is a social and psychiatric epidemiologist who examines the collateral consequences of mass incarceration for public health, and the effects of the social division and structure of labor on mental illness. He is also interested in mental illness through the lens of social class as a dynamic relational process.

Kara Rudolph, assistant professor, develops and applies causal inference methods to understand social and contextual influences on mental health, substance use, and violence in disadvantaged cities, particularly how the school and peer environments mediate relationships between neighborhood factors and adolescent drug use across populations.

Rafal Tokarz, assistant professor in the Center for Infection and Immunity, focuses on tick-borne pathogens and their roles in human disease. He designed and implemented molecular and serologic multiplex assays targeting tick-borne agents and documented high rates of pathogen co-infections in ticks within New York State.

Health Policy AND Management

Sebastian Calonico, assistant professor, focuses on program evaluation and causal inference, applying innovative quantitative methods to the study of empirical problems like health spending in an interdisciplinary context, including economics as well as other social, medical, and statistical sciences.

Elena Elkin, professor, studies determinants of cancer screening, treatment, and outcomes using population-based observational data analysis, decision analysis, and patient surveys. She also develops web-based decision aids for cancer screening and studies the cost-effectiveness of health care interventions.

Ambar La Forgia, assistant professor, studies how organizational structures and management practices influence provider decision-making and the cost and quality of healthcare.


Goleen Samari, assistant professor, is a public health demographer whose research centers on social inequities and health, focusing on religious discrimination, gender inequities, and migration both domestically and globally with an emphasis on women and communities from or in the Middle East and North Africa.

Sociomedical Sciences

Kathleen Sikkema, chair, conducts community-based intervention research focused on HIV prevention and mental health treatment in the U.S. and in low- and middle-income countries. Sikkema has led pioneering scholarship in global mental health, specifically related to traumatic stress, coping, and gender violence. (Read more about Prof. Sikkema here.)