New NIEHS Center Members - 2019

Jasmine McDonald, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, is an epidemiologist with multidisciplinary training ranging from breast cancer epidemiology, molecular epidemiology, and molecular biology with special interest in immunology. She holds a doctorate in Biological Sciences in Public Health from Harvard University (2009).

Dr. McDonald’s research portfolio focuses on breast cancer etiology and breast cancer risk reduction.  She examines key windows of susceptibility where the breast tissue may be most vulnerable to environmental exposures that initiate or promote breast carcinogenesis; such as the in utero, puberty, and pregnancy/postpartum windows. She has shown that in utero cigarette smoke exposure alters DNA methylation in the offspring and that in utero DDT exposure is associated with greater mammographic breast density in high-risk daughters.  Through funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) she has also examined the association between early life and childhood infectious exposures (e.g., Cytomegalovirus and Epstein Barr Virus) and pubertal timing within the LEGACY Girls’ Cohort, and she has found that childhood hair product use is associated with an earlier age at menarche. She has also applied her basic scientific training towards the development of MAMA BOSS, a prospective cohort of postpartum women followed over time to safely and non-invasively examine compositional and structural changes in breast tissue to inform breast cancer risk reduction in young women.

To Dr. McDonald, being a Center Member means exposure to cutting edge science and technology that pushes her to conceptualize problems and solutions in novel ways.  She most looks forward to forging scholarly and lasting collaborations with other Center Members, collectively improving the health of young girls and women not just nationally, but also globally.  Through funding from the Yusuf K. Hamied Fellowship at Mailman, Dr. McDonald, along with Dr. Mary Beth Terry, are also set to examine the role of environmental exposures on breast cancer risk within India.

Tiffany Sanchez, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, is an environmental and molecular epidemiologist interested in metal and metalloid exposure and their consequences for lung health. She holds a PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from Columbia University (’16).

Dr. Sanchez has carried out several studies related to the health effects of environmental exposures, ranging in geographic scale and methods. Her work has included the largest and longest deployment of arsenic water filters as well as biomonitoring for arsenic exposure, in a study to reduce arsenic exposure in rural Bangladesh. She has also carried out research to identify other major sources of metal exposure in Bangladesh. Her more recent work in the United States has focused on the respiratory consequences of arsenic exposure when arsenic exposure occurs through certain foods such as rice. Finally, her work also includes the study of other environmental exposures, like secondhand smoke, and its connection to chronic lung disease.

As a new Associate center member, Dr. Sanchez hopes to build new collaborations within the molecular mechanisms working group and further engage with the Center’s community outreach.

Jeanette Stingone, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, is a pediatric environmental epidemiologist interested in early-life exposure to pollutants. She holds a doctorate in Epidemiology (University of North Carolina ’13) and a Masters in community medicine (Mount Sinai School of Medicine ’05). Stingone is interested in the intersections of data science and environmental health, and hopes to use this dynamic to produce meaningful research that can be put towards public policy.

Stingone’s research has applied machine learning to children’s health studies examining combinations of multiple air pollutants where more traditional methods may not be adequate for the level of data complexity. She is currently using machine learning to investigate air toxics exposure during pregnancy, childhood lead exposure, and academic outcomes in New York City children. Stingone has also worked in the areas of ontologies and semantics, specifically developing harmonization tools to be used among environmental health researchers interested in pooling data across studies. Demonstrating the breadth of Stingone’s work, she has also made contributions towards understanding the effects of ambient air pollution, maternal diet, and congenital heart defects.

As a Center member, Dr. Stingone looks forward to conducting interdisciplinary research that draws upon the diverse expertise of the investigators within the Center and the community partners. She hopes to build strong collaborations within the Center and with community stakeholders in order to ensure that research has a meaningful impact on public health in New York City.

Hui-Chen Wu, DrPH, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, is an epidemiologist by training with a DrPH in Environmental Health Sciences (Columbia University ’07). Her research involves examining the relationship between DNA methylation markers and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma as well as breast cancer and understanding risk factors that may modulate the DNA methylation changes. In particular, her work applies different techniques, including the LUminometric Methylation Assay, methylation-specific PCR, MethyLight, pyrosequencing, next gen bisulfite sequencing, and llumina Infinium 27k and 450k HumanMethylation BeadChip arrays.

Dr Wu collaborates with researchers within and outside of the U.S. She is involved in research using several international cohorts. For studies of breast cancer, the Breast Cancer Family Registry (BCFR), and the Lesson in Epidemiology and Genetics of Adult Cancer from Youth (LEGACY) Girls are being used. In particular, LEGACY is a cohort of youth in families from the BCFR who are at high risk and from average risk families. A life course approach is being used to understand the association of pubertal development and risk factors of breast cancer. Dr. Wu is also involved in two large population cohorts in Taiwan, a community-based Cancer Screening Program and the Taiwan Biobank, to study the etiology of chronic liver disease, in particular nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Dr. Wu also directs a biomarker core laboratory that processes and stores of biospecimens for clinical trials conducted within Columbia’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

As a center member, Dr. Wu is happy to collaborate with other experts in related fields to expand her research and her research community.

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