For over 25 years, the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (EHSRC) at the University of Iowa (U.I.) has advanced and translated research that addresses environmental health problems across the urban-rural continuum. Early EHSRC research was focused on organic dust exposure and lung disease, pesticide exposure and cancer, rural childhood asthma, and community health problems arising from industrialized livestock production. Research in the last five years has expanded to include studies of innate immunity and the inflammasome in lung disease; the role of the microbiome in asthma; high throughput-data rich methods for assessing the toxicity of engineered nanomaterials; state-of-the-art biomedical imaging combined with advanced computational modeling; susceptibility to air pollutants among people heterozygous for CFTR (1 in 25 Americans); and applications for distributed sensor networks and data analytics for exposure monitoring. To advance this research, we have applied innovations in advanced genomics and metabolomics, citizen-engaged science, exposomics and advanced pulmonary physiomic imaging. As future environmental health issues come to light, we will continue to address the challenges they bring through rigorous, transformative research and robust community engagement.
EHSRC Strategic Vision
The Center vision is to be the primary environmental health resource for improving the health of rural residents by stimulating and translating innovative environmental health sciences research. This is accomplished by gaining new insights into rural exposures; population health; susceptibilities; and pathways of toxicity, disease and repair; and then translating these insights to medicine, public health practice and regulatory policy.
Center Theme, Goals and Specific Aims
The theme of the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center is research and engagement on the adverse health effects of current and emerging environmental contaminants, especially among rural and agricultural populations.
Goals and Specific Aims:
Goal 1) Develop and expand innovative interdisciplinary environmental health sciences research in Inflammation and Innate Immunity, Oxidative Stress and Metabolism, Nanotoxicology, and Population Health.
Aim 1. Support and promote three state-of-the-art core facilities to provide the latest research equipment and techniques.
Aim 2. Operate a rigorous, competitive Pilot Grant Program to develop new research initiatives, support the career development of junior investigators, and establish new collaborations.
Aim 3. Host thematic enrichment activities, such as seminars, workshops, research core meetings and retreats, to promote interaction and generate innovative ideas among current and potential Center members.
Aim 4. Promote research opportunities for EHSRC investigators by organizing teams around grant solicitations and by establishing inter-center collaborations.
Goal 2) Recruit, mentor and nurture talented new and mid-level investigators in environmental health sciences.
Aim 5. Identify strong junior investigators representing diverse backgrounds and provide mentoring, research and/or salary support, career development opportunities and use of core facilities to develop their careers as environmental health scientists.
Aim 6. Support pilot grants targeted for Associate Members and other junior investigators to develop new research initiatives and preliminary studies for full grant applications.
Aim 7. Operate an Administrative Core that engages university officials and collegiate deans to leverage resources in support of the EHSRC’s recruiting and mentoring capacities.
Goal 3) Engage with communities and policy makers to translate research findings toward improving the health and environment of rural people in the Midwest and the nation.
Aim 8. Promote collaborative translational research among basic scientists, physician researchers, and investigators engaged in population-based studies.
Aim 9. Conduct workshops, public meetings, and engagement programs with stakeholder groups along the urban-rural continuum.
Aim 10. Conduct enrichment programs for state legislators and other rural and micropolitan constituents.
Aim 11. Produce ‘white papers’ and legislative briefings to support science-based policy on rural and agricultural health issues.
Aim 12. Serve NIEHS, the region and the nation as an authoritative body and rapid responder for environmental emergencies.