UM-CEHC Team Members

The UM-CEHC includes investigators from multiple disciplines. Learn more about their backgrounds and research here:

Karen Peterson Karen E. Peterson, ScD, Center Director and Principal Investigator of Project 2, Co-Investigator of Project 1
Dr. Peterson is Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the School of Public Health, Research Professor for the Center for Human Growth and Development, and Director of the Momentum Center, all at the University of Michigan. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the influence of biosocial and environmental influences on child growth and maturation during sensitive developmental periods, as well as the design and evaluation of population-based interventions addressing dietary and physical activity behaviors related to obesity and chronic disease in diverse populations, including children and youth. She is Contact PI for the U-M Children's Environmental Health and Disease Protection Center on the theme: "Lifecourse exposures and diet: Epigenetics, maturation, and metabolic syndrome," and serves as Associate Director of the Michigan Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (MNORC). She earned her ScD in Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Vasantha Padmanabhan Vasantha Padmanabhan, MS, Ph.D., Center Co-Director and Principal Investigator of Project 2, Co-Investigator of Project 3
Vasantha Padmanabhan, M.S., Ph.D., is a professor of pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, molecular and integrative physiology, and environmental health sciences. She is the director of pediatric endocrine research at the University of Michigan, and is the co-PI for the University of Michigan Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center on the theme, Lifecourse exposures & diet: Epigenetics, maturation & metabolic syndrome. Using both animal models and human pregnancy cohort Dr. Padmanabhan's research focuses on understanding the fetal origin of pubertal and adult reproductive and metabolic disorders. Specifically, her laboratory focuses on the impact of maternal exposure to native steroids (testosterone, estradiol), and environmental pollutants such as bisphenol-A in altering developmental trajectory of fetus and programming adult reproductive and metabolic diseases. She was instrumental in developing the sheep model of polycystic ovarian syndrome phenotype and is also the principal investigator of a program grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, directed toward identifying prevention and treatment strategies for overcoming reproductive and metabolic dysfunctions.

Laura Arboleda-MerinoLaura Arboleda Merino, MPH, UM-CEHC Manager, COTC Associate Director
Laura Arboleda is the Center Manager for the UM-CEHC and serves as the Associate Director of the COTC and Program Manager for the ELEMENT cohort. Laura has extensive experience in developing, implementing, and coordinating public health research. She also has expertise in quantitative and qualitative data analysis, experimental design, and project management. Prior to joining the Center, Laura worked as a research assistant on a project examining long-term effects of preventing iron deficiency anemia, early determinants of cardiovascular risk/obesity and genetic factors related to both outcomes in a longitudinal cohort in Chile: The Santiago Longitudinal Study. Laura received her MPH in Epidemiology with a focus on Global Health from UM School of Public Health and earned her BA in Biology from Colgate University.

Miatta BuxtonMiatta Buxton, Ph.D., Assistant Research Scientist, Project 2
Miatta Buxton is a Assistant Research Scientist who is interested in how inflammation patterns during pregnancy influence pregnancy outcomes. Specifically, her research evaluates the role of air pollution and dietary factors on inflammation patterns during pregnancy as well as the subsequent association with pregnancy outcomes. Miatta's research uses data from two Mexico City-based birth cohorts, namely: i) Early Live Exposure in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants (ELEMENT) study and ii) the Environmental Pollution and Birth Outcomes in Mexico study. She received her Master of Public Health in Epidemiology in 2005 and her Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiological Science in 2016 both from the University of Michigan.

Alejandra CantoralAlejandra Cantoral, ScD, Co-Investigator of Projects 1 and 2, Co-Director of the ELEMENT Diet group
Alejandra Cantoral is a nutritionist, and she obtained a Sc.D. in Epidemiology from the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) in Mexico (2013). She is an assistant professor at the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT). Since 2009, she has been doing research in ELEMENT (Early Live Exposure in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants project) and PROGRESS (Program Research in Obesity, Growth, Environment and Social Stressors) birth cohorts. Recently she also started as a co-investigator in a new birth cohort study that looks for the mechanisms of appetite and satiety according to different breastfeeding practices. Her main focus of research is the interaction of environmental exposures and micronutrients on children's growth and the study of dietary risk factors for obesity.

Dana DolinoyDana Dolinoy, Ph.D., Principal Investigator of Project 3, Co-Investigator of Project 2
Dr. Dana Dolinoy is Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health (UM SPH) and leads the Environmental Epigenetics and Nutrition Laboratory at UM SPH, which investigates how nutritional and environmental factors interact with epigenetic gene regulation to shape health and disease. Dr. Dolinoy holds a BA in environmental sciences and policy and Spanish from Duke University, an MSc in environmental sciences and engineering from the Harvard School of Public Health, and a Ph.D. in Genetics and Genomics and Integrated Toxicology from Duke University. She serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry as well as Epigenetics, Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis, and Toxicological Sciences, and is an active member of the Society of Toxicology (SOT), the Environmental Mutagen and Genomics Society (EMGS), and the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), and will serve as Chair of the 2015 Gordon Research Conference (GRC) in Molecular & Cellular Mechanisms of Toxicity. In 2011, Dr. Dolinoy received the Norman Kretchmer Memorial Award from ASN and the Classic Paper of the Year Award from Environmental Health Perspectives for Dolinoy et al. "Maternal genistein alters coat color and protects Avy mouse offspring from obesity by modifying the fetal epigenome." In 2012, she was the recipient of the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH)/Pfizer Research Award for the article, "An Expression Microarray Approach for the Identification of Metastable Epialleles in the Mouse Genome." This work was cited as a model approach that may allow for directly assessing the role of early nutritional and environmental exposures in human adult disease.

Jackie Goodrich Jackie Goodrich, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, Projects 2 & 3
Jackie Goodrich is a Research Assistant Professor in Environmental Health Sciences, and her current research focus is environmental epidemiology and epigenomics with the goal of identifying epigenetically labile genomic regions that contribute to environmentally-induced disease susceptibility at various life-stages (in utero, early childhood, and adulthood). She also has a keen interest in the impact of environmental exposures, particularly to heavy metals, on cardiovascular and metabolic health outcomes. She serves as the Epigenetics Lab Coordinator for the P01. In this center, she investigates the influence of in utero exposures to environmental chemicals (e.g., lead, phthalates) on DNA methylation at birth and in early adolescence and evaluates epigenetic drift over time in a longitudinal birth cohort. She integrates data on exposures, DNA methylation, and health outcomes to determine whether modification to DNA methylation patterns is a mechanism linking prenatal exposures to altered growth and development and ultimately adult disease (e.g., metabolic syndrome). Our research team addresses similar research questions in the agouti mouse model, and she has contributed epigenetic expertise to this study.

Howard Hu Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD, Collaborator and ELEMENT Co-Founder
Dr. Hu is currently Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Affiliate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Dr. Hu is a physician (internist and occupational/environmental medicine specialist) and environmental epidemiologist who has also held professorial and academic leadership positions at Harvard, the University of Michigan and the University of Toronto. With Dr. Mauricio Hernandez-Avila of the Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica-Mexico, he co-founded the Early Life Exposures to Environmental Toxicants (ELEMENT) birth cohort project in 1993 with support from the US NIEHS and EPA and CONACyT and the collaboration of Karen Peterson, now the PI of the University of Michigan NIEHS Children's Center, Martha María (Mara) Téllez-Rojo, now the PI of ELEMENT-INSP, and, subsequently, many other co-investigators. Dr. Hu's research focuses on understanding the environmental, nutritional, social, psychosocial, genetic and epigenetic determinants of chronic disease and impaired child development in birth cohort and aging cohort studies in the U.S., Mexico, India, China, and elsewhere around the world.

Erica JansenErica Jansen, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, Projects 1 & 2
Dr. Jansen is a nutritional epidemiologist who focuses on diet and sleep in relation to pediatric health. She has several lines of research, including the examination of: 1) how early nutritional environments affect childhood obesity and timing of puberty; 2) how various aspects of sleep- including duration, timing, and quality- affect development of cardiometabolic risk; 3) the bidirectional associations between sleep and diet; and 4) epigenetic markers or mediators that underlie relationships between sleep and cardiometabolic health. She is specifically interested in how dietary exposures during childhood affect height, weight, and pubertal trajectories. She is currently doing research in Mexican children (ELEMENT). She is also working with data from the Growing Healthy Study, a USDA-funded randomized controlled trial for obesity prevention among Michigan preschoolers enrolled in Head Start.

Joyce Lee Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, Pediatric Health Expert for the UM-CEHC, Co-Investigator
Joyce Lee is a pediatrician, diabetes specialist, and clinical and health services, researcher. She is very interested in the notion that human-centered design and design thinking combined with emerging technologies such as mobile technology, data visualization, and social media can transform the research enterprise and the delivery of clinical care. She attended Brown University for her undergraduate education, the University of Pennsylvania for her medical degree, where she was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Society, and she completed her internship and residency in General Pediatrics at the Boston Combined Residency Program (Children's Hospital, Boston, and Boston Medical Center). She is one of few individuals across the country who has completed dual training in Pediatric Endocrinology and Pediatric Health Services Research. In addition, she received her Master of Public Health degree from the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan. Lee is the principal investigator on several NIH-funded studies focusing on childhood obesity, and on type 2 diabetes risk. To study obesity and diabetes, she incorporates a variety of methodologies, including cross-sectional and longitudinal epidemiologic analyses, transition state modeling techniques, agent-based modeling techniques, applied clinical research, and cost-effectiveness analysis. She co-directs the Program in Mobile Technology for Enhancing Child Health, which has the goal of creating mobile technology systems that can enhance chronic disease adherence in children, with a specific focus on adolescents with type 1 diabetes. In addition, in June 2013, she was appointed as the first Social Media Editor for JAMA Pediatrics.

Lisa MarchlewiczLisa Marchlewicz, Ph.D., RD, Project 3
Lisa Marchlewicz has successfully defended her doctoral dissertation that integrates her interests in diet, metabolism, and environmental exposures through toxicologic and endocrine pathways. Her dissertation research explores the potential for exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (bisphenol A, BPA) and dietary fat (Western vs. Mediterranean consumption patterns) of mothers during pregnancy to impact the hepatic lipid metabolism and oxidative stress in perinatally exposed offspring. The goal is to better understand the interactions between multiple simultaneous perinatal exposures, which mimic the common human experience, to determine the ability of these exposure mixtures to induce metabolic programming in infants that may alter their susceptibility to metabolic diseases (e.g., obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome) throughout their adult life. In the P01 UM CEHC, Lisa spearheaded Aim 1 of the animal project (Project 3), coordinating the 14-month longitudinal agouti mouse study investigating the potential for perinatal BPA and high-fat diet (HFD) to alter offspring lipid metabolism, insulin sensitivity, hepatic steatosis, and oxidative stress from birth through adulthood. Lisa mentors a doctoral student, two masters students and an undergrad, who are assisting with longitudinal laboratory measures for the study.

John MeekerJohn Meeker, ScD, CIH, Principal Investigator of Project 1 
Dr. John Meeker is Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He holds a B.S. in Industrial Technology from Iowa State University, as well as M.S. and Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) degrees in Environmental Science & Engineering and Exposure, Epidemiology & Risk, respectively, from Harvard University, where he also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Environmental and Reproductive Epidemiology. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). Dr. Meeker's work is wide-ranging and focuses on defining sources, magnitudes, and consequences of human exposure to environmental and occupational contaminants, as well as identifying and evaluating strategies to control harmful exposures. Much of his current research involves human exposure science and reproductive and developmental epidemiology studies of known or suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as phthalates, BPA, pesticides, flame retardants, and others. Dr. Meeker is principal investigator on numerous large-scale research studies, is Associate Editor of Environmental Health Perspectives, and has served on numerous peer-review and advisory panels for EPA, NIH, and others in recent years. Dr. Meeker serves as an investigator of the Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center at the University of Michigan: "Lifecourse Exposures & Diet: Epigenetics, Maturation & Metabolic Syndrome."

Alison Miller Alison L. Miller, Ph.D., Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) Director
Dr. Miller is a developmental psychologist who studies risk and resilience in children and families. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Michigan and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Developmental Psychopathology at Brown University Medical School. Dr. Miller is an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education (HBHE) in the UM School of Public Health. She was previously in the Department of Psychiatry (Division of Child and Family Psychiatry) at Brown Medical School. She is a member of Michigan's Center for Human Growth and Development, where she conducts research on childhood stress exposure and obesity. She is also a member of the UM Momentum Center. Dr. Miller's research interests concern childhood stress and poverty, community-based interventions with children and families, child biological and behavioral stress regulation and health outcomes, and family functioning. She studies basic developmental processes, including self-regulation of emotions, behavior, and eating; sleep; and neuroendocrine stress responses in young children. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, Centers for Disease Control, US Department of Agriculture, and the American Heart Association.

 Wei PerngWei Perng, Ph.D., MPH, Research Assistant Professor, Project 2, Co-Director of the ELEMENT Diet group
Wei Perng is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences at UMSPH. Dr. Perng holds an MPH and Ph.D. in Epidemiology, and completed two perinatal epidemiology postdoctoral fellowships through Harvard Medical School, followed by the T-32 Perinatal Epidemiology Program at Michigan State University. Dr. Perng joined the Department of Nutritional Sciences at UMPSH in 2015, where she launched her research project on metabolomics, obesity and metabolic disease risk in Project 2. In addition to her work in metabolomics, Dr. Perng oversees projects that involve the use of dietary data.

BrisaBrisa N. Sánchez, Ph.D., Co-Investigator, Faculty Development Investigator
Brisa N. Sánchez is an Associate Professor of Biostatistics. She received her Ph.D. in Biostatistics in 2006 from Harvard University. She joined the University of Michigan in 2006 as an Assistant Research Professor and became an Assistant Professor in 2008. Her research interests are in statistical methodology applicable to environmental epidemiology, and social epidemiology, and health disparities. Her current methodological work involves developing robust fitting procedures and diagnostics for Structural Equation Models and using these methods in applications to environmental health problems such as in-utero lead exposure and its effect on child development. She also conducts research on study design for longitudinal studies, in particular, the design of studies involving salivary cortisol as a measure of stress in health disparities research. Sanchez also investigates the applicability of various functional data methods to studies of salivary cortisol. Her collaborative research spans environmental epidemiology, social epidemiology, and health disparities in the areas of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and the distribution of body mass index. Within environmental epidemiology, her work focuses on the impact of lead and air pollution exposure on birth outcomes, and child development and behavior. Her work on health disparities and social epidemiology has included the analysis of the effectiveness of school-level interventions to reduce child obesity, among others.

Peter Song Peter X.K. Song, Ph.D., Data Management and Modeling Core Director (DMMC)
Peter Song is a Professor of Biostatistics at the Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Michigan. He received his Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of British Columbia in 1996. Prior to the appointment at the University of Michigan, he was a faculty member at the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Waterloo (2004-2007) and a faculty member at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, York University, Toronto (1996-2004). Peter Song's research interests include bioinformatics, longitudinal data analysis, missing data problems in clinical trials, statistical genetics, and time series analysis. He is interested in methodological developments related to modeling, statistical inference, and applications in biomedical sciences. In particular, Dr. Song's research projects are strongly motivated by real-world data analysis. In 2007 he published a monograph "Correlated Data Analysis: Modeling, Analytics and Applications" by Springer.

Marcela Tamayo Y OrtizMarcela Tamayo Y Ortiz, Co-Investigator of Projects 1, 2 and the COTC
Marcela has been working in public health for over 15 years. Her first work included a sensitization program for traditional potters who use lead-based glazes, in the state of Michoacan. Since 2006 she joined the ELEMENT team and has focused her research on prenatal exposures to lead and stress and how they can affect health later in life. Within the ELEMENT projects, she is one of the main investigators working on participant retention strategies. She obtained a doctoral degree with a concentration in occupational epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a masters in environmental health from the Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, México. She currently holds a research position from the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology and is working with the ELEMENT Project in relation to the project "Nutrition, Physical Activity and Environmental Factors: Relationship with Obesity and Chronic Diseases". Marcela has been a scholar for the Fulbright García Robles, Delta Kappa Gamma Society International and Fundación México en Harvard.

Mara Tellez-RojoMartha María (Mara) Téllez-Rojo, Ph.D., Principal Investigator of the INSP Subcontract
Martha M Téllez-Rojo, obtained a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) in Mexico (2003). She is a senior researcher (ICM-F) at the NIPH. Her main focus of research is the effects of environmental exposures on children's health. Since 2003, she has been the principal investigator from the Mexico site of the ELEMENT (Early Live Exposure in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants project) and PROGRESS (Program Research in Obesity, Growth, Environment and Social Stressors) birth cohorts, both mainly funded by the NIH. Dr. Téllez-Rojo has also been very active designing, conducting and analyzing several projects on program evaluation of social interventions. Among the most important projects, she has participated is the impact evaluation of the health component of Oportunidades, the main anti-poverty program in México. She also participated in the impact evaluation of Seguro Popular, a programme aimed to deliver health insurance, regular and preventive care, medicines and health facilities to more than 50 million Mexicans through a randomly assigned treatment within matched pairs of health clusters. She was the principal investigator of the impact evaluation of 70 y más, the federal anti-poverty program for the elderly population that used a quasi-experimental design with a two-way discontinuity regression design. In recent years, she has conducted several national surveys on health-related topics, including the National Survey of Addictions in collaboration with the National Institute of Psychiatry in 2011, and the 2nd National Survey of Exclusion, Intolerance and Violence in High schools conducted under the request of the Ministry of Education in 2009.

Deb Watkins Deborah Watkins, Ph.D., MPH, Research Assistant Professor, Project 1
Dr. Deborah Watkins is a Research Assistant Professor in Environmental Epidemiology working with Dr. John Meeker. Her research is focused on investigating causal relationships between exposure to environmental contaminants during critical periods of development and subsequent health effects. Specifically, she is interested in the molecular mechanisms by which exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may affect hormonally driven developmental processes, such as growth, neurodevelopment, and puberty, potentially resulting in long-term health consequences. Dr. Watkins is involved in Project 1 of the UM-CEHC, investigating phthalate exposure across pregnancy and peripubescence in relation to both sexual maturation and cognitive and behavioral function.