BUFFALO, N.Y -- The University at Buffalo's School of Public
Health and Health Professions has established a Division of
Environmental Health Sciences and appointed James R. Olson, PhD,
professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the UB School of
Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, as director.
The division will be part of the Department of Social and
Preventive Medicine (SPM), which currently has research and
teaching programs in environmental epidemiology and environmental
health. Olson has held a secondary faculty appointment in SPM since
Jo L. Freudenheim, PhD, professor and chair of SPM, said:
"Having the expertise Jim brings in environmental toxicology as
part of our program will be terrific for both students and other
faculty doing work on environmental health.
"While there has been a long collaboration between Jim and
others in SPM, this is a chance to bridge the work that we are
doing in our department with the Department of Pharmacology and
Toxicology and with the School of Medicine and Biomedical
"Environmental Health Sciences is highly interdisciplinary, and
requires faculty from a wide range of backgrounds to address
diverse environmental health problems through multidisciplinary
research, teaching and service," said Olson.
The new division's multidisciplinary research will support the
UB 2020 strategic strength in molecular recognition in biological
systems and bioinformatics.
Under Olson's leadership, the new division will broaden the
scope of Environmental Health Sciences by hiring new faculty and by
establishing cross-discipline affiliations with faculty in
environmental epidemiology, toxicology/environmental and
occupational health, environmental engineering, environmental
chemistry, environmental geography, environmental law and others
The division will support environmental health research, and
will assist in teaching the MPH environmental health concentration
in the department's Master of Public Health program. Olson
currently is leading research studies on exposure to pesticides,
the potential for adverse effects associated with exposures in
certain populations, and genetic susceptibility to the pesticides.
The studies are funded by $1.5 million in grants from the National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Olsen's work also has been
supported by UB's Interdisciplinary Research Development Fund.
The EPA grant focuses on the activation and detoxification of
organophosphate pesticides (OPs), the most commonly used pesticides
in the U.S. and worldwide. OPs can stop the action of
acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme essential to nerve function in
humans and in other animals and insects.
"One objective of this study is to use experimental data on the
rates of activation and detoxification by specific human enzymes,
and to assess the potential for genetic variability in these
processes," says Olson. "Levels of pesticide metabolites reported
in human urine will be used along with these data to better
estimate exposures and the resulting effects of OPs."
Olson and Matthew Bonner, PhD, director of SPM's master's of
public health concentration in environmental health, are
collaborating with researchers from Oregon Health and Sciences
University, the University of Washington and Egypt's Menoufia
University on the four-year NIEHS grant to assess exposures to OP
pesticides in 255 Egyptian cotton field workers and to determine if
there are neurotoxic effects.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.