Fall 2023 Seminar Schedule.

Fall 2023 Schedule Summary

Date Speaker Seminar Titles/Topics
Sept 6th Department of Environmental Health


Introduction to the Environmental Health Department
Sept 13th Kathryn Rodgers

Doctoral Student

Department of Environmental Health


Introduction to Commercial Determinants of Health
Sept 20th Dr. Lauren Richter

Assistant Professor


University of Toronto Mississauga

Non-Stick Science: Examining Landscapes of Knowledge and Ignorance Production on PFAS
Sept 27th Swati Rayasam (UCSF)

Science Associate

Program of Reproductive Health and Environment


Dr. Nick Chartres (U Sydney)

Senior Research Fellow

University of Sydney

The Impact of Conflicts of Interest on Environmental Health Decision-Making: A Case Study of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
Oct 4th Vanessa Boland


Dr. Nason Maani 


University of Edinburgh

London School of Hygiene

Commerical Determinants of Environmental Health: Examples and Implications 
and Expanding Our Impact: A Model for Industry Partnerships 
Oct 11th Dr. Jonathan Buonocore 


Assistant Professor

Zeyneb Magavi

Co-Executive Director of HEET


Health and Climate Impacts from Oil and Gas and How to Create Healthy Utilities
Oct 18th Dr. Lisa Bero

Chief Scientist

Professor at the University of Colorado UC

Industry Influence on Scientific Research
Oct 25th Quinn Adams

Doctoral Candidate

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence in Environmental Health Research
Nov 1st Dr. Chad Milando

Research Scientist


AI-aided Estimation of the Health Impacts of Warm-Season Climate Variation
Nov 8th Dr. Lewis Ziska

Associate Professor

Columbia University

Rising CO2, Climate Change and Plant Biology: The Rice Paradigm
Nov 15th Student Presentations (Flannery Black-Ingersoll & Noelle Henderson) Developing a Parcel-Level Synthetic Population for the Mystic River Watershed Area

Persistent Endocrine Disrupting Chemical Mixtures, Birth Weight, and Gestational Age at Birth

Nov 22nd None: Holiday Recess TBD
Nov 29th Marcia Pescador Jimenez


Examining How Exposure to Nature May Influence Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia, and the Differential Impact by Race and Ethnicity
Dec 6th Student Presentations Maternal Metals and Associations with Birth Weight and Gestational Age

Down the Rabbit Hole: Methods for Machine Learning Model Interpretation

Dec 13th John Basl

Northeastern University

An Ethics Ecosystem for AI and Big Data: Why? What? How?

Sept 6th

Department of Environmental Health

Introduction to the Environmental Health Department

Sept 13th

Kathryn Rodgers

Introduction to Commercial Determinants of HealthKathryn Rodgers

Kathryn Rodgers is a PhD student at Boston University School of Public Health, where she is researching environmental causes of Mesoamerican nephropathy and is a trainee in the Boston University Graduate Program in Urban Biogeoscience and Environmental Health. She was previously a staff scientist at the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, MA where she designed and led research projects designed to test strategies to lower people’s exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals. She also coordinated the Institute’s science translation for decision-makers in governments, businesses, unions, and community groups, which contributed to informed policy changes at the local, state, and federal level.

Summary: This presentation will be an introduction to the research field of Commercial Determinants of Health (CDOH). We will focus on the overlap between CDOH and environmental health with a short outline of our speaker series for the semester.

Meeting Format: in person

Sept 20th

Dr. Lauren Richter

Headshot of Lauren Richter, PhDNon-Stick Science: Examining Landscapes of Knowledge and Ignorance Production on PFAS

Dr. Richter is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, with appointments in the Department of Sociology graduate program and School of the Environment at the University of Toronto St. George. Broadly she studies social inequality, health, and the environment. She uses interviews, ethnography, and archives to examine scientific controversies on the health effects of environmental chemical exposure. Currently she studies U.S. regulatory frameworks to understand the social production of knowledge and ignorance. Her research and teaching are shaped by critical race theory, environmental justice, science and technology studies, and environmental sociology.

Summary: Per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are widely used industrial compounds containing chemical chains of carbon and fluorine that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. Although industry and regulatory scientists have studied the exposure and toxicity concerns of these compounds for decades, and several contaminated communities have documented health concerns as a result of their high levels of exposure, PFAS use remains ubiquitous in a large range of consumer and industrial products. Despite this significant history of industry knowledge production documenting exposure and toxicity concerns, the regulatory approach to PFAS has been limited. This is largely due to a regulatory framework that privileges industry incentives for rapid market entry and trade secret protection over substantive public health protection, creating areas of unseen science, research that is conducted but never shared outside of institutional boundaries.

Meeting Format: remote


Sept 27th

Swati Rayasam and Dr. Nick Chartres

The Impact of Conflicts of Interest on Environmental Health Decisions-Making: A case study of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

Swati is a Science Associate at the UCSF Program on Reproductive Healt and Environment where she researches impacts of regulations on health inequalities and community health. Nick is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sydney where he studies how transnational corporations influence policies that undermine health and health equity.

Summary: This talk will discuss the tactics used by the chemical industry to suppress and distort the science on harms of chemicals envaulted used TSCA, including through the funding of primary studies used in chemical risk assessment, and the inclusion of individuals, who serve on EPA advisory committees with financial relationships with the chemical industry. This talk will also discuss the safeguards required to ensure the scientific integrity is protected the implementation of TCSA.


Oct 4th

Vanessa Boland and Nason Mani

Commerical Determinants of Environmental Health: Examples and Implications and Expanding Our Impact: A Model for Industry Partnerships

Vanessa is the Director of Idea Hub, a BUSPH initiative designed to facilitate mutually beneficial partnerships with industry and non-traditional funders. Vanessa holds an MPH in Global Health and an MBA in Organizational Transformation, both from Boston University.

Nason is the MCs Program Director and Lecturer in Inequalities of Global Health Policy at the University of Edinburgh and an adjunct professor at BUSPH at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Nason’s research interests center on the structural and commercial determinants of health, with a special interest in how they shape public understanding and policy. This includes primary research on the alcohol, sugar sweetened beverage, fireman, social media, and fossil fuel industries, as well as policy research on the relationships between underinvestment, commercial influence and inequity.


Expanding our Impact: a model for industry partnerships” describes the advantages and challenges to engaging in partnerships with for-profit and non-traditional entities. We will describe BUSPH principles for engaging with industry, give a few examples of how those principles have been applied, and provide an overview of the larger BU ecosystem that supports industry-sponsored work.
Commercial determiants of environmental health: Examples and implications. The future of climate change will depend on the extent to which society and science can accurately perceive the conflicts of interest, strategies, and tactics of fossil fuel companies in research, policy, and public discourse. This presentation will outline some of these strategies, and
their implications for public health action.


Oct 11

Dr. Jonathan Buonocore and Zeyneb Magavi

Health and Climate Impacts from Oil and Gas and How to Create Healthy Utilities

Jonathan is an Assistant Professor at BUSPH where he researches the impacts, benefits, and tradeoffs of technology and policy choices in energy, transportation, agricultural practices, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Zeyneb is co executive director of HEET, a nonprofit climate solutions incubator committed to cutting emissions through transformative systems change.


The health toll from oil and gas in the US results in excess deaths, cancers, respiratory diseases, and other chronic health problems all along the supply chain from well to power plant, furnace, or stove burner. Mapping and understanding oil and gas infrastructure and the role of gas in the energy system can help us identify areas for energy interventions. Interventions might include personal changes like stoves or utility-wide changes like geothermal heating and cooling. We will discuss a case study of how neighborhoods are being converted from gas heating to a demonstration networked geothermal system.


Oct 18

Dr. Lisa Bero

Industry Influences on Scientific Research

Lisa is Chief Scientist at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities and Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Colorado CU Anschutz Medical Center.


Research production is a cyclical process and is vulnerable to industry interference at every step, including 1) setting the research agenda and framing research questions, 2) designing the methods of the study, 3) conducting the study, and 4) publishing the study.  Commercial interests also attempt to influence the standards by which science is evaluated.  Ample evidence from meta-research, qualitative studies and analyses of previously secret corporate documents demonstrates that corporate sponsorship and researcher conflicts of interest influence decision making during the research process.  I will provide an overview of this evidence and propose solutions for safeguarding the integrity of research.


Oct 25

Quinn Adams

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence in Environmental Health Research

Quinn Adams is a PhD candidate at Boston University School of Public Health and a trainee in the Boston University Graduate Program in Urban Biogeosciences and Environmental Health. Her research focuses on the relationship between climate hazards and human health, with a particular interest in identifying strategies to reduce climate-related health impacts.


This presentation will be an introduction to the application of artificial intelligence in environmental health research with a short outline of our speaker series for the semester.


Nov 1

Dr. Chad Milando

AI-aided Estimation of the Health Impacts of Warm-Season Climate Variation

Dr. Chad Milando is a research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health, where he studies the health impacts of climate change, and novel exposure estimation methods. He is especially interested in creating and using novel computational tools to examine health impacts (and interventions) among the most vulnerable populations.


This presentation will cover the application of various AI and machine learning methods for estimating the worst impacts of warm-season climate variation.


Nov 8

Dr. Lewis Ziska

Rising CO2, Climate Change and Plant Biology: The Rice Paradigm

Dr. Ziska is an Associate Professor in the Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr. Ziska also serves as the Climate and Health Certificate Lead. After graduating from the University of California, Davis, he began his career as a Smithsonian fellow, and then took up residence as the Project Leader for global climate change at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines before a 24-year career at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. He has worked primarily on documenting the impact of climate change and rising carbon dioxide levels on: Crop selection for CO2 responsiveness to improve production; Climate and agronomic pests, including chemical management; Climate, plant biology, and public health impacts on food security with a focus on nutrition and pesticide use. Dr. Ziska is a contributor to the 2007, 2014, and 2022 International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (Food Security Chapter). He is also a contributor to the 2014 and 2018 National Climate Assessment (NCA) (Public Health Chapter and Air Quality Chapter respectively); and The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.


In this talk Dr. Ziska will present an overview of rice systems globally, their importance as a primary food source and their vulnerability, from heat stress and reproduction, nutritional changes, and safety with a focus on CO2/temperature interactions. These impacts will be evaluated in terms of dietary health and toxicology. In addition, he will suggest ways and means to improve rice systems both in regard to mitigation and adaptation to climate change.


Nov 15

Flannery Black-Ingersoll and Noelle Henderson


Synthetic populations, generated with publicly available census data, can provide highly spatially-resolved information on population vulnerabilities. This presentation will provide a brief overview of synthetic population methods, mapping findings from a parcel-level synthetic population generation for 10 Public Use Microdata Areas covering 21 cities and towns within the Mystic River Watershed Area. This work will ultimately support the multiple climate hazard risk and intervention analyses for the watershed as part of Advancing Community Resilience to the Cumulative Climate Impacts in the Mystic River Watershed (ACRES).

Gestational exposure to persistent endocrine disrupting chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), has been associated with alterations to normal fetal growth via the disruption of hormone signaling pathways. Size at birth is an important indicator of health status not only in infancy, but for subsequent health throughout the life course. Maternal serum samples were collected at baseline enrollment in the Study of Environmental, Lifestyle, and Fibroids (SELF) Study and quantified concentrations of persistent endocrine disrupting chemicals. Thus, we aim to integrate the use of mixtures methods to assess exposure to multiple chemicals simultaneously in order to determine the overall mixture effect as well as individual chemicals driving the hypothesized association with size at birth. This presentation will highlight ongoing work exploring the relationship between prenatal exposure to persistent endocrine disrupting chemicals and markers of size at birth in the SELF Birth Cohort.


Nov 29

Marcia Pescador Jimenez

Marcia P. Jimenez is an Assistant Professor at the Epidemiology Department at the Boston University School of Public Health. She has a multidisciplinary research portfolio that includes spatial epidemiology, life-course analysis, health disparities, and aging, specifically, geographic contextual factors and modifiers of cognitive decline and dementia. Her current work focuses on novel metrics of greenspace and the urban environment using Deep Learning Algorithms and Google Street View images to examine the association between the natural environment and Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. She has extensive experience working with several cohort studies, including, the New England Family Study, Project Viva, the Nurses Health Studies, and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. She is currently funded through a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute on Aging, and an Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant to Promote Diversity. Her work aims to quantify the role of built and natural environment on cognitive functioning and Alzheimer’s disease risk, evaluating racial/ethnic disparities.


Dec 6th

Emily Leonard and Sean Mueller

Summary: Prenatal exposure to metals/metalloids may play an important role in fetal growth. Previous studies have shown that certain elements can alter size at birth and gestational age, both of which are important indicators of neonatal health and risk of adverse health outcomes later in life. Utilizing data from the Study of Environment, Lifestyle, and Fibroids (SELF), we aim to assess the association between maternal blood element levels, collected at baseline enrollment, and subsequent birth weight and gestational age at birth of the first singleton birth within the follow-up period. This presentation will discuss ongoing work exploring the relationship between individual metals and birth outcomes, as well as a brief discussion of our plan to integrate the use of mixtures methods to assess exposure to multiple metals simultaneously.

All models are wrong, but some are useful. Machine learning frameworks provide an enhanced ability to discover patterns and structures in large datasets because of increased predictive power as compared to traditional methods. However, with new methods come new challenges: how do we understand the results suggested by these systems in order that we can trust them? In this talk, we explore the need for transparency in machine learning and discuss model-agnostic post-hoc explainability approaches.


Dec 13th

John Basl is an associate professor of philosophy and AI and Data Ethics Initiatives lead at the Northeastern Ethics Institute. He is also an affiliate of the Safra Center for Ethics and the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society both at Harvard University. He works in moral philosophy and the ethics of emerging technologies, especially the ethics of ai and ml. He has worked to develop and publish guidance about how to build ethics infrastructure and oversight tools for AI and how to operationalize values. He has also written on the nature and value of algorithmic transparency.


This talk motivates the need for an ethics ecosystem (or collection of ethics ecosystems) to govern the research, design, development, and deployment of technologies powered by modern AI and big data analytics. Despite the genuine desire of many key stakeholders to do the right thing, we keep failing to mitigate against the ethical costs associated with these technologies and often fall into the same ethical traps. This talk articulates some of these ethical traps, articulates the components of an ethics ecosystem that are essential to avoiding them, and explains some efforts to try to develop such an ecosystem.