About CEHS

cehs logoAbout CEHS

The theme of the UNC Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility (UNC-CEHS) is translating interdisciplinary research on environmental health threats to improve public health in North Carolina.

Our goals are:

  • To disseminate knowledge and technology across interdisciplinary groups of researchers in environmental health.
  • To foster outstanding translational research and outreach in three focus areas: Environmental Cancer, Cardiopulmonary Disease and Developmental Disease.
  • To respond to emerging environmental threats facing North Carolinians and the nation.

aboutcehsThe Center is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and uses the NIEHS Strategic Plan as a guide for approaching environmental health research, with emphasis on serving the needs of North Carolinians. Leveraging the extensive resources available at UNC Chapel Hill and in the UNC-CEHS Facility Cores, the Center seeks to address state needs for environmental health Exposure and Fundamental Research across our three Research Focus Areas. The Career Development Program in the UNC-CEHS provides Training and Education opportunities for all UNC-CEHS members, but especially target new investigators. Since our state has a diverse population, economically and ethnically/racially, addressing environmental Health Disparities is crucial in the research and outreach initiatives of the Center. Most central to the UNC-CEHS mission is using Translational Science to move environmental health research from laboratory models-to-humans-to-communities, responding to our state’s needs through multidirectional Communication and Engagement that is led by our Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC).

Center Organization

Administrative Core

The Administrative Core of the UNC-CEHS provides administrative and scientific leadership, manages Center finances and resources to facilitate research related to our three focus areas, and supports activities in the Career Development Program, the Pilot Projects Program, Facility Cores, and the Community Outreach and Engagement Core.

Melissa Troester, Director

Melissa Troester is Center Director. The Troester laboratory studies breast cancer and benign breast disease using genomic, molecular pathology, and epidemiologic approaches. Much of Dr. Troester’s research focus has been on understanding interactions between the environment and breast genomics. She is Co-Principal Investigator on the Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS), a study of breast cancer epidemiology and biology focused on understanding breast cancer disparities and she is Co-Leader of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Cancer Epidemiology program. She has extensive experience working in consortia, including the African American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk (AMBER) consortium, the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC), and the Cancer Genome Atlas project. In the TCGA, she led analyses of benign breast genomics. A common theme throughout her work is integrating genomic data and molecular biology with human studies of breast cancer etiology and progression.


Jim Swenberg, Deputy Director

Stephanie Engel, Research Director, Developmental Disease

Ilona Jaspers, Research Director, Cardiopulmonary Disease

Cyrus Vaziri, Research Director, Environmental Cancer

Terry Noah, Director of Training and Career Development

Kathleen Gray, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement


External Advisory Committee

The External Advisory Committee (EAC) consists of five renowned environmental health scientists with expertise in toxicology, mass spectrometry, systems biology, genomics, pulmonary and cardiovascular disease, developmental disease, cancer, epidemiology and outreach. The EAC members, individually and as a team, provide expert opinion in areas relevant to the Center’s research and outreach activities. Members of the EAC are also called upon on an ad hoc basis to review pilot projects and other programs, as appropriate to their areas of expertise.

Stakeholder Advisory Board

The Center convenes a Stakeholder Advisory Board (SAB) twice per year to share emerging research, to solicit feedback on research and outreach applications, and to have SAB members share highlights of their work and identify important issues facing North Carolina residents. To facilitate greater dialogue and collaboration, we meet with smaller groups of SAB members on specific translational research activities.

SAB members include representatives from:

Center Membership

CEHS maintains a diverse and dynamic membership, including faculty from all ranks in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Pediatrics, Genetics, Medicine, and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, among other University departments.

The criteria for membership in the UNC-CEHS are:

  • research interests relevant to CEHS goals;
  • current or recent funding (if established investigator); and
  • potential for funding (if junior investigator).

To maintain membership status, Center members are encouraged to:

  • develop/maintain funded research in an area of relevance to the Center’s mission;
  • show evidence of interdisciplinary collaboration in the form of grants, manuscripts, shared mentoring of graduate students, abstracts, posters, and other projects;
  • attend Center-wide seminars and meetings;
  • submit pilot project proposals in response to Center RFAs;
  • cite the Center Grant in any publication that had CEHS funding and/or utilizes our Facility Cores; and
  • collaborate with the Community Outreach and Engagement Core, when appropriate, to share environmental health sciences information with public health professionals and other community audiences.

CEHS members, faculty and staff listing

For questions about becoming a UNC-CEHS member, contact Center Administrator Jorge Izquierdo.