Environmental Sciences and Engineering Snapshot

Hello, prospective students! Welcome to our brief overview of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at UNC Gillings.


As an undergraduate, ESE doctoral student Jonathan Crocker (in white) worked with a research project in Ghana.


Our department focuses on the interface between people and the environment. Uniquely situated in one of the most highly ranked schools of public health in the nation, our interdisciplinary programs in air quality and atmospheric processes, human exposure and health effects, and sustainable water resources draw from faculty expertise in the physical and life sciences, engineering and policy. Whatever your career goals — from advanced professional practice to continuing scholarly inquiry — we will help prepare you to achieve them.

Interested in finding out more? visit our full department website.

By the numbers


  • 23 tenured and tenure-track
  • 4 research-track
  • 2 academic fixed-term
  • 9 jointly appointed
  • 29 adjuncts


  • 47 BSPH
  • 4 MPH
  • 26 MS
  • 11 MSEE
  • 21 MSPH
  • 69 PhD


Our faculty

Our faculty conduct research and train students in:

  • Characterizing exposures to contaminants in air, water, soil and workplaces;
  • Developing engineering and policy solutions to environmental risks;
  • Using molecular approaches to understand diseases caused by toxic substances in the environment; and
  • Overcoming environmental health challenges in developing countries.

Discover more on ReachNC, a web portal with to-the-minute information about our faculty members’ grants, publications, research interests and  networks.

Contact us

For general questions regarding the department, degrees or admissions, contact:

Wake Harper, Student Services Manager

  • 919-966-3844
  • wbh@unc.edu

ESE at Gillings: We combine the science, health, engineering and policy aspects of the environment in a single department within a school of public health, and all within a university seen as one of the nation’s “public ivies.” 


Doctoral student Alice Wang and faculty advisor, Mark Sobsey, PhD, are bringing the Compartment Bag Test (CBT) to market through their social venture, Aquagenx. CBT is a simple, affordable, and lab-independent method to test for microbial contaminants, such as E. coli, in household water. “More than 1 billion people worldwide lack consistent access to safe drinking water,” resulting in 2 million preventable deaths annually,  says Wang. “With broad distribution, this test has the capacity to affect millions of lives.”

Faculty members in ESE oversee more than 75  funded research projects in North Carolina, the U.S. and around the world. Our research encompasses:

  • Sources, transport and fate of environmental contaminants;
  • Development of biomarkers of human exposure to contaminants;
  • Linking of diseases to exposure;
  • Design and analysis of engineered systems to control exposures;
  • Analysis of risks and policies intended to control risks;
  • Elucidation of the impacts and mechanisms of climate change; and
  • Understanding of environmental health issues on a global scale.

Join us if you want to contribute to cross-cutting, high impact research that helps us:

  • Determine numbers of premature deaths worldwide as a result of outdoor air pollution;
  • Use computational and data mining approaches to predict the potential toxicity of the tens of thousands of chemicals for which animal or human toxicity data are not available;
  • Collaborate with communities to understand disparities in access to public water and sanitation services in North Carolina and how such differential access contributes to health disparities;
  • Develop and bring to market inexpensive, easy-to-use tools and processes that improve people’s access to clean water in the U.S. and around the world;
  • Identify dangerous chemicals commonly used in the workplace and provide guidance on how to reduce their use or mitigate their effects.
  • Help shape national and international policy guidelines on improving water quality, reducing human-caused air pollution, and minimizing human exposures to toxic substances.

Kyle Messier, MPH 2013. Kyle won a 2013 North Carolina Impact Award for breakthrough research that allowed the first successful space/time modeling analysis of tetrachloroethylene (PCE). This dry cleaning agent and metal degreaser is a likely carcinogen that contaminates groundwater in many areas across NC. Kyle’s study provides a cost-effective, efficient and more accurate methodology for estimating exposure of North Carolinians to hazardous contaminants.

Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH): A first degree that offers students a fundamental grounding in the basic and applied sciences to prepare them for advanced scientific education, professional schools, or careers in public health practice with an emphasis in environmental sciences or engineering.

Master of Public Health (MPH): A research-based degree program intended for students with a background in health-related areas. Prepares them for public health careers in practice or management with emphasis in environmental sciences and engineering.

Master of Science (MS): A terminal degree program intended for incoming students with a strong background in the sciences or engineering. Prepares students for advanced education or careers in research, practice or management in environmental sciences and engineering.

Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (MSEE): A non-research, public health-focused terminal degree intended for students with an accredited undergraduate engineering degree or equivalent degree from a foreign institution. Focuses primarily on preparation of students for careers in practice or management in environmental engineering.

Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH): A terminal degree program intended for incoming students with a strong background in the sciences or engineering. Prepares students for careers in practice as well as for further studies and careers in advanced education, research or management in public health with emphasis in environmental sciences and engineering.

Dual Bachelor’s/Master’s Degree Program. Allows students earning a bachelor’s degree in science, math or public health at UNC-Chapel Hill  the opportunity to complete the master’s degree in one year beyond the completion of the bachelor’s degree

Dual Master’s Degree, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Department of City and Regional Planning. Offers students the opportunity to earn both the MCRP and one of the four master’s degrees offered in Environmental Sciences and Engineering (MS, MSEE, MSPH, or MPH). It is possible to obtain both degrees in three years.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): A terminal degree program intended for students with a strong background in the sciences or engineering. Prepares them for careers in basic and applied research, education, practice or management in environmental sciences and engineering.


Greg Allgood, PhD, former director of Procter & Gamble’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, helped develop a water purification powder that made clean drinking water a surety for millions of families in the developing world. Dr. Allgood recently accepted an appointment as visiting distinguished fellow at UNC’s Global Research Institute and as vice president of World Vision’s water program. Dr. Allgood earned his BS and MS from ESE in 1981 and 1983, respectively.

Where will a degree in Environmental Sciences and Engineering take you? Our alumni hold senior leadership positions in the U.S. and around the world in:

  • Government agencies such as:
    • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
    • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
    • Environmental Protection Agency,
    • National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences
    • Food and Drug Administration
  • Local and state health departments
  • State and private universities
  • Private research facilities
  • Environmental agencies
  • Consulting firms.

Recent alumni positions include:

  • Environmental Scientist, Eastern Research Group
  • Environmental Engineer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Research Scientist, Procter & Gamble
  • Project Engineer, Water Missions International
  • Assistant Professor, Florida Southern University

Interested in finding out about our course offerings?


Associate professor Will Vizuete in front of a smog chamber atop UNC’s McGavran-Greenberg Hall. Using the smog chamber, Dr. Vizuete developed Biodeptronix, a device that measures air pollution.

Faculty in environmental sciences and engineering create a welcoming, interactive learning environment in twenty-first century teaching and research facilities. What’s more, we have plenty of wired spaces for students to meet, collaborate, and take problem solving to the next level.

Take a look at our complete course catalog, plus syllabi, to find out more.

Interested in finding out more? Visit our full department website.

Note that we are home to the internationally respected UNC Water Institute