Diversity and Inclusion
At the Gillings School, diversity and inclusion mean we welcome, value and learn from individual differences and perspectives. By cultivating inclusion within the School, we better prepare our students, faculty and staff for the diverse world that awaits them. A globally-interconnected world needs culturally competent people to serve as its leaders. Diversity and inclusion are assets that contribute to our excellence.
Our mission within the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering (ESE) is to advance environmental health solutions and build public health resilience to climate and environmental change. We are dedicated to research, education and service that contribute to the improvement of environmental quality and public health. Our unique construction as a multidisciplinary group of scientists and engineers within the top public school of public health in the country positions us for impact.
The Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering (ESE) was founded at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1921 for the purpose of instruction and research in sanitary and civil engineering. The first graduate student in sanitary engineering, Roy Jay Morton, matriculated in 1923 to study under the direction of Dr. Thorndike Saville. Dr. Saville was then Dean of Engineering; in those days, UNC-Chapel Hill offered a full program in Engineering. Dr. Herman G. Baity, the recipient of the first PhD in Sanitary Engineering to be awarded in the U.S., joined the department in 1926, and in 1932 replaced Dr. Saville as Dean of Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill. He served in that capacity until 1936, when the School of Engineering moved to North Carolina State University in Raleigh as part of a move to consolidate the UNC system resources in the aftermath of the Depression. It was Dr. Baity’s determination to remain in Chapel Hill that established a Department of Sanitary Engineering in the new Division of Public Health, which became the School of Public Health in 1940. Graduate degrees offered at that time included the Master of Science in Sanitary Engineering (MSSE), the Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) and the Master of Public Health (MPH).
In 1952, Dr. Daniel A. Okun replaced Dr. Baity as head of the Department of Sanitary Engineering. Under Dr. Okun’s leadership, the Department brought on scientists in the fields of air and industrial hygiene (including Dr. Dave Fraser and Dr. Arthur Stern, aka “Mr. Air Pollution”), radiological hygiene, environmental chemistry and environmental biology, and the research focus of the Department was clearly established. Doctoral study was inaugurated in 1959. In 1962, the Department of Sanitary Engineering was renamed the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering.
When Dr. Okun retired after 18 years as Chair, Dr. Russell F. Christman was appointed chairman. Serving in this role from 1973 until 1989, Dr. Christman steered ESE through the increase in environmental awareness of the 1970s and 1980s, which paralleled the development of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The heightened awareness during this period brought attention to the department and ESE expanded as research funding from the federal government became more available. Dr. Christman was himself a major figure in the field of water chemistry, particularly the study of humic substances. During this period ESE’s role in atmospheric chemistry strengthened, aided by facilities such as the UNC Outdoor Smog Chamber.
In 1989, Dr. William H. Glaze, also a specialist in water chemistry, became chair of the department. During his eight years in this role, Dr. Glaze worked steadily to encourage the pursuit of environmental education across disciplines. Also during this time-frame, the Department enhanced its role in the Environmental Health Sciences, and pursued major interdisciplinary research initiatives such as the Superfund Basic Research Program.
In the fall of 1999, Dr. Cass T. Miller, a hydrological engineer and ESE faculty member since 1985, was named chair of the department. Under his leadership, modeling flourished, the department further emphasized interdisciplinary research and initiated a curriculum revision. Dr. Miller served until July 2005.
Michael D. Aitken, PhD, who joined the Gillings School in 1988, served as chair from 2006 to 2016. During his tenure, Aitken saw the formation of The Water Institute at UNC. The Institute’s director, Jamie Bartram, PhD, came to the Department in 2009 from the World Health Organization, where he directed the same environmental health program that Herman Baity founded more than 50 years earlier. Aitken’s research continues to focus on the application of microbial processes to the biodegradation of organic pollutants and to waste treatment problems.
The current chair, Barbara J. Turpin, PhD, is internationally renowned for her work on the atmospheric chemistry and physics of aerosols, and a primary focus of her research is to improve understanding of the impact of air pollution emissions upon human health. Turpin is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for Aerosol Research, of which served as president from 2012 to 2013. She also is an associate editor of the journal Environmental Science and Technology and has served on the boards of several other professional journals.
Our offices are located on the first floor of Rosenau Hall.
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Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
135 Dauer Drive
166 Rosenau Hall, CB #7431
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7431
- Welcome and Insurance 101 - International Student Welcome Week August 26 @ 8:30 am - 9:30 am
- 7th Annual Diversity THINKposium: Voice September 4 @ 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
- LGBTQ Health Disparities Research Collaborative Kickoff September 9 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm