Healthy people, healthy planet

Our Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering focuses on the interface between people and the environment. Uniquely situated in a school of public health, our interdisciplinary programs in air quality and atmospheric processes, human exposure and health effects, safe and sustainable water resources, climate change and One Health draw from faculty expertise in the physical and life sciences, engineering and policy.

For information about returning to campus this fall, please visit the UNC Gillings Return to Campus Roadmap page.

Coronavirus Affects Everyone: The Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering Responds

A new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund a study led by Barbara Turpin, PhD, professor and chair of environmental sciences and engineering, that will explore the airborne transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2. While the World Health Organization (WHO) has maintained that the primary mode of transmission is through respiratory droplets, which are expelled when a person coughs or sneezes but are heavy enough to fall to the ground before traveling very far, new research suggests that the risk of airborne transmission may be higher than acknowledged. This could leave us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection than once believed.

In an open letter, a group of scientists — including Turpin and fellow colleagues Jason Surratt, PhD, and Glenn Morrison, PhD, both professors of environmental sciences and engineering and investigators in the new NSF grant — recently called on the WHO to consider mounting evidence that the virus can travel in much smaller respiratory particles.

The Building COVID-19 Research Collaborations Webinar Series
Turpin, along with adjunct associate professor Joe Brown, presented a webinar, "Where is SARS-CoV-2 and how does it get there? Current and future research on environmental surveillance and transmission" on August 11, 2020. View the webinar below.

An illustration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals the basic form of the virus blamed for the outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.
Our research strengths include:

  • Characterizing exposures to contaminants in air, water, soil and workplaces
  • Developing engineering and policy solutions to environmental risks
  • Using molecular approaches to understanding diseases caused by toxic substances in the environment
  • Overcoming environmental health challenges in developing countries
Save the Date for our Centennial Celebration (2020-2021).
The kickoff has begun! Our centennial celebration will be April 10, 2021.
The official logo of ESE's centennial celebration

Message from the Chair

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