Beyond Earth Month: Undergraduate scholars tackle environmental health challenges across Southern California


Bokie Muigai

Publish date

April 26, 2023


It’s Earth Month!

But all year round, undergraduate students in the EH MATTERS fellowship program are committed to improving the health and wellness of communities here in Los Angeles. The dynamic 2022-2023 cohort engage in environmental health research, advocacy, and community engagement to address social and health disparities through a lens of environmental justice.

Name: Jennifer Ahumada

Major: B.S. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, M.S. Applied Biostatistics and Epidemiology

Research focus: The spike in hydrogen sulfide concentrations in the Carson area in late 2021.

Responsibilities: Jennifer raises awareness on hydrogen sulfide and other environmental health problems through the creation of informational materials, community networking and leading workshops.

Impact: This research empowers residents to better advocate for themselves and provides them with data to fight environment injustice in their communities.

“Promoting environmental education and public awareness…can go a long way in supporting people and protecting the environment.” ~ Jennifer Ahumada ’24

Name: Nisha Lerdsuwanrut

Major: B.S. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Studies

Research focus: Southern California’s transportation sector, specifically the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

Responsibilities: Nisha reads through health impact assessments and research papers to synthesize and present information to public audiences.

Impact: The ports are one of the largest contributors to air pollution in Southern California. As people become more informed about how their environment affects their mental and physical health, it becomes a larger priority to advocate for more sustainable development.

“I think that a great place for us to start is investing in sustainable infrastructure and its maintenance. This can have huge implications on improving the health of surrounding communities and following through with our sustainability goals.”  ~ Nisha Lerdsuwanrut ‘25

Name: Sydney Powell

Major: B.S. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Studies, M.S. Global Medicine

Research interest: how environmental exposures and stress are impacting the health of predominantly Latinx communities in LA.

Responsibilities: Sydney conducts literature reviews and designs infographics for community outreach and research participants, to raise awareness on health disparities.

Impact: This research illuminates how social disparities such as polluted environments and structural racism put minority communities at a greater risk of having negative health outcomes which ultimately cause higher mortality rates.

“One of the best ways to invest in our planet is by limiting and preventing harmful toxins and pollutants from destroying the planet and communities. There needs to be a greater investment in clean energy and policies that protect individuals from pollutants.” ~ Sydney Powell ‘24

Name: Fabi Sosa

Major: B.S. Human Biology

Research focus: Health disparities experienced by Latinx patients diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Responsibilities: Fabi conducts questionnaires with patients.

Impact: This research highlights how the presentation of MS symptoms manifests in the Latinx community to inform providers with feasible treatment options for this demographic.

“Through our research, we amplify the voices and concerns of communities that are unjustly affected by their environment. This acts as a catalyst to gain advocacy from the general public and thus lead to policy implementation that better improves our surrounding environment. ~Fabi Sosa ‘24

Name: Peyton Hall

Major: B.S. Biological Sciences

Research focus: Telomere (sections on DNA) lengths in relations to socio-environmental stressors and birth outcomes for marginalized women, specifically Black women in Los Angeles

Responsibilities: Peyton shadows telomere labs and assists in field work with participants for the MADRES study.

Impact: The MADRES study addresses maternal and child developmental health risks and disparities resulting from environmental and social stressors to allow for improvement of maternal health.

“We can better invest in communities by working with them to find ways that would help them the best. More community outreach focused on youth would largely help to support people and protect the environment.” Peyton Hall ’25

Name: Dominic Pak

Major: B.S. Environmental Science and Health, M.S. Global Medicine

Research focus: Understanding the mechanisms between diverse environmental chemicals and their effects on maternal and child health outcomes.

Responsibilities: Dominic assists Max Aung, PhD, develop and apply biostatistical models, conducts statistical analyses, and writes literature review.

Impact: This research can serve as evidence to put forth policy and legislature to protect people from dangerous chemicals that they are persistently and unknowingly exposed to everyday.

“With informed and passionate constituents, politicians and researchers are only further empowered to develop novel, compelling, and relevant research to protect not only marginalized communities, but the planet as well.” ~Dominic Pak ‘25

Name: Shreya Kashyap

Major: B.S Human Biology

Research focus: Examining the exposures of oil and natural gas drilling on breast density and women’s health; and investigating heavy metal exposures and comorbidities through lifestyle risk factors.

Responsibilities: Shreya contacts mammogram clinics to collect study data for analysis, analyzing trends among factors like reproductive health and diabetes in relation to demographics. She connects existing literature to current research in women’s health and designs infographics. She participates in community outreach through survey administration.

Impact: This research raises awareness for residents in South LA, living in communities exposed to oil and natural gas drilling. By investigating risk factors for breast cancer and community-specific attributes we can increase risk perception within communities, and work towards environmental justice by involving residents in decisions about environmental policies affecting them.

“I’ve observed communities be proud of taking part in the environmental justice social movement and feel empowered in their health by having greater knowledge of how hazardous wastes or fossil fuel extraction affects them.”

Name: Tomás Delgado Manea

Major: B.S. Quantitative Biology, M.S. Quantitative Biology

Research focus: Tomas’ research looks at the potential impact of prenatal exposure to environmental toxins on infant neurodevelopment.

Responsibilities: Tomas conducts literary research and assists in manuscript writing.

Impact of research: Identifying specific environment toxins that are harmful to fetal development can inform public health policies to reduce exposure and ultimately their harmful effects—reducing the incidence of neurodevelopment disorders.

“My research on prenatal exposome, endogenous lipid mediators, and infant neurodevelopment can contribute to this broader understanding and help inform public health policies aimed at promoting healthier pregnancies.” ~Tomas Manea ‘25

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