The PFAS Project Lab

Studying Social, Scientific, and Political Factors of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

The Team

Phil Brown
Co-Director
Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences
p.brown@northeastern.edu

Phil Brown is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Science at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute and co-directs its PFAS Project lab. He is PI of the past NSF grant “Perfluorinated Chemicals: The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants” and of the current NSF grant “The New Chemical Class Activism: Mobilization Around Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances.” He is Multiple PI of the NIEHS grant “Health Assessment, Public Education, and Capacity-building in Communities Impacted by PFAS-contaminated Drinking Water,” which studies children’s immune responses to PFAS and community response to contamination, and to develop a nationwide report-back and information exchange. He directs an NIEHS T-32 training program, “Transdisciplinary Training at the Intersection of Environmental Health and Social Science,” heads the Community Outreach and Translation Core of Northeastern’s Children’s Environmental Health Center (Center for Research on Early Childhood Exposure and Development in Puerto Rico/CRECE) and serves as Research Translation Coordinator and Co-Director of the Community Engagement Core of Northeastern’s Superfund Research Program (Puerto Rico Testsite to Explore Contamination Threats (PROTECT).

In addition to PFAS, he studies biomonitoring and household exposure, social policy and regulation concerning flame retardants, reporting back data to participants, and health social movements. He received the 2012 Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contribution to Medical Sociology (American Sociological Association Medical Sociology Section) and the 2006 Fred Buttel Distinguished Contribution to Environmental Sociology Award and 2015 Environmental Sociology Practice and Outreach Award from the American Sociological Association Environmental Sociology Section. His books include No Safe Place:  Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action, Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement, and Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements.


Alissa Cordner
Co-Director
Associate Professor of Sociology
Whitman College
cordneaa@whitman.edu

Alissa Cordner is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Paul Garrett Fellow at Whitman College, where she teaches Sociology and Environmental Studies courses. Her research interests include environmental sociology, environmental health and justice, risk and disasters, science and knowledge, social movements, and policy and participation. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from Brown University.

Her 2016 book, Toxic Safety: Flame Retardants, Scientific Controversies, and Environmental Health (Columbia University Press), examines the sociological aspects of risk assessment in industry, regulation, research, and activism. Toxic Safety was awarded the 2018 Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Environmental Sociology. Her work has been published in leading sociology, environmental studies, and science and technology studies journals, including the American Journal of SociologyEnvironmental SociologyScience, Technology & Human Values, the Journal of Environmental Studies and SciencesSocial Science & MedicineEnvironmental Science & Technology, and Sociological Forum.

Dr. Cordner has conducted extensive research on the regulation, research, and activism related to industrial chemicals. She also studies the sociological aspects of wildfire risk management in the Northwest with a focus on firefighter safety, public safety, and resource management.  


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Lauren Richter
Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology
University of Toronto Mississauga
richter.lauren@gmail.com

Lauren Richter is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, where she teaches and does research on social inequality, health, and the environment. She uses qualitative interviews, ethnography, and archival approaches to broadly examine responses to adverse environmental health impacts. Currently she studies U.S. regulatory frameworks and scientific knowledge/ignorance production to understand how inequality shapes pollution exposure and recourse.

Prior to joining U of T Mississauga, Lauren was an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. She received a Leadership Grant from the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, spending a year as a research fellow at the Silent Spring Institute and Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University. Between M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, she worked at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment in California, and taught courses on Environmental Justice at the University of San Francisco. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Northeastern University.


Julia Varshavsky
Assistant Professor of Environmental Health
Northeastern University
PhD, MPH
julia.varshavsky@gmail.com

Julia Varshavsky is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at Northeastern University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Health Sciences, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering. She will be focusing on environmental exposures and maternal-child health outcomes and will continue to work on biomonitoring studies and advancing risk assessment in vulnerable communities. Before joining Northeastern, Julia served as a research scientist for the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA, Cal EPA) to conduct biomonitoring studies of health-related chemical exposures, and before that was a postdoctoral researcher in environmental epidemiology and biostatistics for the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), where she conducted biologically-based population-level studies on exposure and health risks associated with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), and organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs). Specifically, her recent work highlights maternal-fetal exposure to PBDEs, PFASs, and OPFRs during mid-gestation in relation to biomarkers of placental development and disease that are associated with maternal and fetal health complications. Julia earned her MPH and PhD in environmental health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. Her dissertation research focused on developing methods for; characterizing disparities in, and evaluating dietary sources of, cumulative phthalates exposure. Prior to graduate school, Julia facilitated scientific dialogue and research translation around developmental impacts of environmental contaminants as the Reproductive Health Working Group coordinator for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE).


Jennifer Liss Ohayon
Research Scientist
Silent Spring Institute
Affiliate Research Associate
Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
Northeastern University

Jennie Liss Ohayon is a Research Scientist at Silent Spring Institute and Affiliate Research Associate with SSEHRI, specializing in environmental policy, community-engaged research, and environmental justice. She researches the emergence of scientific and activist concerns around industrial chemicals with Northeastern’s PFAS lab and, in collaboration with co-investigators at the University of California, Berkeley, is evaluating the effectiveness of California-based legislation that aims to reduce or eliminate exposures to toxic substances. She is also working on projects to report back to study participants and community partners in the U.S. and Chile their exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals. 

Dr. Ohayon completed her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz researching the remediation of toxic waste in military Superfund sites. With research support from the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results fellowship and the National Science Foundation, she did fieldwork to evaluate how policy around public participation and environmental justice is translated into cleanup programs. She also used data from all military Superfund sites for quantitative and spatial analyses of how factors such as the race and class demographics of surrounding neighborhoods contribute to how quickly sites are remediated. During this time, she created an interactive curriculum in environmental sciences for high school students that are disproportionately affected by environmental problems and who come from communities that are underrepresented in the field of environmental science.


Rosie Mueller
Assistant Professor of Economics
Whitman College
muellerm@whitman.edu

Rosie Mueller is an Assistant Professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. Her research focuses on environmental health and environmental justice issues related to natural resource extraction and exposure to environmental pollutants. She uses quantitative and spatial analysis techniques to document associations between exposure to environmental factors and demographic characteristics of exposed populations. Additionally, she has work documenting health disparities in coal mining communities in Appalachia. 

In the economics department at Whitman, she teaches core classes in microeconomic theory, applied econometrics, and environmental and natural resource economics. She received a Ph.D in Economics from the University of Oregon.


Kim Garrett
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Northeastern University
k.garret@northeastern.edu

Kim Garrett is a postdoctoral research associate with SSEHRI. She’s passionate about interdisciplinary research and is interested in interactions between chemical pollutants and gender, race, class, and labor. She completed her PhD in Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Pittsburgh where she studied environmental toxicology and risk assessment. Her dissertation focused on the chemical toxicology of the mitochondrial inhibitors phosphine, azide, and cyanide with the goal of identifying novel antidotes. She received her MPH with a certificate in Environmental Risk Assessment from the University of Pittsburgh while modeling environmentally mediated outbreaks of anthrax and Lyme disease with respect to climate change. She holds a BS in Environmental Science from Allegheny College and has worked on a variety of community health research projects focused on chemical exposures, childhood nutrition and exercise, and HIV prevention. Outside of the lab you can find her birdwatching, knitting, and biking.


Grace Poudrier
Sociology PhD Student
Northeastern University
poudrier.g@husky.neu.edu

Grace Poudrier is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Northeastern University, a research assistant at the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI), and a member of the Environmental Data Justice Initiative (EDGI). She studies mechanisms of knowledge production, ignorance, and agnotology in the field of environmental health, particularly in the contexts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and hydraulic fracturing. Her work draws from the sociology of the environment, medicine, and STS, and has been published in Engaging Science, Technology, and SocietyEnvironmental Research and Public Health, and Sexual Medicine. Prior to graduate school, Grace worked in clinical research at NYU Langone Medical Center, where she coordinated mixed methods research on gender affirming surgery for the Hansjorg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery. She received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in 2011, where she studied the sociology of health, illness, and environmental health politics.


Miranda Dotson
Sociology and Anthropology PhD Student
Northeastern University
mirandapdotson@gmail.com

Miranda Dotson is a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, whose research focus includes examining the impacts of community-based participatory research in local efforts to fight for environmental justice. 


Marina Atlas
MPH Student
Northeastern University
atlas.m@northeastern.edu

Marina Goreau is a second-year MPH student at Northeastern. She is a graduate of Brandeis University, where she received highest honors for her thesis on regulatory barriers to effective personal care product ingredient regulation under the FDA’s Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Prior to her studies at Northeastern, Marina worked for 5 years with the US EPA, Region 1 on toxics regulation while also providing free community assistance and outreach to over 70 communities in New England by reducing risk of toxic chemical exposure in schools. Marina seeks to gain a deeper understanding of epidemiological methods and biostatistical tools for identifying environmental contaminants in communities. She is interested in studying issues of environmental health and justice, especially with regard to reproductive and urban health.


Shir Sharon
Visiting Scholar
shir.kerem@gmail.com

Dr. Shir Sharon is the former coordinator of the Israeli House of Parliament (Knesset) subcommittee for the Impact of Environment and Climate on Health. She helped formulate the decree to ban the use of PFAS in fire extinguishers used for practice and exercises in Israel. She has a background in Molecular Biology, specifically in the fields of Microbiology, Immunology and Plant Science.


Kira Mok
Undergraduate Research Assistant 
Northeastern University 
mok.k@northeastern.edu

Kira Mok is a fourth-year undergraduate honors student at Northeastern University pursuing a combined Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Environmental Studies. She has worked as a research assistant in the Wylie Lab since January 2020. Her work in the Wylie Lab focuses on low-cost citizen science testing of hydrogen sulfide and other pollutants on homes near oil and gas facilities in Texas. She is also part of a grant proposal for a study that will test the importance of a gratitude-based mindset, which emphasizes the services EJ communities provide to the affluent surrounding areas. These experiences have furthered her interest in community-based research and environmental justice. She is excited to be a research assistant in the PFAS lab where she will focus on the contamination site tracker and the project website. She plans to engage in, throughout her undergraduate career and beyond, research that advocates for communities disproportionately affected by environmental issues. 


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Mya Heard
Undergraduate Research Assistant 
Northeastern University
heard.my@northeastern.edu

Mya Heard is a third-year undergraduate student at Northeastern University pursuing a B.S. in Health Science and a minor in Law and Public Policy. She joined the PFAS Project in January 2022 as an undergraduate research assistant and will be working on the website and newsletter as well as projects on chemical governance. Mya’s interest in environmental health developed through a project on the relationship between exposure to air pollution and child neurodevelopmental disorders. Her coursework in biostatistics, environmental ethics, and health policy have been other avenues to explore this interest. Mya plans to continue learning about and working in environmental health and policy throughout her Northeastern career and beyond.


Bertine Lakjohn
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Whitman College
lakjohbr@whitman.edu

Bertine Rose Lakjohn is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Whitman College from the Marshall Islands pursuing a combined degree in Environmental Studies and Sociology. Bertine became interested in environmental justice through her various work as a climate activist for the Marshall Islands. In the past, Bertine has worked as a facilitator for the 2019 Youth Leadership Coalition: Combating Climate Change, Green-ticket Delegate for the 2019 UN Youth Climate Summit, and as a guest speaker for the 2020 YMCA Youth Climate Summit. Currently, Bertine works as a youth council member for TED Countdown, a global initiative that strives to accelerate solutions into action to tackle the climate crisis. She now aspires to expand her scope in environmental justice thus she is looking forward to being a research assistant for the PFAS project where she will be closely investigating closely the harms of PFAS contamination on the environment and health. She plans to continue enhancing and expanding her work in environmental justice for the rest of her time at Whitman and beyond.  


Daniel Bloor
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Whitman College
bloordp@whitman.edu

Daniel Bloor in a fourth-year undergraduate Environmental Studies – Sociology Major at Whitman. Daniel joined the PFAS Project in May 2022 as an undergraduate research assistant. He became interested in PFAS and their effects on people when he heard about their use in wildfire suppressants. As someone who grew up in California before attending school in Walla Walla, knowing a harmful substance is being used around where you live is hard to see. Daniel is interested in applying sociological theories and previous environmental knowledge to the topic of PFAS. Environmental justice has always been a fascinating topic to Daniel, and he looks forward to applying knowledge from coursework at Whitman on a current issue.


Esmé Getto
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Northeastern University
getto.e@northeastern.edu

Esmé Getto is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Northeastern University pursuing a B.S. in Marine Biology. They joined the PFAS Project in July 2022 as an undergraduate research assistant. Esmé became interested in environmental justice during the Flint Water Crisis in their home state of Michigan. Learning about lead contamination in drinking water brought their attention to other contaminants, including PFAS, for the first time. They are interested in how environmental science and policy can be combined to protect affected communities, especially those with marginalized backgrounds, from pollutants.

Past Members

Ricky Salvatore
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Northeastern University


Maddy Poehlein
Postgraduate Research Assistant


Lilyana Ibañez
Undergraduate Research Assistant 
Northeastern University 


Anna Allgeyer
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Whitman College


Bella Raponi
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Northeastern University


Cole Alder
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
Northeastern University


Elicia Cousins
Visiting Assistant Professor
Clark University


Tibrine Da Fonseca
Sociology PhD Student
Northeastern University


Helena Zindel
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Whitman College

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