Public Health

Remembering, Endeavors articles and our smog chamber

May 28, 2008


Although I do not believe we should continue to be in Iraq, I support our soldiers there. They have paid a high price for duty—some with their lives and others with permanent disabilities. On this day, we think of them all.

purpleverbena.jpgWeekend activities

It is a beautiful day in North Carolina. I am excited that some of the daylilies I planted a couple months ago are starting to bloom, and the verbena looks great. I admire people who can plant from seeds, but personally, I don’t have the patience to wait. I started the day with Awesome Intervals at the fabulous UNC Wellness Center. It’s the kind of killer session that makes me glad I am healthy and fit enough to finish and sorry I am not more skilled.

SPH in Endeavors

It was great to see several School of Public Health faculty in the UNC magazine Endeavors this month. It’s a terrific magazine that is very well-written and does an excellent job documenting exciting and creative research work done by our faculty, staff and students. This issue featured a story about water and interviewed Associate Professor Greg Characklis and Professor Fran DiGiano about ways to reduce water consumption. The magazine also did a story on former faculty member Phil Setel’s research on the verbal autopsy in Mozambique. It is a very interesting technique to overcome the problem of missed deaths in many developing countries. Finally, the issue featured Assistant Professor Carmen Samuel-Hodge about her weight loss study. Her study, Weight-Wise, focuses on low income women in Wilmington, NC. Characklis and Samuel-Hodge are excellent examples of the important work we do in North Carolina. While we will be extending our global reach, we will do more than ever before in North Carolina, thanks to resources from the Gillingses’ gift. Samuel-Hodge’s work certainly has global relevance and is an example of work begun in North Carolina that could be adapted and tested in other settings. (The Spring 2008 issue of Endeavors, Volume XXIV, Number 3 can be found online at:

On top of McGavran-Greenberg

grads1_sot_poster_mar180800.jpgLast Monday, I visited with Professor Harvey Jeffries, Assistant Professor Will Vizuete and Research Associate Ken Sexton, along with two of their students, Kim de Bruijne and Seth Ebersviller. For me, the chance to learn firsthand what our faculty, staff and students do is one of the best parts of this job. They told me about their exciting research and took me to their lab and up to the top of McGavran-Greenberg where they have the only smog chamber in the US that can be used to examine how human lung tissue responds to different concentrations in the air, such as biodiesel or particular chemicals and other substances. Seeing Chapel Hill from the rooftop gives one a whole new perspective! What’s really impressive is that the investigators can experimentally examine and manipulate the impact of different kinds of particulates, chemicals and other matter on cultured human lung tissue, which we get through collaboration with Dr. Ilona Jaspers in the School of Medicine. The team was awarded a Gillings Innovation Lab to, among other things, create a portable smog chamber that can be taken all over the world—a novel idea.

oa_chamber1.jpgSome of the folks in ESE are geniuses at product development; working with their own in-house shop to create new products and adapt existing ones for new uses. Faculty and folks from the shop created the smog chamber, using large Teflon panels that come out from the center in a tent-like structure.

I really like the fact that the kind of work these folks do literally goes from the basic science of toxicology to epidemiology and policy. EPA routinely seeks our faculty’s help in setting policy standards. Most policies are set without really understanding effects of factors like sunlight and without looking at what happens to human lung tissue. But sunlight can interact with, say emissions, to create more dangerous pollutants. With the smog chamber, we can provide a true laboratory based in the real world. It was great fun to hear students talking about being on 24 hour details to get measurements, some there at 2 am and others covering other periods in the day. Caveat: I am not an environmental scientist and probably have not done true justice to the science. See our GIL press release for more information about the GIL and other research being done by the team.

Our School

The School of Public Health is a remarkable place. There is always a new, interesting story to uncover. Over the next year, we will do a better job of turning these stories into videos, podcasts and other means of communicating our excitement about them.

Hope you had good holidays. Happy Monday and have a good week! Barbara

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.