In October 2019, HEI’s Research Committee selected two applicants from a field of highly qualified candidates to receive the Institute’s 2019 Walter A. Rosenblith New Investigator Award. The recipients are Tanya Alderete, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Colorado, and Megan Herting, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (USC).
Alderete was awarded for her project “Air pollutants and the gut microbiota and metabolome during early life: Implications for childhood obesity.” She proposes to study whether prenatal and/or early-life exposure to air pollutants affects the infant gut microbiota and fecal metabolome, thereby altering infant growth trajectories in the first two years of life. She plans to study this in an ongoing longitudinal cohort of Hispanic mother-infant pairs in California with existing validated clinical assessments of infant growth trajectories. She will also use gut microbial profiling and high-resolution fecal metabolomics profiles to understand the mechanisms underlying the obesogenic effects of air pollutants in early life.
Herting received a Rosenblith award for her project “Air pollution exposure and prefrontal connectivity in early adolescence.” She proposes to elucidate how fine-particle exposure affects the development of prefrontal connections and emotional behaviors during the transition from childhood to adolescence and whether this, in turn, contributes to greater risk for neuropsychiatric disorders. Using a novel hybrid spatiotemporal-exposure model, she will estimate annual average exposure to ambient fine particles of boys and girls across the United States who are participating in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development cohort. She will then relate the fine-particle exposures to structural connectivity of the prefrontal cortex at ages 9 to 10 years, and to impairments in neuropsychiatric outcomes after 1 year of follow-up at ages 10 to 11 years.
The Rosenblith Award provides funding for up to three years at a total budget of $500,000. HEI has issued the Request for Applications for the 2020 award (RFA 19-2). Eligible candidates should be at the assistant professor or equivalent level and within two to seven years of their highest degree. To apply, see our Funding page.
Photos courtesy of the investigators; Megan Herting's photo by Andrew Zaw of USC.