Who We Are

ESRAC Directors

 

Director

Kelly A. Reynolds, MSPH, PhD

Dr. Reynolds has worked as a researcher and public health educator in environmental science, specializing in water quality, food safety, and disease transmission. Her extensive experience in those research areas includes her role as Principal Investigator of numerous projects and the publication of hundreds of journal articles, book chapters, and professional reports. Dr. Reynolds is working on several projects, including one in which she joins UA engineers to apply lasers to detect human viruses in drinking water. This type of technology would not only expedite the process of discovering waterborne viruses, but it could detect viruses that were previously undetectable. She is also the Principal Investigator of two other projects, which look for contaminants in the water supply and in the home. In the water study, Dr. Reynolds aims to assess the risk of tap water by analyzing the types of disease-causing organisms captured in the filters of water vending machines. In the home hygiene study, Dr. Reynolds is monitoring Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the home by identifying the bacteria's survival in soft surfaces, including carpets and towels. MRSA bacteria can cause severe skin infections and result in hospitalizations and, more rarely, death.

 

Co-Director

Marc Verhougstraete, PhD

Dr. Verhougstraete has worked as an integrated water quality researcher, specializing in understanding the sources, occurrence, and transport of waterborne microorganisms. He has extensive experience integrating microbial occurrences with hydrological catchment dynamics and landscape patterns to improve human health policy and management. He has worked on quantitative microbial risk assessments in the water and air environments. Since joining ESRAC in 2013, Dr. Verhougstraete has been investigating the effects of intervention practices in the healthcare systems to reduce agents of healthcare-associated infections and define best monitoring practices for irrigation waters in the Southwest United States.

 

Co-Director

Leslie Dennis, PhD

Dr. Dennis’ research focus is on melanoma and prostate cancer etiology and prevention as related to environmental risk factors. She has used tools such as mailed questionnaires, telephone interviews along with molecular analyses of trace elements and sexually transmitted infections to conduct this research. She also has expertise in conducting meta-analyses as related to risk factors for cancer. Dr. Dennis is a reviewer for several cancer and epidemiological journals. She has reviewed R03 and K07 applications for the NCI and spent 5 years as a grant reviewer for the American Cancer Society, including chairing the Clinical Research, Cancer Control, and Epidemiology peer grant review committee.

 

Co-Director

Mary Kay O'Rourke, PhD

Dr. O'Rourke has conducted interdisciplinary environmental research relating environmental exposure to human health for more than 25 years. Her current research focuses on exposures in three areas: children's exposure to pesticide, the spatial relationship between arsenic exposure and cancer prevalence, and the relationships among soil type, Coccidioides immitis presence, and cocci prevalence. She was a Co-Principal Investigator on several exposure assessment surveys investigating metal, pesticide, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) exposures. These studies include the National Human Exposure Assessment Survey, the Arizona Border Survey, two surveys examining pesticide exposure among children in Yuma Co. Arizona, and a pesticide exposure in the Gila River Indian Community. She has extensive experience in designing and implementing exposure assessment field surveys, quality assurance programs, and the data processing protocols for large studies.

 

Research Specialist, Senior

K-12 Outreach Coordinator

Jonathan Sexton, PhD

Dr. Sexton has worked as a researcher in environmental science, specializing in the occurrence and control of environmental pathogens, for over 10 years. He has worked in a variety of settings, including homes, offices, hotels, healthcare facilities, transportation, restaurants, agriculture, and fire stations. Currently, Dr. Sexton is evaluating the applied use of disinfectants and sanitizers on porous and non-porous surfaces in the healthcare arena. In addition to research, Dr. Sexton has a large involvement in community outreach. For the past 7 years, he has regularly spoken at local K-12 schools, after-school programs, and other community events to help kids and adults develop an interest in science. Presentations showcase the importance of hygiene and simple interventions to minimize risk of infection.

 

Research Specialist

Jennifer Pearce-Walker

Jennifer focuses on the transport of microbial hazards through environmental systems and how their presence impacts the health and safety of the community. Specifically, her interests include microbial water quality in irrigation, drinking, and environmental water systems and the application of quantitative microbial risk assessment to water safety and healthcare settings. Her passion lies in collaborative efforts to understand exposure pathways and inform useful tools that can improve the day-to-day wellbeing of the public.

 
 
 

Program Coordinator

Ashton Norman