Study Committee

Joan Wennstrom Bennett (Committee Chair)
Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology and Pathology
Rutgers University

Joan Wennstrom Bennett, PhD, (NAS) has been a Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology and Pathology at Rutgers University since 2006. Prior to coming to Rutgers, she was on the faculty at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, for over thirty years. The Bennett laboratory studies the genetics and physiology of filamentous fungi. In addition to mycotoxins and other secondary metabolites, research focuses on the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by fungi. These low molecular weight compounds are responsible for the familiar odors associated with the molds and mushrooms. Some VOCs function as semiochemicals for insects while others serve as developmental signals for fungi. The Bennett lab has tested individual fungal VOCs in model systems and found that 1-octen-3-ol (“mushroom alcohol”) is a neurotoxin in Drosophila melanogaster and causes growth retardation in Arabidopsis thaliana. It also inhibits growth of the fungus that causes “white nose syndrome” in bat populations. In other studies, the Bennett lab has demonstrated that VOCs from living cultures of Trichoderma, a known biocontrol fungus, can enhance plant growth. Investigations on the mechanistic aspects of fungal VOC action are underway using a yeast knock out library. Dr. Bennett also has an active interest in fungal genomics and has been involved in genome projects for Aspergillus flavus, A. fumigatus, A. oryzae and Penicillium expansum. Dr. Bennett was Associate Vice President for the Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics (“SciWomen”) at Rutgers from 2006-2014. She is a past Editor-in-Chief of Mycologia; a past Vice President of the British Mycological Society and the International Union of Microbiological Societies; as well as past President of the American Society for Microbiology and the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005.

Jonathan Allen
Bioinformatics Scientist
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Jonathan Allen, PhD, is a Bioinformatics Scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His research focuses on the development and application of new software tools to address various genome sequence analysis problems, including prediction of genetic virulence markers in viruses, detecting genetic engineering in bacteria, and eukaryotic gene prediction. Dr. Allen is currently working with the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array, which is capable of comparing the DNA of microorganisms in a specific location or environment with a vast library of stored viral, bacterial and fungal genetic sequences.

Jean Cox-Ganser
Research Team Leader, Field Studies Branch
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Jean Cox-Ganser, PhD, is the research team leader for the Field Studies Branch, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). For the past 15 years she has been principal investigator for research studies on the respiratory health effects of dampness and mold in office buildings and schools, and is author or co-author on over 20 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters and reports resulting from this research. Dr. Cox-Ganser is one of the most knowledgeable and influential researchers in the world on dampness, mold and respiratory disease. Of special interest is her many years of experience guiding and participating in detailed and technically rigorous health hazard investigations of buildings. Indoor ecology is interesting, but knowledge of building structures, and their operation is equally interesting and important in understanding the indoor biome.

Jack Gilbert
Professor, Department of Surgery
University of Chicago

Jack A. Gilbert, PhD earned his PhD from Unilever and Nottingham University, UK in 2002, and received his postdoctoral training at Queens University, Canada. He subsequently returned to the UK in 2005 to Plymouth Marine Laboratory at a senior scientist until his move to Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago in 2010. Currently, Professor Gilbert is in Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago, and is Group Leader for Microbial Ecology at Argonne National Laboratory. He is also Associate Director of the Institute of Genomic and Systems Biology, Research Associate at the Field Museum of Natural History, and Senior Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Dr. Gilbert uses molecular analysis to test fundamental hypotheses in microbial ecology. He has authored more than 200 peer reviewed publications and book chapters on metagenomics and approaches to ecosystem ecology. He is currently working on generating observational and mechanistic models of microbial communities in natural, urban, built and human ecosystems. He is on the advisory board of the Genomic Standards Consortium (, and is the founding Editor in Chief of mSystems journal. In 2014 he was recognized on Crain’s Business Chicago’s 40 Under 40 List, and in 2015 he was listed as one of the 50 most influential scientists by Business Insider, and in the Brilliant Ten by Popular Scientist.

Diane Gold
Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Professor, Department of Environmental Health
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health

Diane Gold, MD is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a Professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the relationships between environmental exposures and the incidence or severity of respiratory diseases, including asthma. The environmental exposures considered include indoor allergens, including fungi, smoking, outdoor ozone and particles. She investigates the environmental exposures which may explain socioeconomic, cultural and gender differences that have been observed in asthma severity. These include perinatal exposures and family stress as well as exposure to the allergens and pollutants mentioned above. She is also interested in the cardiopulmonary effects of particles on the elderly.

Jessica Green
Associate Professor, Institute of Ecology and Evolution
Director, BioBE Center
University of Oregon

Jessica Green, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Oregon and an applied and theoretical ecologist interested in biological diversity and asking questions about patterns in the distribution and abundance of species. The overarching aim of her work is to understand the forces that organize heterogeneous ecological systems, and to apply this understanding to help inform conservation policy and management decisions. She uses interdisciplinary approaches at the interface of microbiology, ecology, mathematics, informatics, and computer science. Current systems of study include soil microbial communities in marine, alpine, and mediterranean systems. Specific attention has been directed to exploring patterns and principles that may be common to microbes, plants, and animals.

Charles Haas
LD Betz Professor of Environmental Engineering
Drexel University

Charles N. Haas, PhD is the L.D. Betz Professor of Environmental Engineering and head of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, at Drexel University, where he has been since 1991. He also has courtesy appointments in the Department of Emergency Medicine of the Drexel University College of Medicine and in the School of Public Health.  He received his BS (Biology) and MS (Environmental Engineering) from the Illinois Institute of Technology and his PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He has served on the faculties of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Illinois Institute of Technology prior to joining Drexel.  He co-directed the USEPA/DHS University Cooperative Center of Excellence – Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment (CAMRA).  He is a fellow of the International Water Association, American Academy for the Advancement of Science, the Society for Risk Analysis, the American Society of Civil Engineers the American Academy of Microbiology and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.  He is a Board Certified Environmental Engineering Member by eminence of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. He has received the Dr. John Leal Award of the American Water Works Association and the Clarke Water Prize. Over his career, Professor Haas has specialized in the assessment of risk from and control of human exposure to pathogenic microorganisms, and in particular the treatment of water and wastewater to minimize microbial risk to human health.  Professor Haas has served on numerous panels of the National Research Council.  He is a past member of the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Academies, and the US EPA Board of Scientific Counselors.

Mark Hernandez
Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering
University of Colorado, Boulder

Mark Hernandez, PhD, PE, is a Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His research interests lie at the cusp of molecular biology and civil engineering, focusing on the characterization and control of biological air pollution, both natural and anthropogenic. His recent work has focused on engineering disinfection systems for airborne bacteria and viruses and on tracking bioaerosols through natural weather patterns and catastrophic events (such as Hurricane Katrina). He is a registered professional civil engineer and an active technical consultant in the commercial waste treatment and industrial hygiene sectors. Dr. Hernandez serves as an editor of Aerosol Science and Technology and is the director of the Colorado Diversity Initiative. He received his PhD and MS in environmental engineering and his BS in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.

Robert Holt
Eminent Scholar
Arthur R. Marshall, Jr. Chair in Ecology
University of Florida

Robert Holt, PhD, is an Eminent Scholar and the Arthur R. Marshall, Jr. Chair in Ecology at the University of Florida. Dr. Holt’s research focuses on theoretical and conceptual issues at the population and community levels of ecological organization, and the task of linking ecology with evolutionary biology. He focuses on basic research as well as bringing modern ecological theory to bear on significant applied problems, particularly in conservation biology. He approaches ecology by moving beyond traditional analyses of single species or interacting species pairs by focusing on an immediate level of complexity (community modules), which are small sets of interacting species, patterns of interactions found across many ecosystems. He is currently researching how predators influence infectious disease dynamics in host populations that are also prey.

Ronald Latanision
Senior Fellow of Materials and Corrosion Engineering

Ronald Latanision, PhD, (NAE) is a Senior Fellow of Materials and Corrosion at Exponent. Prior to joining Exponent, Dr. Latanision was the Director of The H.H. Uhlig Corrosion Laboratory in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at M.I.T., and held joint faculty appointments in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and in the Department of Nuclear Engineering. He led the School of Engineering’s Materials Processing Center at MIT as its Director from 1985 to 1991. He is now an Emeritus Professor at MIT. In April 2015, he was appointed an Adjunct Professor in the Key Laboratory of Nuclear Materials and Safety Assessment of the Institute of Metal Research of The Chinese Academy of Sciences. In addition, he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of ASM International, NACE International, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. From 1983–1988, Dr. Latanision was the first holder of the Shell Distinguished Chair in Materials Science. He hosted the annual Siemens Science and Technology Competition on the MIT campus for more than ten years. Dr. Latanision was a founder of Altran Materials Engineering Corporation, established in 1992.

Dr. Latanision’s research interests are focused largely in the areas of materials processing and in the corrosion of metals and other materials in aqueous (ambient as well as high temperature and pressure) environments. He specializes in corrosion science and engineering with particular emphasis on materials selection for contemporary and advanced engineering systems and in failure analysis. His expertise extends to electrochemical systems and processing technologies, ranging from fuel cells and batteries to supercritical water power generation and waste destruction. Dr. Latanision’s research interests include stress corrosion cracking and hydrogen embrittlement of metals and alloys, water and ionic permeation through thin polymer films, photoelectrochemistry, and the study of aging phenomena/life prediction in engineering materials and systems. Dr. Latanision is a member of the International Corrosion Council and serves as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Corrosion Reviews, with Professor Noam Eliaz of Tel-Aviv University. He is Editor-in-Chief of the NAE Quarterly, The Bridge.

Dr. Latanision has served as a science adviser to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology in Washington, D.C. He has also served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Massachusetts Office of Science and Technology, an executive branch office created to strengthen the Commonwealth’s science and technology infrastructure with emphasis directed toward future economic growth. Dr. Latanision has served as a member of the National Materials Advisory Board of the National Research Council and now serves as a member of the NRC’s Standing Committee on Chemical Demilitarization. In June of 2002, Dr. Latanision was appointed by President George W. Bush to membership on the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, and was reappointed for a second four-year term by President Barack Obama.

Hal Levin
Research Architect
Building Ecology Research Group

Hal Levin, BArch, is a Research Architect with Building Ecology Research Group. Mr. Levin has conducted research and provided consultation in the areas of building impacts on occupant health and comfort as well as on the larger environment. For almost 30 years he has been involved in research and consulting that include the integration of knowledge about indoor and outdoor air pollution as well as other risk factors into the design of residential, educational, and commercial buildings and communities. His work includes many efforts to design buildings with minimal negative impacts on occupants or the larger environment including the design of its ventilation, building materials selection, energy consumption, and total environmental quality. He has been a strong proponent of life-cycle analysis and risk assessment as indicators of the sustainability of alternative designs, practices, and buildings. Mr. Levin is a contributor to chapters in several books, including: Indoor Air Quality Handbook (McGraw-Hill, 2001) and is a former Associate Editor of the journal Indoor Air.

Vivian Loftness
University Professor
School of Architecture
Carnegie Mellon University

Vivian Loftness, FAIA, LEED AP, is a University Professor and former Head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. She is an internationally renowned researcher, author, and educator with over thirty years of focus on environmental design and sustainability, advanced building systems integration, climate and regionalism in architecture, and design for performance in the workplace of the future. She has served on ten Academies panels and the Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment and has given four Congressional testimonies on sustainability. Vivian is the recipient of the National Educator Honor Award from the American Institute of Architecture Students and the Sacred Tree Award from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). She received her BS and MS in Architecture from MIT and served on the National Boards of the USGBC, AIA Committee on the Environment, Green Building Alliance, Turner Sustainability, and the Global Assurance Group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. She is a registered architect and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Karen Nelson
J. Craig Venter Institute

Karen Nelson, PhD, is the President of the Rockville Campus of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) where she has worked for the past 15 years. She was formerly the Director of Human Microbiology and Metagenomics in the Department of Human Genomic Medicine at the JCVI. Dr. Nelson has extensive experience in microbial ecology, microbial genomics, microbial physiology, and metagenomics. Since joining the JCVI legacy institutes, Dr. Nelson has led several genomic and metagenomic efforts, was involved in the analysis of the microbiota of the human stomach and gastrointestinal tract, and led the first human metagenomics study on fecal material derived from three individuals which was published in 2006. Additional ongoing studies in her group include metagenomic approaches to study the ecology of the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals, reference genome sequencing and analysis, studies with non-human primates, and studies on the relationship between the microbiome and various human and animal disease conditions. She has authored or co-authored over 100 peer reviewed publications and edited three books, and is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journals Microbial Ecology and Advances in Microbial Ecology. She also serves on the Editorial Boards of BMC Genomics, GigaScience, and the Central European Journal of Biology. She was also a member of the NRC Standing Committee on Biodefense for the U.S. Department of Defense, and has just joined the Board on Life Sciences. She is also a Fellow of the American Society for Microbiology. Dr. Nelson received her undergraduate degree from the University of the West Indies, and her PhD from Cornell University.

Jordan Peccia
Associate Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering
Yale University

Jordan Peccia, PhD, is an associate professor of environmental engineering at Yale University and the director of Yale environmental engineering undergraduate studies. His research group applies classical and molecular biology to solve environmental problems. The current research thrusts in his laboratory include: (i) applying molecular biology techniques to investigate the diversity, origin, and fate of airborne biological material, (ii) development of functional genomic approaches for controlling microalgae growth in biodiesel production, (iii) understanding human pathogen exposure and in vitro toxicity responses associated with land applied biosolids (sewage sludge).

Andrew Persily
Chief, Energy and Environment Division
National Institute of Standards and Technology

Andrew Persily, PhD, is Chief, Energy and Environment Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and has performed research into indoor air quality and ventilation since the late 1970s. His work has included the development and application of measurement techniques to evaluate airflows and indoor air contaminant levels in a variety of building types, including large, mechanically ventilated buildings and single-family dwellings. These evaluation procedures include tracer gas techniques for measuring air change rates and air distribution effectiveness, contaminant concentrations measurements, and envelope airtightness. He has contributed to the development and application of multi-zone airflow and contaminant dispersal models. Dr. Persily was a vice-president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) from 2007 to 2009, and is past chair of ASHRAE SSPC 62.1, responsible for the revision of the ASHRAE Ventilation Standard 62. He is currently chair of Standard 189.1, Design of High-Performance Green Buildings. He is a past chair of ASTM Subcommittee E6.41 on Air Leakage and Ventilation Performance and past vice-chair of subcommittee D22.05 on Indoor Air Quality. He was named an ASTM Fellow and an ISIAQ Fellow in 2002, and an ASHRAE Fellow in 2004.

Jizhong Zhou
George Lynn Cross Research Professor
Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology
Director, Institute for Environmental Genetics (IEG)
University of Oklahoma

Jizhong Zhou, PhD, is Presidential Professor and the Director of the Institute for Environmental Genomics at the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Zhou’s research focuses on environmental microbiology across different organizational levels ranging from genomes to ecosystems, further divided into the following areas: (1) functional genomics (linking genes to functions through understanding gene functions and regulatory networks by focusing on several important groups of microorganisms); (2) genomics technologies (developing integrated high throughput experimental and bioinformatic technologies such as GeoChip for microbial community analysis); (3) ecological genomics (linking community structure to ecosystem functioning through applications of high throughput integrating cutting-edge genomic technologies to address frontier research questions related to bioenergy, global changes, carbon sequestration, environmental remediation, industrial and agricultural practices, ecological theories, and public health, (4) metagenomics and microbial ecology (using high-throughput gene sequencing and associated genomics technologies to examine microbial community diversity at various habitats, microbial biogeography and mechanisms shaping microbial diversity patterns; (5) evolutionary genomics (linking genotypes to phenotypes through long-term laboratory experimental evolution, and comparative sequence analysis) and (6) bioinformatics and systems biology (developing novel ecological network and mathematical modeling approaches to address questions related to systems biology and ecosystem sciences important to environments, energy as well as human health).