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B. Paige Lawrence, PHD

Meet The Scientist 


Chair, Department of Environmental Medicine Director, Environmental Health Sciences Center

Environmental Influences on Our and Future Generations’ Health

How do early life exposures to environmental aspects set a health trajectory for your entire life? In her lab, Dr. B. Paige Lawrence takes on this question, examining how pollutants, natural products, and therapeutic agents influence the way the immune system works, alter health, and contribute to disease. 

Lawrence is particularly interested in how early environmental exposures affect our immune systems and health as we age and can be passed on to future generations. Lowered immune systems increase risk of infectious diseases while an overactive immune system is responsible for many allergic and autoimmune diseases. “It’s all about balance,” says Lawrence. Many common diseases have, at their core, an imbalance in the immune system’s function. 

“Environmental factors can mimic what molecule receptors normally do which can create too much of a good thing. Other times, something from our environment blocks a normal pathway from working correctly,” Lawrence says. “The idea that things from our environment control our biology is very interesting to me.” 

The public health implications of her work are important, especially for at-risk populations. One of the most significant premises of this research focuses on a mother’s exposure to pollutants while she is pregnant and how it may influence her unborn child’s risk for preventable diseases later in life. “We want to figure out how this happens because then we can help inform new strategies to prevent disease,” Lawrence says. 

Lawrence’s lab is in the Department of Environmental Medicine and she is also part of the Rochester Environmental Health Science Center, one of only 23 National Institute of Environmental Health Science’s Core Centers of Excellence in the United States. It focuses on using multidisciplinary approaches to preventing disease by fostering cutting-edge research and translating research findings to improve public health.