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Paige Lawrence and Irfan Rahman Recognized at Opening Convocation

Friday, September 7, 2018

At Opening Convocation on September 6, 2018, Paige Lawrence received the award for Outstanding T32 Program Director. This award is presented to the T32 principal investigator with the best impact score for a new grant or competing renewal in the past year.

Irfan Rahman was also recognized at Convocation for receiving a Dean’s Professorship this past year. Dean’s Professorships were established in 1982 and are designated by the Dean to be assigned to individuals of outstanding research excellence.

Congratulations to both!

Paige Lawrence

Paige Lawrence, Ph.D.

Irfan Rahman

Irfan Rahman, Ph.D.

Lawrence Lab article chosen as one of the NIEHS “Papers of the month"

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Lawrence Lab's article, "Developmental Exposure to a Mixture of 23 Chemicals Associated With Unconventional Oil and Gas Operations Alters the Immune System of Mice", has been chose as one of NIEHS "Papers of the month."

The paper deals with prenatal exposure to chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas (UOG) extraction, also known as fracking, affected immune system development in mice, according to a new study by NIEHS grantees. The study provided the first evidence that early-life exposure to a mixture of 23 commonly used UOG chemicals may hinder the ability to ward off diseases later in life.

Congratulations to the entire lab, Dr. Lawrence and co-authors, including Drs. Steve Georas, Jacques Robert and Susan Nagel (Missouri).

Read More: Lawrence Lab article chosen as one of the NIEHS “Papers of the month"

Fracking the Immune System

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Amid predictions of a second fracking boom in the U.S., the first evidence that chemicals found in ground water near fracking sites can impair the immune system was published today in Toxicological Sciences. The study, performed in mice, suggests that exposure to fracking chemicals during pregnancy may diminish female offspring's ability to fend off diseases, like multiple sclerosis.

Fracking, also called hydraulic fracturing or unconventional oil and gas extraction, involves pumping millions of gallons of chemical-laden water deep underground to fracture rock and release oil and gas. About 200 chemicals have been measured in waste water and surface or ground water in fracking-dense regions and several studies have reported higher rates of diseases, like acute lymphocytic leukemia and asthma attacks, among residents in these areas.

"Our study reveals that there are links between early life exposure to fracking-associated chemicals and damage to the immune system in mice," said Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., chair of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who led the study. "This discovery opens up new avenues of research to identify, and someday prevent, possible adverse health effects in people living near fracking sites."

Read More: Fracking the Immune System

Franchini and Meyers Win Awards

Friday, August 11, 2017

Franchini Photo

Anthony Franchini, Ph.D.

Congratulations to Anthony Franchini, Ph.D. and graduate student Jessica Meyers for both winning awards this year. Dr. Fanchini won two awards, Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Travel Award and Best Presentation by a Postdoctoral Trainee Award, for his presentation, "Identification of novel gene targets of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor in dendritic cells in the context of viral infection."

Meyers Photo

Jessica Meyers

Jessica won 1st place for Best Presentation by a Student, for her presentation "Aryl hydrocarbon receptor activation during development reduces dendritic cell function later in life." Both are currently doing research in Dr. Paige Lawrence's lab. Congrats to both!

B. Paige Lawrence Appointed Environmental Medicine Chair

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


B. Paige Lawrence, Ph.D.

After a yearlong national search, Mark Taubman, M.D., dean of SMD and CEO of URMC, has named B. Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., as the new chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine. Lawrence, who has been a faculty member in the department for 11 years and has directed the Rochester Toxicology Program for the past 6 years, will officially begin her post on August 1.

“Environmental health research has led to policy changes and clinical care advances that have significantly improved people’s health over the past 50 years,” said Taubman. “Our medical center has a strong history of translating environmental research discoveries into improved care for patients, and I’m confident that Dr. Lawrence will help the department to continue its leadership in this critically important field of medicine.”

The Department of Environmental Medicine focuses on advancing discoveries about how the environment contributes to health and disease. Basic research led by department faculty focuses on how environmental factors influence a broad spectrum of diseases and contributes to innovative approaches to prevent or ameliorate exposure-based health consequences. The department also administers several nationally regarded, interdisciplinary programs, including the Environmental Health Sciences Center, Toxicology Program, Lung Biology and Disease Program, Life Sciences Learning Center, and two clinical programs in occupational medicine.

Lawrence is currently a professor of Environmental Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology at URMC and is a widely recognized expert on how environmental factors influence the development and function of the immune system. Her lab has implicated certain chemicals in dampening infants’ responses to vaccines, and has shown that maternal exposures to certain chemicals have enduring effects on the immune system, such as a poorer ability to fight infections, and a greater likelihood of developing autoimmune and allergic diseases.

“As testimony to the national and international reputation of our department faculty, we had many exceptional applicants from well-known academic institutions, and Dr. Lawrence stood out among them all,” said Jeffrey Lyness, M.D., senior associate dean for Academic Affairs at URSMD, who led the search. “She is a highly accomplished scientist and mentor who has a unique ability to engage and inspire colleagues to develop a collective vision for their work.”

Lawrence plans to bring this collective outlook to her new role. Though she has many ideas of new opportunities for the department, she looks forward to working with the faculty to develop a shared vision for the future. This model, she believes, will allow her to truly capitalize on the strengths of the department and its nationally acclaimed faculty.

“Part of the role of chair is to help your faculty get where they want to go,” said Lawrence. “I hope to leverage existing strengths of our department and center faculty, who have phenomenal reputations nationally, and integrate the department even more strongly with the URMC strategic vision.”

In addition to becoming the chair of Environmental Medicine, Lawrence will take over as director of the Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC), a center of excellence sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a part of the NIH. The center, which was established in 1975, is now in its 43rd year of continual funding, a testament to the EHSC’s scientific achievements and history of excellent leadership.

The EHSC supports researchers who are investigating how materials in the environment – such as lead, air and water pollutants, pesticides, and nanoparticles – affect human health. EHSC investigators also study the underlying mechanisms of toxic substances and how early life exposures may be transmitted across generations and contribute to diseases like Alzheimer’s or cancer.

For the past year, Debbie Cory-Slechta, Ph.D., has served as acting chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine and director of the EHSC. She stepped into that role when Thomas Gasiewicz, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine and chair of the department from 2001 to 2016, stepped down to focus on his health after suffering a stroke.

Lawrence earned an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from Skidmore College and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cell Biology at Cornell University. She received specialized training in immunology and toxicology during a post-doctoral fellowship at Oregon State University. In addition to leading a well-funded research program, she is well known for her commitment to education, mentoring, and science education. She has received three mentoring awards, and serves regularly on national committees that focus on graduate education, career development, and mentoring.