The CEHS Global Environmental Health Sciences Program

The CEHS has a vibrant and extensive global program in environmental health with strong ties to researchers in Thailand, Singapore, Bangladesh, China, the Pacific Islands and South America, with some collaborations dating back almost 50 years.  The CEHS Global Environmental Health Sciences Program gives CEHS researchers access to populations that are heavily exposed to forms of air and water pollution that are quantitatively and qualitatively different from exposures typically encountered in the United States.  It also give us access to populations that experience infectious disease that are rare in our country.  The Program also gives us the opportunity to test drive CEHS technology and disseminate it to partner countries in need of novel tools to evaluate human and ecosystem exposures and responses to toxins and toxicants.  Moreover, the presence of CEHS researchers generally helps build capacity in developing world countries, hence improving overall human welfare, as well as human health. 

The flagship global program is the collaboration that has existed since 1967 with the Kingdom of Thailand.  That partnership first established the relationship between aflatoxin exposures in the food supply with liver cancer risk assessed from cancer registry data. More recently, this relationship defined the molecular basis for high sensitivity of young animals to aflatoxin and, further, established biomarkers of exposure of newborns to environmental arsenic liberated into the water supply from mining operations.  The strong research program with Thailand later spawned collaborations in the classroom, culminating in a 30-student per year PhD program at the Chulabhorn Graduate Institute (CGI).  Doctoral degrees are offered in Environmental Toxicology, Applied Biological Sciences and Chemical Biology.  Students in the program are drawn from more than a dozen countries in the developing world.  Each summer, western professors travel to Thailand to teach and participate in collaborative research activities.  Faculty from MIT, Johns Hopkins University and Dartmouth University partner with Thai colleagues, and are responsible for teaching the core curriculum of the CGI.  The MIT-Thailand program also hosts the ThaiROP, the Thailand Research Opportunities Program, in which MIT undergraduates are hosted in Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI) laboratories for ten-week research internships.  As a reciprocal gesture, the CEHS hosts CRI researchers and CGI students for internships of six to twelve months.  These internships provide International students and research staff with a global experience often with the tools needed to expedite their research in their home countries.  ThaiROP and the CRI/CGI exchange program are managed by the CEHS. 

The SMART (Singapore-MIT Alliance in Research and Technology) Centre is our second major International venture and serves as an intellectual hub for research interactions between MIT and Singapore scientists and engineers primarily at the National University of Singapore.  The Singapore Program has some overlap in staffing with the MIT-Thailand Program, which is convenient because Bangkok and Singapore are geographically close to one another.  One part of this program focuses on issues of clean water and is led by CEHS engineers.  A second aspect is run by CEHS biologists and chemists and emphasizes the roles of infectious agents on human health.  As with the Thailand program, SMART has both in-Singapore research and at-MIT internships as key elements.

A dozen of the CEHS faculty participate in our global programs, including Professors Sasisekharan, Essigmann, Wogan, Alm, Samson, Tannenbaum, Dedon, Engelward, Harvey, Hemond, Han, So and Tidor.