Meet The Team

Dayane Dueñas Barahona

Hi, my name is Dayane Dueñas Barahona and I serve as the Program Administrator for Jill’s team. In my role I am responsible for the coordination and execution of administrative duties for the Southern California Center for Children’s Environmental Health Translational Research and AIRE Study. Alongside Dr. Elizabeth Kamai, I am designated as a primary point of contact for matters pertaining to community engagement. Lastly, as a senior member of the team I can provide assistance with business office inquiries and fulfilling general requests.

Elizabeth Kamai

Hello, my name is Dr. Elizabeth Kamai and I am an environmental epidemiologist with expertise in environmental chemical exposures, reproductive and pediatric health, and community partnerships. My research projects include characterizing sources and health impacts of air pollution among children in rural California in the AIRE study, and evaluating how living near oil and gas production affects the health of urban Latina women in the BELLA and MADRES studies. I collaborate across multidisciplinary teams to support community-led participatory science, analyze and visualize data, and translate research into actionable resources across environmental justice communities in Southern California.

Arbor Quist

Hello. My name is Arbor Quist and I am a postdoctoral research fellow and environmental epidemiologist who conducts community-engaged research on disasters and industrial pollution. Currently, I am examining how the 2021 Dominguez Channel hydrogen sulfide event affected the health and wellbeing of residents in the Carson area.

Nemmi Cole

Hi! I am Dr. Nemmi Cole and am an ambitious Postdoctoral Scholar Research Associate at the University of Southern California in the Division of Environmental Health, Department of Population and Public Health Sciences of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. My research aims to address unequal environmental exposures to harmful pollutants that affect the built environment and the health of vulnerable environmental justice communities. Currently, I am evaluating the impact of warehouse developments and warehouse-related logistical activities on children’s respiratory health in the Inland Empire region of Southern California. In addition, my research investigates whether racially or socioeconomically marginalized communities in the Inland Empire have disproportionately higher exposure to air pollution attributable to warehouse-related logical activities.

I received my Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering in Tallahassee, FL, where I researched the association between water quality and sociodemographic variabilities.

With a proven track record of excellence in research, a collaborative mindset, and an unwavering dedication to advancing environmental health, I continue to contribute to the scientific community’s understanding of environmental health risks and the development of evidence-based solutions to promote healthier environments for all.

Venezia Ramirez

Hello! My name is Venezia Ramirez (she/ella) and I am a community member from Southeast Los Angeles County and Research Coordinator at the University of Southern California, Division of Environmental Health. I engage with my neighboring communities to advance research capacity and education through community driven research related to lead contamination, neighborhood oil drilling, air pollution, women’s health, and youth empowerment. I continue my commitment to building health equity through my role as Task Force Commissioner in the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health where I translate research findings on local environmental exposures and community identified public health priorities. I received my B.S. in environmental science from the University of California, Los Angeles and aim to continue my work in organizing mindful research initiatives in solidarity with community organizations that are working towards achieving environmental justice. 

Janelle Vidal

Hello! My name is Janelle and I am a Program Specialist at the University of Southern California, Division of Environmental Health. I support the team by managing our communication platforms, including our website and social media pages. I also help coordinate and execute our EH MATTERS Program, which offers USC undergraduate students from under-represented groups the opportunity to engage in community health disparities research. In addition, Dr. Johnston and I co-run the EJ Youth Fellowship Program as part of USC’s Children’s Environmental Health Center. I received my B.S. in Environmental Science with a minor in Environmental Systems and Society from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Zainab Hasan

Hi! I’m Zainab and I work on the Carson Odors and Health Study and a new study about local action in LA surrounding heat and climate equity. My background is in global environmental health and epidemiology.

Zander Silverman

Hi! My name is Zander Silverman (he/him) and I am a research assistant for the USC Environmental Justice Lab focused on community driven research and partnership building in Carson and other South LA communities. I support the research team on their Odor and Health study in Carson exploring the health effects of hydrogen sulfide exposure, odors, and air pollution, and organize workshops for the community centered around environmental justice issues. 

Sandra Serrano

Hello, my name is Sandra and I am a Program Assistant at the University of Southern California, Division of Environmental Health. I work on different projects within the division, including BELLA, the Carson Odors and Health Study, and LAS VOCES.

In my role I conduct outreach in the community, give educational workshops on the chemicals that exist in personal and cleaning products, participate in health fairs, and coordinate breast health workshops. I have also had the opportunity to contact a mobile unit for free mammograms for the community, and many women have benefited from this.

I collaborate with the team to conduct surveys for research studies, translate our material from English to Spanish, look for contacts and strategic places for our projects, give resources to people in need, and participate in educational workshops about the environment.

Oscar Zapien

Hello! My name is Oscar and I am a graduate urban planning student at the USC Price School of Public Policy, working on the Get the Lead Out Project! at the EJ Research Lab. During my time in the research lab, I have been able to combine my experience in urban planning with my interest in environmental justice. 

Shreya Kashyap

My name is Shreya Kashyap, and I am a recent graduate from USC with a degree in Human Biology originally from San Jose, California. In the Environmental Justice Research Lab, I work on the Breast health and the Environment among Latinas in Los Angeles (BELLA) study, investigating the impact of oil and gas drilling and other environmental exposures on breast health. I hope to make a difference by focusing on underrepresented communities like South LA and gain a better understanding of how environmental exposures contribute to healthcare disparities, so this knowledge can be incorporated into preventative and clinical care. Overall, I’m passionate about contributing to a better understanding of environmental health issues by addressing gaps in women’s health research and creating long-term change.

Jessica Santos

Hello! My name is Jessica Santos (she/they), MPH and I combine my multidisciplinary education in public health and chemical engineering to understand how industrial and environmental factors affect health. I completed the EH Matters training program under Dr. Jill Johnston’s mentorship and also completed my MPH practicum with the EJ lab. Now, I am returning full-time as a research coordinator to work on the SCLA PUSH and Exide projects, as well as the new hexavalent chromium study in Paramount, CA.

Meet The Students

Jennifer Ahumada

As an EH Matters Fellow, I create infographics to communicate health risks and study findings. I also train community members to use air pollution monitors and lead solution-focused community workshops. I mainly work on the Odors and Health study addressing the spike in hydrogen sulfide concentrations in the Carson area during late 2021.

Mehaly Bekele

Hello! My name is Mehaly Bekele, and I am a first-generation dual degree student from St. Louis pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Southern California. I am currently working with Dr. Nemmi Cole to study children’s respiratory health being affected by warehouses in the Inland Empire.

Marilyn Perez

Hi I’m Marilyn Perez and I’m an incoming junior majoring in Global Health. I work on the Carson Odors and Health Study, focused on the health impacts of the Dominguez Channel hydrogen sulfide disaster. I follow up with participants 6 months after their first study visit. I also visit Carson to administer surveys and take participants health measurements.

Cindy Santiago

My name is Cindy Santiago, and I am from Perris, CA. I am currently a third-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles, triple majoring in Political Science, Labor Studies, and Sociology with minors in History and Environmental Engineering. Growing up in the Inland Empire, notorious for its worsening air quality, I experienced firsthand the effects of climate change on marginalized communities. My passion for environmental justice arose because seeing my community and others alike being taken advantage of by corporations lit a fire in me to fight for change. I am currently working on a research project analyzing the interconnectedness between air pollution and children’s development in the Inland Empire. In addition, I am conducting a study regarding warehouses’ impact on community members’ health.

Meet The Director

Jill Johnston

Hello! My name is Jill Johnston, PhD and I am an Associate Professor and Director of Community Engagement in the Division of Environmental Health at University of Southern California. My research focuses on addressing unequal exposures to harmful contaminants that affect the health of working poor and communities of color. I engage in collaborations with grassroots organizations to conduct community-engaged action-oriented research at USC to support environmental justice. I work towards strong partnerships with local organizations, community health workers (promotores), policymakers and residents to address air pollution, upstream oil and gas extraction and incompatible land use. Previously I worked as a community organizer on issues of environmental and economic justice in South Texas. I received my PhD in environmental sciences and engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I studied hazardous waste sites and industrial animal production.