NEWS | March 4, 2016

UC Davis environmental health researcher receives grant for DDT study


UC Davis environmental scientist Michele La Merrill is among five exceptional early-career scientists receiving grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for research on how substances in the environment could harm human health.

Michele La Merrill  Michele La Merrill

La Merrill, an assistant professor of environmental toxicology, will receive more than $1.3 million over five years to explore whether exposure to the pesticide DDT before birth could lead to insulin resistance during childhood. The condition, which can lead to an overproduction of insulin by the pancreas and high glucose levels, is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

The new funding is provided through the highly competitive Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) grant program, created to support researchers in the formative stages of their careers.

“A ONES award gives promising environmental health scientists the opportunity to pursue innovative ideas early in their careers,” said Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS director. “When funding for research becomes scarce, young innovators start looking for other jobs. This is one of the best tools we have to retain their talent for research.”

La Merrill was also the first scholar selected to receive career-development funding, training and mentorship through the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center, which is dedicated to cross-disciplinary collaborations on links between environmental toxicants and disease, along with preventions and policies that protect communities from unhealthy exposures.

“One of our center’s priorities is to foster younger investigators by linking them with mentors and lab resources to turn their ideas into robust research projects,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, director of the Environmental Health Sciences Center, professor of epidemiology and environmental health, and vice chair for research in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis. “We are thrilled that the center gave Dr. La Merrill’s creative work the kickstart needed to bring it to this level of national recognition.”

La Merrill’s project is funded by the NIEHS, one of the National Institutes of Health, through grant R01ES024946.

Additional resources

More information on the research of Michele La Merrill:

More information about the NIEHS:

More information about the UC Davis Department of Environmental Toxicology:

More information about the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center: