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A little bit of history repeating

Led by Baetjer Professor Marsha Wills-Karp, the new Department of Environmental Health and Engineering formalizes a longstanding partnership between the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Whiting School of Engineering.
Posted July 14, 2017
Anna M. Baetjer Professor Marsha Wills-Karp is leading the newly formalized Department of Environmental Health and Engineering. Anna M. Baetjer Professor Marsha Wills-Karp is leading the newly formalized Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.

How could low-emission vehicles affect the national rates of common respiratory illnesses? Marsha Wills-Karp, the Anna M. Baetjer Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, is bringing engineers and public health researchers together to tackle this problem and many more. The collaboration under Wills-Karp is starting strong, thanks to a $1 million gift from two Hopkins alumni to support seven research projects, including two air-quality-sensor studies around the city of Baltimore.

"The simplest way to put it," Wills-Karp says, "is that public health scientists can identify problems, and engineers are the solution arm. Engineers and public health folks don't necessarily speak the same language, but when they work together on concrete problems, they can have a huge impact on areas of the environment that we're all concerned with: air, water, soil."

Wills-Karp's professorship is named for Anna M. Baetjer, a pioneer in the fields of occupational health and industrial hygiene whose career included discovering the relationship between occupation and lung cancer. During her time at Hopkins, which spanned over six decades, she established one of the nation's first research and training programs in environmental toxicology. Baetjer's trailblazing legacy lives on through Wills-Karp, a pioneer in her own right. One of the country's leading asthma scholars, her research has made significant contributions to how we understand the molecular mechanisms of asthma. 

The Department of Environmental Health and Engineering is the latest development in a long-standing collaboration between the Whiting School of Engineering and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Abel Wolman, a Hopkins alumnus and professor, formed a relationship between the two schools as he conducted his groundbreaking work in water purification in the early 20th century.

Read more in the summer issues of the Johns Hopkins Engineering Magazine and the Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine.