Emily S Barrett, Ph.D.

George G. Rhoads Endowed Legacy Professor Vice Chair, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology – Epidemiology Concentration Director – Rutgers School of Public HealthEOHSI – Environmental and Population Health Biosciences Division
EOHSI 326 170 Frelinghuysem Road Piscataway NJ 08854 Work Phone: 848-445-0197 Website: Emily Barrett’s Google Scholar Profile
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Biographical Info

Dr. Barrett is an Associate Professor in the Rutgers University School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology. She received an A.B. in Biology and English from Amherst College and a Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California-Los Angeles. Before coming to Rutgers, she was on the faculty at the University of Rochester, where she remains an Adjunct Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Public Health Sciences.

Research Areas

Dr. Barrett’s primary research focus is on the early origins of health and disease and how exposures early in life shape our subsequent health and developmental trajectories. Because gestation is a particularly sensitive period when body systems are first forming, exposures during this period may have profound downstream effects. Dr. Barrett is particularly interested in how prenatal exposures to environmental chemicals and psychosocial stressors impact pregnancy and children’s development. She leads several ongoing NIH-funded pregnancy cohort studies and is actively involved in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program, the largest study of the health and well-being of United States children. Through these studies, Dr. Barrett and colleagues are currently investigating the placental, hormonal, immune, epigenetic, and microbial mechanisms by which early life exposures impact downstream health.

Dr. Barrett studies the early origins of health and disease, or how exposures early in life shape our subsequent health and developmental trajectories.  Because gestation is a particularly sensitive period when body systems are first forming, insults or exposures during this period may have profound downstream effects. Much of Dr. Barrett’s research focuses on prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors, agents which interfere with the normal activity of hormones in the body. Phthalates are a class of endocrine disrupting chemicals that are found widely in food and consumer products. Nearly 100% of Americans have measurable levels of phthalate metabolites in their bodies, yet our current understanding of how these chemicals affect our bodies is limited. In The Infant Development and the Environment Study (TIDES), Dr. Barrett and colleagues are studying how prenatal exposure to these chemicals impacts reproductive and neuro-development, and whether the effects may differ in boys and girls.

Other exposures, such as psychosocial stress, disrupt early development as well. Numerous studies have examined how stress during pregnancy may alter cortisol activity and “program” neurodevelopmental, metabolic, and immune outcomes. Much less is known about the extent to which prenatal stress (and related constructs, like anxiety) may also act through other pathways and mechanisms to affect the fetus. For example, evidence from animal models and humans suggests that prenatal stress may alter in utero androgen activity, thereby affecting sex-dependent development in the offspring. Dr. Barrett and collaborators are exploring this hypothesis in the Understanding Prenatal Signals and Infant Development (UPSIDE) Study, with an eye towards better understanding the early origins of sex differences. Concurrent work in this cohort will examine how maternal inflammation during pregnancy contributes to infant and child development. One of the major themes of this research is understanding the role of the placenta in communicating messages about stressors from mother to fetus (and vice versa).

In addition to her work on prenatal exposures, Dr. Barrett is also interested in factors that impact fertility in adulthood, particularly in women. She is involved in projects focused on how psychosocial stress and environmental chemical exposures affect reproductive hormone concentrations and pregnancy outcomes. Additional ongoing work examines possible biomarkers of the prenatal hormonal milieu that can be assessed postnatally, and their relationship to measures of adult reproductive health.

Dr. Barrett’s work is funded by the National Institutes of Health (R01HD083369; R01ES016863; UG3OD023349; UG3OD023271; P30ES001247) and the Mae Stone Goode Foundation.

Research Highlights

  • Assessment of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals during pregnancy in relation to reproductive and neurodevelopment in childhood
  • Examination of maternal stress in relation to sex differences in the offspring
  • Investigation of novel biomarkers of the prenatal hormonal milieu in humans
  • Exploration of placental morphology and function in relation to prenatal exposures and postnatal outcomes
  • Identification of factors contributing to reproductive health and ovarian function in fertile and infertile women

Scholarly Activities

  • Editorial Board: Hormones and Behavior, Fertility and Sterility (Top 3 reviewer, 2015-2016)
  • Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Scholar (NIH K12; 2011-2014)
  • Environmental Health News Science Communications Fellow (2009-2010)
  • Community Advisory Board, URMC Environmental Health Sciences Center (2009-2016)
  • Board of Directors, Healthy Baby Network (2015-2016)

Recent Publications

  1. Kautz, A, Meng, Y, Yeh, KL, Peck, R, Brunner, J, Best, M, Fernandez, ID, Miller, RK, Barrett, ES, Groth, SW et al.. Dietary Intake of Nutrients Involved in Serotonin and Melatonin Synthesis and Prenatal Maternal Sleep Quality and Affective Symptoms. J Nutr Metab. 2024;2024 :6611169. doi: 10.1155/2024/6611169. PubMed PMID:39015539 PubMed Central PMC11250910
  2. Barrett, ES, Ames, JL, Eick, SM, Peterson, AK, Rivera-Núñez, Z, Starling, AP, Buckley, JP, ECHO Cohort Consortium. Advancing Understanding of Chemical Exposures and Maternal-child Health Through the U.S. Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program: A Scoping Review. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2024; :. doi: 10.1007/s40572-024-00456-5. PubMed PMID:38985433
  3. Wang, S, Barrett, E, Hicks, MH, Martsenkovskyi, D, Holovanova, I, Marchak, O, Ishchenko, L, Haque, U, Fiedler, N. Associations between mental health symptoms, trauma, quality of life and coping in adults living in Ukraine: A cross-sectional study a year after the 2022 Russian invasion. Psychiatry Res. 2024;339 :116056. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2024.116056. PubMed PMID:38968918
  4. Lyall, K, Westlake, M, Musci, R, Gachigi, K, Barrett, ES, Bastain, TM, Bush, NR, Buss, C, Camargo, CA Jr, Croen, LA et al.. Association of Maternal Fish Consumption and Omega-3 Supplement Use During Pregnancy With Child Autism-Related Outcomes: Results from a Cohort Consortium Analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2024; :. doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2024.06.013. PubMed PMID:38960320
  5. Masterson, EE, Riederer, AM, Loftus, CT, Wallace, ER, Szpiro, AA, Simpson, CD, Muralidharan, R, Trasande, L, Barrett, ES, Nguyen, RHN et al.. Urinary polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) metabolite concentrations in three pregnancy cohorts from 7 U.S. study sites. PLoS One. 2024;19 (7):e0305004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0305004. PubMed PMID:38959439 PubMed Central PMC11221841
  6. Wang, X, Lin, Y, Ge, Y, Craig, E, Liu, X, Miller, RK, Thurston, SW, Brunner, J, Barrett, ES, O’Connor, TG et al.. Systemic oxidative stress levels during the course of pregnancy: Associations with exposure to air pollutants. Environ Pollut. 2024;357 :124463. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2024.124463. PubMed PMID:38942277
  7. Ni, Y, Szpiro, AA, Loftus, CT, Workman, T, Sullivan, A, Wallace, ER, Riederer, AM, Day, DB, Murphy, LE, Nguyen, RHN et al.. Prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and executive functions at school age: Results from a combined cohort study. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2024;260 :114407. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2024.114407. PubMed PMID:38879913
  8. Kinkade, CW, Aleksunes, LM, Brinker, A, Buckley, B, Brunner, J, Wang, C, Miller, RK, O’Connor, TG, Rivera-Núñez, Z, Barrett, ES et al.. Associations between mycoestrogen exposure and sex steroid hormone concentrations in maternal serum and cord blood in the UPSIDE pregnancy cohort. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2024;260 :114405. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2024.114405. PubMed PMID:38878407
  9. Ni, Y, Sullivan, A, Szpiro, AA, Peng, J, Loftus, CT, Hazlehurst, MF, Sherris, A, Wallace, ER, Murphy, LE, Nguyen, RHN et al.. Air Pollution Exposures and Child Executive Function: A U.S. Multi-Cohort Study. Epidemiology. 2024; :. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000001754. PubMed PMID:38871635
  10. Shah, RG, Salafia, CM, Girardi, T, Rukat, C, Brunner, J, Barrett, ES, O’Connor, TG, Misra, DP, Miller, RK, program collaborators for Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes et al.. Maternal affective symptoms and sleep quality have sex-specific associations with placental topography. J Affect Disord. 2024;360 :62-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2024.05.108. PubMed PMID:38806063
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