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Emily S Barrett Ph.D.

Associate Professor Rutgers University- School of Public HealthEOHSI – Exposure Science and Epidemiology
Work EOHSI 326 170 Frelinghuysem Road Piscataway NJ 08854 Work Phone: 848-445-0197
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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 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. Barrett, ES, Vitek, W. Trying to conceive? Track your cycle-any method will do. Fertil. Steril. 2019;112 (5):815-816. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2019.07.1345. PubMed PMID:31731941
  2. Ferguson, KK, Rosen, EM, Barrett, ES, Nguyen, RHN, Bush, N, McElrath, TF, Swan, SH, Sathyanarayana, S. Joint impact of phthalate exposure and stressful life events in pregnancy on preterm birth. Environ Int. 2019;133 (Pt B):105254. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.105254. PubMed PMID:31675562
  3. Barrett, ES, Padula, AM. Joint Impact of Synthetic Chemical and Non-chemical Stressors on Children's Health. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2019; :. doi: 10.1007/s40572-019-00252-6. PubMed PMID:31637664
  4. Padula, AM, Monk, C, Brennan, PA, Borders, A, Barrett, ES, McEvoy, CT, Foss, S, Desai, P, Alshawabkeh, A, Wurth, R et al.. A review of maternal prenatal exposures to environmental chemicals and psychosocial stressors-implications for research on perinatal outcomes in the ECHO program. J Perinatol. 2019; :. doi: 10.1038/s41372-019-0510-y. PubMed PMID:31616048
  5. Szamreta, EA, Qin, B, Rivera-Núñez, Z, Parekh, N, Barrett, ES, Ferrante, J, Lin, Y, Bandera, EV. Greater adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet is associated with later breast development and menarche in peripubertal girls. Public Health Nutr. 2019; :1-11. doi: 10.1017/S1368980019002349. PubMed PMID:31439055
  6. Arbuckle, TE, MacPherson, S, Barrett, E, Muckle, G, Séguin, JR, Foster, WG, Sathyanarayana, S, Dodds, L, Fisher, M, Agarwal, A et al.. Do stressful life events during pregnancy modify associations between phthalates and anogenital distance in newborns?. Environ. Res. 2019;177 :108593. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.108593. PubMed PMID:31357157
  7. Rivera-Núñez, Z, Barrett, ES, Szamreta, EA, Shapses, SA, Qin, B, Lin, Y, Zarbl, H, Buckley, B, Bandera, EV. Urinary mycoestrogens and age and height at menarche in New Jersey girls. Environ Health. 2019;18 (1):24. doi: 10.1186/s12940-019-0464-8. PubMed PMID:30902092 PubMed Central PMC6431018
  8. van T Erve, TJ, Rosen, EM, Barrett, ES, Nguyen, RHN, Sathyanarayana, S, Milne, GL, Calafat, AM, Swan, SH, Ferguson, KK. Phthalates and Phthalate Alternatives Have Diverse Associations with Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Pregnant Women. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2019;53 (6):3258-3267. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b05729. PubMed PMID:30793895 PubMed Central PMC6487641
  9. Barrett, ES, Mbowe, O, Thurston, SW, Butts, S, Wang, C, Nguyen, R, Bush, N, Redmon, JB, Sheshu, S, Swan, SH et al.. Predictors of Steroid Hormone Concentrations in Early Pregnancy: Results from a Multi-Center Cohort. Matern Child Health J. 2019;23 (3):397-407. doi: 10.1007/s10995-018-02705-0. PubMed PMID:30659461 PubMed Central PMC6397082
  10. Shaffer, RM, Ferguson, KK, Sheppard, L, James-Todd, T, Butts, S, Chandrasekaran, S, Swan, SH, Barrett, ES, Nguyen, R, Bush, N et al.. Maternal urinary phthalate metabolites in relation to gestational diabetes and glucose intolerance during pregnancy. Environ Int. 2019;123 :588-596. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2018.12.021. PubMed PMID:30622083 PubMed Central PMC6347428
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Categories: Faculty, Exposure Science and Epidemiology
Updated 12 months ago.
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