Student Highlight – Jonathan Ali is a PHD Environmental Toxicology student, in the Environmental and Occupational Health concentration.
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio
What brought you to public health? I worked in a hospital for six years with a pharmacist who encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree and I have a strong interest in the environment. Public health typically seems to be concerned with primarily hospitals, clinics, and man-made environments. The broader environment, and the importance of things like air, water, soil and the planet that humans live on, is also critical to health and well-being.
What do you like most about COPH? The diversity of research disciplines at the COPH. In my time at UNMC I have participated in the CEESP program, which has been beneficial to my approach to research. Through cross campus collaborations, I have access to researchers at UNO and UNL. My research interests are focused around assessing the biological impacts of agricultural pollutants. In our lab we take a “canary in the coal mine” approach by deploying sentinel organisms for in situ exposures to identify toxic responses to various pesticides found in Nebraska surface water. Currently, I am working on two projects. The first is investigating the biological impacts of agricultural pollution on the Elkhorn River on a sentinel organism (Fathead minnows). The second is working with citizen scientists to promote pesticide monitoring and environmental stewardship. Both projects are good examples of collaboration across disciplines and UN campuses.
What are your career goals after graduation? I would like to pursue a combination of community outreach, education, and research around the impacts of environmental pollution. I believe the broad training I am receiving in public health and environmental toxicology at UNMC COPH will benefit me in these endeavors.
Three things people may not know about me:
1) I was a tai chi instructor for 4 years.
2) I have traveled to Peru, Suriname, Brazil, and Iceland.
3) I have a serious addiction to mini Reese Cups.