DURHAM, N.C. – Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and National Toxicology Program (NTP), has been appointed Scholar in Residence at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

As Scholar in Residence, she will share her expertise with members of the Nicholas School community by serving on doctoral committees, mentoring students, presenting guest lectures and hosting academic seminars, among other activities.  

Birnbaum led NIEHS from 2009 to 2019 and is one of the United States’ most respected and influential environmental scientists. A toxicologist and microbiologist by training, she has authored more than 600 peer-reviewed papers on environmental contaminants and their health impacts, and is especially well known for her research on endocrine disruptors, particularly dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

As NIEHS director, she is widely credited for expanding the agency’s focus on the cumulative health impacts of exposures to multiple environmental contaminants over time – work that has helped lead to the birth of a new scientific field known as exposomics.

She is also credited for strengthening the institute’s commitment to addressing the health impacts of climate change.

In recognition of her accomplishments in the environmental health field, Birnbaum was elected to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine in 2010.

Prior to leading NIEHS and NTP, she worked in research and administrative roles at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for nearly 20 years and as a toxicologist at NTP for 10 years before that. She is the recipient of numerous professional honors, including the American Public Health Association’s prestigious Homer N. Carver Award in 2013.

“Having a scientist and administrator as accomplished as Linda Birnbaum serve as our Scholar in Residence is a remarkable opportunity for our students and faculty,” said Toddi Steelman, Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School. “She brings more than 40 years of experience providing exemplary leadership at the intersection of environmental science, regulation and training.”

NIEHS is one of 27 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health. It is located in Research Triangle Park, N.C., about a 20-minute drive from Duke’s campus. Numerous Nicholas School faculty members and graduate students collaborate with NIEHS scientists on research and training programs.