Print Friendly and PDF
Making an impact with environmental health: Yanelli Nunez, PhD.

Making an impact with environmental health: Yanelli Nunez, PhD.

Engaging in ways to make scientific work more impactful

How does one discover their life's work in environmental health? The paths are numerous, but Dr. Nunez provides a compelling example.


Dr. Nunez’s family migrated to the United States looking for job opportunities and a better life when she was a teenager. The transition from living in a small rural town in southern Mexico to San Diego, California, sparked in her an interest in learning about how our environments shape us and influence our lifestyles and health.

In this video, learn how this first-generation college student discovered her passion for environmental health sciences and about her mission to contribute to creating healthy and sustainable communities where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.

Yanelli Nunez, Ph.D.; Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Health Energy

Yanelli Nunez earned her Ph.D. in environmental health sciences from Columbia University in 2020 after graduating with a Bachelor’s in biological sciences from San Diego State University and serving as a public health Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, West Africa.

During her graduate studies, Dr. Nunez examined the effects of long-term exposure to air pollution on the aggravation of neurodegenerative diseases. She also worked on studies evaluating co-exposure to multiple environmental pollutants to more comprehensively characterize the totality of environmental stressors and their impact on health. During her graduate training, Dr. Nunez learned about the pronounced racial and social inequities in environmental exposures and the resulting health disparities, which drove her to focus her postdoctoral training on environmental equity.

In the summer of 2022, Dr. Nunez completed her postdoctoral training at Columbia University, analyzing air pollution emissions trends to investigate whether improvements in air quality throughout the United States have been equitable across racial and economic groups.

Dr. Nunez is currently a scientist in PSE Healthy Energy, working in close collaboration with community-based organizations, policymakers and stakeholders. She is expanding her environmental health research in the areas of climate resilience, energy equity and environmental justice.

Dr. Nunez is an avid runner and hiker. She loves the outdoors, trying new food and exploring new cultures.

Learn more

Find Dr. Nunez on Twitter @yanelli_nunez

Explore her website here.

Cutting Edge of Science

Discover what exciting research other early-career scientists are up to in our exclusive series in partnership with the Science Communication Network.

Learn more here.

Become a donor
Today's top news

What I learned reporting on environmental health in Pittsburgh in 2022

For a lot of people, 2022 felt like the first “normal” year since 2020. It didn’t for me.

Lawmakers push Biden administration to act faster on plastic pollution

A new letter urges President Biden to “set meaningful standards to address the global plastic pollution crisis at home and beyond.”

From our newsroom

Pete Myers: The plastic road to hell is paved with good intentions

All too often today’s seductive solutions become tomorrow’s problems.

WATCH: Pete Myers addresses US Senate committee on the dangers of plastic

Environmental Health Science founder and chief scientist was one of four witnesses testifying for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment & Public Works.

LISTEN: Valerisa Joe-Gaddy on tribal water justice

“They’re still fighting for water rights.”

Western Pennsylvania can meet its climate goals — if the region stops subsidizing natural gas

A new proposed plan would lead to a 97% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and create 15,353 new jobs by 2050.

Op-ed: What the pesticide industry doesn’t want you to know

Confronting pesticide industry science denialism.