Caitlin Howe is a third year Ph.D. student in the Environmental Health Sciences Department. She received her B.A. from Pomona College where she studied biology and Spanish. She first became interested in public health after studying abroad in Ecuador, where she completed an independent study on a regional grassroots movement that had the goal of providing healthy, affordable food options to low-income families. After graduating, she remained interested in human health but wanted to build on the molecular biology skills that she obtained as an undergraduate, so she worked as a research assistant in an ovarian cancer research laboratory at Fox Chase Cancer Center prior to starting her Ph.D. program. Studying in the Environmental Health Sciences program has allowed her to unite her interests in environmental science, molecular biology, and epidemiology.
At Columbia, Caitlin has been working in Dr. Mary Gamble’s lab, which studies nutritional influences on arsenic toxicity in Bangladesh, where arsenic exposure and nutritional deficiencies are widespread. In the Fall semester of her second year, Caitlin presented her research as a poster entitled “Associations between S-adenosylmethionine, S-adenosylhomocysteine, and arsenic methylation” at the Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her poster was awarded the first place prize for biomedical research, and she was subsequently invited to present this research in the Superfund Research Program’s Student Webinar Series.
Caitlin has a particular interest in the interaction of environmental and nutritional exposures and their influences on epigenetics. Recently, Dr. Gamble’s group completed a randomized controlled trial with the primary goal of determining if folic acid supplementation enhances arsenic methylation, thereby facilitating arsenic excretion and reducing blood arsenic levels. This trial also provides the unique opportunity to examine the influences of arsenic exposure and folic acid supplementation on epigenetic effects. For her dissertation project, Caitlin will be looking at the relationship between arsenic and folic acid on global histone modifications in peripheral blood mononuclear cells collected from participants in this trial.