Newswise — Helmut Zarbl, a professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health (ENOH) at Rutgers University’s School of Public Health and an environmental carcinogenesis and chemoprevention researcher, has been named director of the university’s Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI).
Zarbl, whose research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1987, serves as a fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and as director of the Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease, which is sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. He previously served as associate director for Public Health Sciences at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, where he has been a member since 2007. Prior to joining Rutgers in 2006, he was a full member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash.
Zarbl also will serve as chair of the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health. In this role, he will promote the development of innovative educational programming to prepare students for careers as public health researchers and practitioners. He also will recruit skilled teachers and researchers in the fields of environmental and occupational health.
“We look forward to the energy and enthusiasm that Dr. Zarbl brings to his new position,” says Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “EOHSI is a tremendous asset for the university and an important scientific resource for the state of New Jersey. Dr. Zarbl is an internationally renowned environmental health scientist. His appointment to lead EOHSI and ENOH and the new faculty he will recruit will deepen the institute’s core strength and link the school and institute, as well as extend its reach to include faculty across Rutgers who are interested in environmental health. This will give EOHSI the ability to significantly impact environmental health in New Jersey and beyond.”
Zarbl’s role will establish a stronger connection between education and research, says Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the School of Public Health. “Dr. Zarbl’s ability to conceptualize environmental health sciences broadly and in an applied manner means that, together, we can fashion educational and research programs that are responsive to our society and to the educational needs of our students who are dedicated to environmental health, environmental social justice and protecting our local and global environment,” he says.
Zarbl’s research focuses on how host and environmental factors influence the development of cancer and other chronic diseases. His laboratory uses genetic analysis as well as genomic sequencing and biochemical and population-based studies to understand the ways genetics, epigenetics and the microbiome interact with diet, environmental, endocrinal, circadian and other factors to increase the risk of disease. These mechanistic insights are then used to design interventions and targeted agents – such as natural products, micronutrients and vitamins – that reduce the risk of cancer development or recurrence. Research performed in his lab was the first to suggest an association between circadian rhythm and cancer prevention and to discover that methylselenocysteine, a naturally occurring compound found in many foods, prevents cancer in rats by restoring circadian rhythm and the cell’s response to estrogens and DNA damage. He is the author of more than 85 research papers and book chapters.
He earned a bachelor of science degree and a Ph.D. from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, with post-doctoral studies at the NIH National Cancer Institute at Frederick in Maryland and the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal.