Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Nicole Dennis

Dr. Nicole Dennis is our newest addition to the University of Florida Environmental and Global Health department, joining the team as a research assistant professor. With a focus on environmental toxicology and a biological and analytical chemistry background, Dennis is putting her best foot forward to combat pressing issues in global environmental health.

Born in Nebraska and growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dennis was surrounded by nature from a young age. Her family, along with many others, supplemented their food budget with freshly caught fish.

But since some of the largest manufacturing companies in the world operate out of Michigan, its waterways became increasingly polluted, and more fish species entered the consumption advisory list.

“I grew up on the Great Lakes and watched a once thriving ecosystem become toxic,” she said.

Many families had no choice but to consume the fish they were advised not to eat.

“I wanted to seek justice for those who depended on a clean source of low-cost food, such as fresh fish,” she added. “The prospect of helping to find practical solutions to this and many other large-scale environmental issues drew me to environmental toxicology.”

Dennis took a keen interest in UF after learning more about the impactful and translational toxicology research directed by Dr. Tracie Baker, she said.

“She is an inspiration to me and an amazing colleague,” she said. “There is an atmosphere here of collaborative support among the faculty, which contributes to positive productivity.”

Dennis’ expertise is in analytical toxicology, wherein she focuses her efforts on analyzing complex chemical mixtures extracted from complex matrices to investigate real world environmental and biological situations. During her Ph.D., she provided toxicological reference values for birds exposed to PFAS under environmentally and biologically relevant conditions for risk assessment and regulatory purposes.

During her postdoctoral studies, she provided a rapid and robust method for analysis of a complex chemical mixture extracted from biosolids to investigate chemical partitioning through a biosolids-soil-crop continuum and risk of food web contamination resulting from biosolids land-applications.

Looking forward, Dennis aims to develop methods of analysis for real world emerging mixtures and elucidate the bad actors in those mixtures that invoke chemical toxicity as a result of chronic and low-dose exposures.   

To Dennis, the most fulfilling aspect of her career has been teaching others how to investigate a complex and real-world problem.

“Specifically, it is the excitement in others when they learn something new or complete something that was particularly challenging to them,” she said.

In her free time, Dennis likes to spend as much time outside as possible, whether it’s hiking, kayaking, fishing or swimming. She also enjoys visiting zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums. One of her favorite experiences so far was parasailing over Tampa Bay.

In her new role at EGH, Dennis is most excited to gain teaching experience, expand her professional network and learn the ins and outs of crafting a successful research proposal.

Welcome to the College of Public Health and Health Professions EGH team, Dr. Dennis!

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