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Public Health

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Through our work, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering aims to promote public health.

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A transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19

Research efforts in this area include the evaluation of the chemical and microbial safety of drinking water generated by the reclamation of urban stormwater or municipal wastewater.

In our public health research, we seek not just to characterize risk but to design new technologies that improve public health and wellbeing. To do this we:

  • characterize exposure to pathogens in low-income countries
  • assess technological, behavioral, and institutional strategies to mitigate this exposure. 
  • determine how people interact with physical and digital environments in buildings, with the goal of designing spaces that promote occupant wellbeing, including a feeling of belonging and the reduction of stress
  • evaluate the risks posed by exposure to pathogens in recreational waters (e.g., beaches).

Air Pollution - Indoor and Outdoor

Water Sanitation and Hygiene

Water infrastructure

IoT approaches to rural water infrastructure maintenance in Uganda

Much of the drinking water infrastructure built in rural Africa fails, wasting investment and forcing people to use unsafe water sources. The Davis lab is partnering with the EverFlow Africa enterprise in Uganda to test a market-based preventive maintenance service designed to overcome this persistent sustainability problem. Launched in summer 2019, this two-year project will (1) evaluate effective demand for maintenance service among communities in the district of Apac, in northern Uganda and (2) conduct a randomized trial that allows us to quantify both the costs of the service and the benefits to families, communities, and local government. The evidence generated by this project will inform current debates about the costs and benefits of meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 (universal access to piped water supply) particularly in regard to the costs of sustaining the benefits of installed infrastructure. Learn more >

Davis group


Boehm Research Group

Pathogens in the Environment & Coastal Water Quality

Professor Boehm's group studies pathogens in the environment including their sources, fate, and transport in natural and engineered systems. They focus on understanding how pathogens are transmitted to humans through contact with water, feces, and contaminated surfaces, and key problems in both developed and developing countries.

They also study coastal water quality addressing the sources, transformation, transport, and ecology of biocolloids - specifically fecal indicator organisms, DNA, pathogens, and phytoplankton - as well as sources and fate of nitrogen. 

Projects include: Human virus persistence in surface waters; Fomites and disease transmission; Methodologies, models, and materials for predictable removal of pathogens from stormwater during distributed recharge; Factors affecting bacterial persistence in water exposed to sunlight; Through-beach transport of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB); Predictive models of beach water quality for the California coast; Using next-generation sequencing to investigate factors influencing changes in microbial communities along the coast; Monitoring the marine environment with environmental DNA (eDNA); Environmental detection and health risks of enteric pathogens in low-income communities; Quantitative microbial risk assessment; Citizen science and coastal water quality; and Environmental detection of soil-transmitted helminths in rural Kenya.