The environmental health sciences share the need of all life and medical sciences for scientists highly trained in the art of quantitative reasoning. Meeting this need for the environmental health sciences faces the additional burden of requiring an understanding of both population-based and laboratory-based studies. There are biological mechanisms underlying environmentally-related diseases that need to be studied at the molecular level and there are effects of environmental exposures that occur at the population level that require epidemiological study approaches. Both types of study provide their own insights into disease causation and lead to the collection of very large data sets that require increasingly-sophisticated quantitative (bioinformatic and statistical) tools. Few institutions have the breadth and depth of faculty in these mutually-dependent areas as does the University of Washington, and even fewer have such a strong culture of cross-disciplinary collaboration and training.
The fundamental innovation of the BEBTEH Training Program is that it bridges environmental health sciences with bioinformatics and biostatistics in a unified structure. It will engage more students in environmental health sciences, team them with two mentors to provide both environmental health science and quantitative science guidance, train in both environmental health science and quantitative skills, and provide a strong environmental health science research engagement. BEBTEH utilizes the strengths of eight major departments in the University of Washington Schools of Public Health, Medicine, Engineering, and Arts and Sciences. Faculty with interests in environmental health sciences in these schools are brought together through a wide range of research projects, many funded by NIEHS.