Joe Dempsey

Joe Dempsey

Student profile photo of Joe Dempsey

PhD, Environmental Toxicology (Tox)

I first became interested in toxicology while earning my MPH at Indiana University and working in a lab where we measured biomarkers of oxidative stress. Since joining the PhD program here at UW, I’ve been impressed with the breadth and diversity of public health research projects and collaborations that students can participate in and learn from. From toxicology, exposure science, and risk assessment, to pharmacology and data science, there is a wealth of opportunities to explore.

My dissertation research is related to the gut microbiome, the name given to all the microbes, fungi and viruses, along with their genetic material, that live in the intestine. Working with Dr. Julia Cui, I’m looking at how the gut microbiome interacts with the liver during development and how exposure to toxic chemicals may negatively impact this interaction and increase the risk of disease in adulthood. My current work focuses on understanding how PBDE, a flame-retardant that was widely used until the early 2000s, might impact the development of the gut microbiome and change the liver’s capacity to deal with future exposures to toxic chemicals.

After completing my degree, I plan to continue doing public health research as a postdoctoral fellow or work in industry to help create safer consumer products.