Center for Environmental Research and Community Engagement


Numerous communities in Los Angeles County have legitimate concerns about environmental exposures of their residents due to proximity to toxic sites, highways, airports, and contaminated groundwater.  Many of these communities are underserved and not in a position to fund the environmental testing and research needed to provide their residents with information on the environmental safety of their community.  Examples of these communities include residents living near the closed Exide battery recycling facility, residents in proximity to the industrial activities at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and numerous communities with highly contaminated groundwater.

UCLA students and faculty benefit significantly from increased connections to community needs as it will help faculty find relevant and timely projects and research questions.  UCLA students are eager to apply what they are learning to make meaningful contributions to enhance human health and the environment.   The goals of the center are in accord with those of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge.


Meet Our Team


Jennifer Jay, Ph.D.
Center Director
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Suzanne Paulson, Ph.D.
Center Air Quality Director
Professor, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

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Mark Gold, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability
Sustainable LA Grand Challenge

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Christine Lee, Ph.D.
Assistant Researcher, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

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Shaily Mahendra,Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Civil and
Environmental Engineering

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Cully Nordby, Ph.D.

Academic Director, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

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Kathy O’Byrne, Ph.D.
Center for Community Learning

 

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Michael Stenstrom, Ph.D.
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Mel Suffet

Mel Suffet, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Environmental Health Sciences

Yifang Zhu_0

Yifang Zhu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, School of Public Health


Current Projects


Lead in Soil

Professor Jay’s laboratory is currently measuring lead (Pb) levels in soil and sand collected from playgrounds at public parks in Los Angeles.  We are testing parks in neighborhoods with very high and very low pollution burdens as characterized by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s EnviroScreen maps.  UCLA Civil and Environmental Engineering Masters student Wayne Hung is currently collecting samples and measuring them for Pb.

Wei-Cheng Wayne Hung, M.S. Candidate. Wayne is doing his thesis research on lead in soils and sand at playgrounds and baseball diamonds in Greater Los Angeles.

Wei-Cheng Wayne Hung, M.S. Candidate. Wayne is doing his thesis research on lead in soils and sand at playgrounds and baseball diamonds in Greater Los Angeles.

Kevin Ho, M.S. Candidate. Kevin is working on antibiotic resistance in bacteria after disinfection processes. He is also volunteering on the study of lead in playground sand and soils.

Nina Do, Mahnoor Saleem, and Marisol Hernandez-Cira are assisting in the laboratory.

Nina Do, Mahnoor Saleem, and Marisol Hernandez-Cira are assisting in the laboratory.

Wei-Cheng Wayne Hung and Kevin Ho, M.S. Candidates, collecting samples.

Wei-Cheng Wayne Hung and Kevin Ho, M.S. Candidates, collecting samples.

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Jacquelyn Lam, M.S. Candidate. Jackie is volunteering to assist on the lead in soils project. Her thesis work involves studying a remediation scheme at a field site contaminated with arsenic.

Cristina Echeverria, Ph.D. Candidate. Cristina recently completed a study of antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in air near different types of agricultural sites is now investigating ARGs at public parks throughout California. She also volunteers on the lead in park soils project.

Cristina Echeverria, Ph.D. Candidate. Cristina recently completed a study of antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in air near different types of agricultural sites is now investigating ARGs at public parks throughout California. She also volunteers on the lead in park soils project.

Sunny Kim, M.S. Candidate, assisting in the laboratory. Sunny’s thesis research addresses changes in antibiotic resistance due to treatment with disinfectants.

Storm Drain Sampling

Prof. Jenny Jay is sampling a pool near a local storm drain at the request of a concerned resident.  Photo credit: Margaret Molloy

CERCE Goals


This new Center, while housed primarily in the School of Engineering, brings together faculty and students across UCLA departments, institutes, and schools to:

  • Provide underserved communities with testing of air, soils, or water at no or greatly reduced cost.
  • Assist communities with interpretation of data on contaminant levels. This may involve literature reviews and analysis of data.
  • Answer environmental research questions derived from community needs regarding contaminant mobility and speciation. We currently have analytical capabilities for a range of metals, pathogens, and emerging contaminants including antibiotic resistance genes.
  • Provide UCLA students and faculty with meaningful interdisciplinary projects spanning environmental science and engineering, chemistry, policy, regulation, public health, risk assessment, and communication. These projects may involve lab work, analysis, and community engagement.
    • Undergraduate course credit will be provided through 199’s for independent projects as well as through a new course, CEE184, for group research related to larger Center projects involving several students.
    • Center projects will provide Civil and Environmental Engineering Masters students with thesis projects.
    • UCLA Ph.D. students will have mentoring opportunities for both undergraduate and MS students.
    • Data analysis in response to community needs can be incorporated into undergraduate and graduate courses in statistics, aquatic chemistry, and chemical fate and transport.
    • Students in summer internship programs such as the High School Summer Research Program and the BRIDGE program with community colleges can work on Center projects.
    • With sufficient funding, the Center could offer paid internships to provide research opportunities for students from groups that are underrepresented in science and engineering.
  • Develop technical and policy recommendations to remediate those sites that pose a health risk to the local community
  • Assist communities in applying for technical assistance grants.

The results of the research projects will be presented to the affected communities and those regulatory agencies with potential responsibility to remediate contamination in soil, water or air.


 Contact CERCE


If your Greater Los Angeles community is concerned about environmental exposures, please email us  at jjay@seas.ucla.edu or fill out the form below.  We will respond as soon as possible.

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 Ways To Give


The Center does not receive a budget from UCLA and relies on donations from private citizens and foundations.  Please contact Professor Jay at regarding a tax-deductible donation ear-marked specifically for environmental work for underserved Los Angeles communities.