I am an Associate Professor of Biology and co-director of the Undergraduate Program in Public Health. I did my graduate training in Applied Microbiology at London University. I am also the co-director and founder of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community Settings.
My research looks at broad issues associated with the transmission of microbial pathogens in the indoor environment. The applied research in my lab allows undergraduate students to get involved in developing and piloting research methodologies and also, to get published in peer review journals.
I serve as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Forum on Home Hygiene and on the editorial board of the American Journal of Infection Control. This allows me to disseminate information on matters of hygiene and infection control and I am frequently quoted in the press.
My passion is for microbiology and public health and I am committed to the rigorous preparation of Simmons students for graduate programs and careers in this field. I am also deeply committed to two other related issues. One is finding strategies to inform the general public on aspects of microbiology and infection control that impact our daily lives. The other is the issue of keeping women in the STEM disciplines and strengthening the STEM pipeline for women from school through to postdoctoral careers.
Since undergraduate training as a microbiologist, I have been interested in the microbial content of the indoor and peri urban environment and implications for hygiene practice and infection control.
My introduction into this field came with an appointment to a large industry-based research project to evaluate the bacterial content of the domestic environment and to examine the effectiveness of disinfectants in the home. Following this project, I undertook further university-based research on the effectiveness of surface disinfectants under 'in-use' conditions. My PhD research focused on the survival and transfer of potential pathogens on inanimate surfaces and provided further insight into the chain of events which can result in errors of hygiene and the possible consequences of such errors.
It has become clear that while foodborne disease is one of the major preventable hygiene problems, there are many other related hygiene issues both in the home, in the community in general and in the food and hospitality industry. These include preventing the spread of specific hygiene-related infections such as dysentery and enteric viruses as well as the general care of the young, the elderly and immune-compromised individuals in the home, community homes, daycare, pre-schools, schools etc.
I have been involved in developing an approach to hygiene practice (Targeted Hygiene
) based upon a risk analysis of an environment and its occupants. The aim is to recognize the level of risk and to produce an appropriate and flexible hygiene policy, including the use of effective disinfection procedures where appropriate, applicable to all community-based settings. While the basic framework is in place there are still elements that need to be resolved in applied research. In recent years, there has been a massive increase in consumer antimicrobial products and the risk framework provides a focus for assessing the potential hygiene contribution of various product categories.
Above all, perhaps the strongest driving force throughout my work has been the desire to offer information on matters of hygiene. Hygiene practice is not just a matter of common sense, there are many aspects that have to be learned and understood. My research has been of an applied nature and I have always tried to interpret the findings for the non-scientific audience who need to put the information into practice. Follow these links for more information: The Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community
and The International Forum on Home Hygiene
Undergraduate students in my lab have worked on the following projects: Hand hygiene practices on a college campus; Staph aureus, MRSA and other bacteria of medical interest in the home and in college dormitories; ; food preparation at home; bacterial contamination of pre-packages spinach; alternative clean water technology and efficacy of slow biosand filters; microbial ecology of the inanimate environment; Staph aureus and MRSA on nursing scrubs; antibacterial activity of lichens.