You’re more likely to find University of Cincinnati researcher Erin Haynes
out talking to local residents, rather than cooped up in a lab. She’s a leading scientist in her specialty. She’s a mother. She’s a teacher, and a perpetual learner.
In Eastern Appalachian Ohio, Haynes and a team of researchers study industrial emissions and unconventional natural gas development in the area. Her team aims to examine exposure to industrial and other chemicals and their potential impact on the neurodevelopment of the citizens in the community.
"I love to bring the cutting-edge research from within the University to the rural community to address their environmental health concerns,” she said. "Involving community residents throughout the research is powering for them and applies the ideas of citizen science.”
Haynes, who has a doctorate in public health, works with environmental health researcher Kim Dietrich, PhD, professor of environmental health, to study the possible effects that chemicals, particularly metals, might have on children and their developing brain.
"We recruited the parents, particularly mothers with children ages 7 to 9 years, to participate in the research study. Mothers answered questions about their child’s behavior, nutrition and their confidence in parenting. We also collected other data on the mother including their IQ and prenatal care,” she said. "The mother is key in the neurodevelopment in the child.”
Haynes embraces her identity and womanhood, which she said has a significant impact on her research and scientific work. "Women tend to communicate openly and efficiently,” she said, and those skills only better her relationships with the residents she studies.
"My role as a mom and a woman gave me that first hand experience,” she said. "Women love partnership, that connection. If we have meaningful conversations [with the communities researchers study], we can provide more meaningful data.”
She encourages young women to follow their passion and commitment to their work. With a strong support system at home from her mother and husband, Haynes worked to further her research and make time for her young family.
"Go for it! Be a scientist. Don’t hold back. You can have both a family and a scientific career,” Haynes said. "My kids have been a part of the science I do. They’ve gone along with me to community meetings or to work simply because I have to fulfill both roles — as mom and scientist.”