What if air pollution could play a significant role in the neurological development of an unborn child? What if there was something we could do about it?

Working at the unique intersection of biomedical and environmental sciences, Cardenas, who completed his Ph.D. in 2015, has received funding to spend the next five years studying the impacts of prenatal and early childhood environmental stressors on children’s health and development.

His current research, which has received five years of funding through the ONES grant, will use data science to determine the effects that prenatal and postnatal exposure to heavy metals can have on the neurodevelopment of children. While the neurotoxic effects of lead and mercury have been understood for decades, there is little research examining the impact that multiple prenatal exposures may have on cognitive development. In another project, he is investigating multiple environmental influences on biological aging, using highly accurate epigenetic clocks.