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Harmony Zhao participates in Yale summer research project

Published on July 12, 2022

Harmony Zhao participates in Yale summer research project

Harmony Zhao
Harmony Zhao

Health Sciences major Harmony Zhao ’24 is participating in an eight-week project at Yale University’s Public Health Summer Research Program (SREEH). The National Institutes of Health funds the research experience, a program open to students enrolled in Connecticut colleges and universities who want to pursue careers in environmental health science.

The program runs from June 20 to Aug. 20 and considers talented first-year students and sophomores from underrepresented backgrounds who express a strong desire to pursue higher education at the graduate level in environmental health science. Participants receive a $600 weekly stipend. 

Zhao is one of 20 students admitted to the program this year. Her research topic focuses on dioxane and how it affects liver health.

“This is an important topic because dioxane is a newly discovered contaminant found in drinking water,” said Zhao. “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate it and there is some but not a lot of research on how harmful it can be for our overall health.”

This year, research projects are being conducted virtually due to the pandemic. The program focuses on five major and emerging topics in environmental health science: green chemistry; health disparities; developmental origins of diseases; climate and energy; and novel approaches to assessing environmental exposures. 

“Eastern has prepared me well for this position,” said Zhao. Anita Lee, professor and acting chair of the Department of Health Sciences, agrees, saying that the Health Sciences program plays a key role in helping Eastern students obtain this prestigious Yale internship.

“I would like to thank my genetics lab adjunct professor. Dr. Donnasue Graesser, for giving me a tremendous in-person experience working in the lab after doing a year of online simulation labs, which was fascinating for me to learn,” said Zhao. “I would also like to thank my lifespan development psychology professor, Dr. Melanie Keyes, who provided me a better understanding of how to analyze research articles, as well as how to prepare to present on complex topics.”

For more information on Yale’s Summer Research Experience in Environmental Health, visit

Written by Dwight Bachman