Faculty Spotlight

Xuefeng Ren

Xuefeng Ren, PhD

Xuefeng Ren is an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health and concentration director for the environmental health MPH degree program at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions.

Explain your role in the Department Epidemiology and Environmental Health?

I am an associate professor of environmental health and toxicology. I also held an adjunct appointment as an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the Jaocbs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. I also currently serve as concentration director of MPH in environmental health.

How did you get interested in this field?

I received my MD degree and MS degree in environmental and occupational health from China.  While in China, I practiced medicine specializing in occupational medicine for two years. I came to the U.S. and graduated in 2007 with a PhD in toxicology from the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.

A career in academia and research gives me the opportunity to conduct innovative and translational research. It also allows me to fulfill my dream and career goal to promote a healthy environment and improve human health, particularly in under-served population. In addition, being a faculty member allows me to be involved in teaching and mentoring, which I am passionate about.

Why UB?

I joined UB in 2011. I was impressed with the University's long history of excellence in research and the enthusiasm of various faculty members that I interacted with. 

What is the focus of your research?

Broadly, my group has devoted to the research that helps to understand the pathogenic mechanisms of global environmental hazardous; helps identify biomarkers that reflect reprogramming of health and disease trajectories in response to environmental exposures; and explores and evaluates the efficient and novel preventive and treatment strategies for human disease related to environmental exposure. One of my key research interests is the health issue related to the arsenic contamination in drinking water around the world. Supported by the NIH/NIEHS (R01ES022629 & R21ES022329), we are working on identifying novel biomarkers of arsenic exposure and carcinogenesis, and are comprehensively investigating genetic susceptibility and preventive measures of arsenic exposure.

What are the real world implications of your research?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 140 million people in 70 plus countries are exposed to arsenic from drinking water at levels  above 10 μg/L, which is the WHO and U.S. EPA safety standard. Similar to other countries, the primary source of arsenic exposure in the U.S. is naturally contaminated drinking water. This is due to technical problems in complying with the EPA standard and the use of private wells (not covered by the EPA). The global relevance of my research is thus enormous. 

What is your greatest accomplishment while at UB?

I received the outstanding junior researcher both from the University at Buffalo and the School of Public Health and Health Professions in 2015 and 2016, respectively. I was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2016. But more importantly, with the support from the NIH/NIEHS, my research has moved forward and has the potential to contribute significantly to the understanding of the mechanisms and to the prevention, reduction and treatment of diseases associated with arsenic exposure.