Zeyan Liew: Environmental epidemiologist, world traveler, Danophile
The Yale School of Public Health proudly welcomes a large number of new tenure track faculty joining us this academic year. These individuals have widely varied interests and excel in research, scholarship, innovation and teaching. They complement and expand the expertise already available at the School of Public Health and will be instrumental in addressing many of the health challenges of the 21st century.
Today we spotlight Zeyan Liew, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. Zeyan is also affiliated with theYale Center for Perinatal, Pediatric and Environmental Epidemiology (CPPEE). He holds a Ph.D. in epidemiology (2014) and M.P.H. in environmental health sciences (2011) from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Q: Describe your primary academic focus or research specialty?
ZL: I am an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist and a research methodologist. A core focus of my work is understanding how exposures that occur during critical and vulnerable periods of development may shape disease risks and influence health outcomes throughout our life span. Currently, I am leading numerous studies with funding from the NIH to evaluate whether fetal exposures to endocrine disrupting compounds and/or neurotoxicants could harm fetal brain development leading to neurological disorders or impaired neuropsychological function in childhood and young adulthood. Some of the endocrine disruptors I investigate include persistent widespread organic pollutants and pesticides in the environment, or pharmaceutical agents such as acetaminophen.
I am also interested in methodological research, especially the development of novel study designs and analytical techniques that could help us better address biases in observational studies or research using “real-world” data.
Q: What are your long-term goals in public health?
ZL: I hope to identify preventable factors during the critical period of development that have strong influences on disease and health risks. The goal is to discover new intervention strategies to prevent many untreatable or hard to treat chronic diseases that have causes stemming from the early life environment. I also think it is critical for us to continue working on methodological development in epidemiology, especially in causal inference and bias analyses, so that we can better rely on our tools to generate valid and reliable results that can be used to improve public health and medicine.
Q: How will the resources available at the Yale School of Public Health help you achieve your goals?
ZL: The resources in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health and at the Center for Perinatal, Pediatric and Environmental Epidemiology (CPPEE) both provide a great support system for my work. Yale has world-class research facilities, scientists, and exceptionally bright students who provide a wonderful platform to build expertise in this area of research. Yale is also a great institution that supports interdisciplinary work and international collaborations, which I rely on and enjoy.
Q: Tell us something about yourself away from public health? (E.g., hobbies, interests, pursuits, etc.)
ZL: I love traveling! I have lived in four different countries in the past 15 years. Back when I was a graduate student, my peers called me the “world traveler.” Taking a break from my regular work life and finding time to see new places and experience new cultures helps maintain my curiosity about our world and it also stimulates my creative side. Many of my most interesting research ideas came to me outside of my office and daily academic environment. I also like learning new languages possibly for the same reason.
At the moment, I am learning Danish because I love Denmark! For a small country, it has a great public health system and I’ve developed long-term collaborative relationships with many fantastic friends and colleagues there. My hope is to continue my research and collaborations in Denmark using some newly acquired language skills!