Julia Varshavsky

Assistant Professor,  Department of Health Sciences
Assistant Professor,  Civil and Environmental Engineering


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Research Focus

Environmental chemical mixtures and maternal-child health outcomes, intervention strategies, systematic review, risk assessment, biomonitoring, community-engaged research, green chemistry/engineering


Julia Varshavsky, MPH, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at Northeastern University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Health Sciences, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering. Julia studies modifiable environmental exposures, with a focus on endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) mixtures and maternal-child health outcomes in susceptible and highly exposed populations. Julia’s research also includes advancing systematic review and risk assessment to inform decision-making, strengthening report-back and community-engaged research, and bridging the gap between health and sustainability, including a focus on green chemistry/engineering, and plastics.

Before Northeastern, Julia served as a research scientist for the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to evaluate the effectiveness of air pollution control measures in California’s most highly exposed environmental justice communities, and as a postdoctoral scholar for UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE). At PRHE, she conducted biologically-based population-level studies on exposure and health risks associated with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substance (PFAS), and organophosphate flame retardant (OPFR) compounds. Recent work highlighted maternal-fetal PBDE, PFAS, and OPFR exposures during mid-gestation in relation to biomarkers of placental development associated with pregnancy complications.

Julia earned her MPH and PhD in environmental health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. Her dissertation research focused on developing methods for; characterizing disparities in; and evaluating dietary sources of; cumulative phthalates exposure. Prior to graduate school, Julia facilitated scientific dialogue and research translation for environmental reproductive health science at the Collaborative for Health and Environment (CHE). With diverse experiences across academia, non-profits, and regulatory agencies, Julia is committed to conducting science with a real-world impact and to translating environmental health science for diverse stakeholders.


  • PhD, Environmental Health Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, 2017
  • MS, Public Health (MPH) in Environmental Health Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, 2012
  • BS, Molecular Environmental Biology, University of California, Berkeley, 2004

Honors & Awards

  • Science Communication Fellow, Advancing Green Chemistry 2017–18

Teaching Interests

  • Environmental Epidemiology
  • Environmental Health
  • Environmental Toxicology
  • Green Chemistry and Green Engineering
  • Hazard and Risk Assessment
  • Methods to Identify Safer Alternatives

Professional Affiliations

  • Action Plan on Infertility Prevention, Detection, and Management American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
  • American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
  • American Public Health Association (APHA)
  • Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP)
  • Collaborative for Health and Environment, Science Advisory Board Member
  • Environmental and Occupational Exposures Working Group, Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
  • Genetic and Environmental Toxicology Association of Northern California (GETA)
  • International Society of Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE)
  • International Society of Exposure Science (ISES)
  • Society of Birth Defects Research and Prevention (BDRP)
  • Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC)
  • Society of Toxicology (SOT)

Research Overview

Environmental chemical mixtures and maternal-child health outcomes, intervention strategies, systematic review, risk assessment, biomonitoring, community-engaged research, green chemistry/engineering

My lab focuses on examining environmental chemical mixtures and maternal-child health effects across the life course in vulnerable study populations, including pregnant people, children, and communities burdened by multiple chemical and non-chemical stressors. We also work to: 1) inform decision-making and advance systematic review on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through the PFAS-Tox Database; 2) strengthen chemical risk assessment to be more protective of susceptible and highly exposed populations; 3) expand report-back and community-engaged research in vulnerable populations; and 4) bridge the gap between health and sustainability by focusing on the human health impacts of plastics and pushing for green chemistry and green engineering solutions to environmental health problems.

Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute

SSEHRI is the new host of the PFAS-Tox Database, an interactive and publicly available systematic evidence map of over 700 in vitro, animal, and human studies that examine health outcomes related to PFAS exposure.

Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute

PFAS Project Lab

The PFAS Project Lab studies social, scientific, and political factors related to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). We produce rigorous, accessible research about the PFAS contamination crisis through collaborations with impacted communities, leading interdisciplinary researchers, and nonprofits. We share this PFAS research with impacted communities and a broad range of other stakeholders.

PFAS Project Lab

PFAS-Tox Database

Chemicals phased out of production, such as PFOA and PFOS, are often replaced by similar chemicals with less research on their toxicity. To address these potentially regrettable substitutes, the PFAS-Tox Database allows quick access to health and toxicology studies on PFAS chemicals that are less well known than PFOA and PFOS. It was created by a collaborative group of university and non-profit based scientists to support governments, NGOs, and communities in making informed decisions about the risks these chemicals pose to people and the planet.

PFAS-Tox Database

Selected Research Projects

  • Healthier Air and People: Intelligent Solutions to Urban Pollution for Equity and Resilience (iSUPER).
    • – Northeastern University Impact Engine. August 2022–July 2027

Research Centers and Institutes

  • Core Faculty, Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
  • Research Translation Coordinator, PROTECT Superfund Research Program
  • Faculty Scholar, Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research

Selected Publications

  • Varshavsky J.R., Rayasam S.D.G., Sass J.B., Axelrad D.A., Cranor C.F., Hattis D., Hauser R., Koman P.D., Marquez E.C., Morello-Frosch R., Oksas C., Patton S., Robinson J.F., Sathyanarayana S., Shepard P.M., Woodruff T.J., Current practice and recommendations for advancing how human variability and susceptibility are considered in chemical risk assessment. Environmental Health, January 12, 2023, 21 (Suppl 1), 133. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-022-00940-1
  • Woodruff, T.J., Rayasam, S.D.G., Axelrad, D.A., Koman, P. D., Chartres, N., Bennett, D. H., Birnbaum, L. S., Brown, P., Carignan, C. C., Cooper, C., Cranor, C. F., Diamond, M. L., Franjevic, S., Gartner, E. C., Hattis, D., Hauser, R., Heiger-Bernays, W., Joglekar, R., Lam, J., Levy, J.I., MacRoy, P.M., Maffini, M.V., Marquez, E.C., Morello-Frosch, R., Nachman, K.E., Nielsen, G.., Oksas, C., Abrahamsson, D.P., Patisaul, H.B., Patton, S., Robingon, J.F., Rodgers, K.M., Rossi, M.S., Rudel, R.A., Sass, J.B., Sathyanarayana, S., Schettler, T., Shaffer, R.M., Shamasunder, B., Shepard, P.M., Shrader-Frechette, K., Solomon, G.M., Subra, W.A.,  Vandenberg, L.N., Varshavsky, J.R., White, R.F., Zarker, K., Zeise, L., A science-based agenda for health-protective chemical assessments and decisions: overview and consensus statement. Environmental Health, January 12, 2023, 21 (1), 132. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-022-00930-3
  • Garrett K.K., Brown P.B., Varshavsky J.R., Cordner A., Challenges and opportunities in a world of “forever chemicals”, One Earth, October 21, 2022, 5(10):1075-1079. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2022.10.003
  • Salvatore D., Mok K., Garrett K., Poudrier G., Brown P., Birnbaum L., Goldenman G., Miller M., Patton S., Poehlein M., Varshavsky J.R., Cordner A., Presumptive Contamination: A New Approach to PFAS Contamination Based on Likely Sources. Environmental Science and Technology Letters, October 12, 2022, 9(11), 983-990. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.estlett.2c00502
  • Pelch K.E., Reade A., Kwiatkowski C.F., Merced-Nieves F.M., Cavalier H.; Schultz K.; Wolffe T., Varshavsky J.R., The PFAS-Tox Database: A systematic evidence map of health studies on 29 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Environment International, July 28, 2022, 167:107408. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2022.107408.
  • Varshavsky J.R., Robinson J.F., Zhou Y., Puckett K.A., Kwan E., Buarpung S., Aburajab R., Gaw S., Sen S., Gao S., Smith S.C., Park J.S., Zakharevich I., Gerona R.G., Fisher S.J., Woodruff T.J., Organophosphate flame retardants, highly fluorinated chemicals, and biomarkers of placental development and disease during mid-gestation. Toxicological Sciences, March 2, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/kfab028.
  • Varshavsky J.R., Sen S., Robinson J.F., Smith S.C., Frankenfield J., Wang Y., Yeh G., Park J.S., Fisher S.J., Woodruff T.J., Racial/ethnic and geographic differences in polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) levels across maternal, placental, and fetal tissues during mid-gestation, Scientific Reports, July 22, 2020, 10:12247. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-69067-y.
  • Varshavsky J.R., Robinson J.F., Zhou Y., Puckett K.A., Kwan E., Buarpung S., Aburajab R., Gaw S., Sen S., Smith S.C., Frankenfield J., Park J.S., Fisher S.J., Woodruff T.J., Association of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) levels with biomarkers of placental development and disease during mid-gestation. Environmental Health, June 3, 2020; 19(1):61. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-020-00617-7.
  • Varshavsky J.R., Morello-Frosch R., Harwani S., Snider M., Petropoulou Syrago-Styliani E., Park J., Petreas M., Reynolds P., Nguyen T., Quach T., A pilot biomonitoring study of cumulative phthalates exposure among Vietnamese American nail salon workers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, January 2, 2020, 17(1), 325. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17010325.
  • Varshavsky J.R., Smith A., Wang A., Hom E., Izano M., Huang H., Padula A., Woodruff T.J., Heightened susceptibility: A review of how pregnancy and chemical exposures influence maternal health. Reproductive Toxicology, March 2020; 92, 14–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.reprotox.2019.04.004. (Listed as top two most cited research articles on Reproductive Toxicology website since 2018).
  • Padula A.M., Monk C., Brennan P.A., Borders A., Barrett E.S., McEvoy C.T., Foss S., Desai P., Alshawabkeh A., Wurth R., Salafia C., Fichorova R., Varshavsky J.R., Kress A., Woodruff T.J., Morello-Frosch R., A review of maternal prenatal exposures to environmental chemicals and psychosocial stressors-implications for research on perinatal outcomes in the ECHO program, Journal of Perinatology, October 15, 2019; 40, 10–24. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41372-019-0510-y.
  • Varshavsky J.R., Morello-Frosch R., Woodruff T.J., Zota A.R., Dietary sources of cumulative phthalates exposure among the U.S. General population in NHANES 2005–2014. Environment International, 2018; 115, 417–429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2018.02.029.
    • Covered in “Dining out is bad for your health, according to a new study”, by Justin Phillips, San Francisco Chronicle, March 29, 2018: https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Dining-out-is-bad-for-your-health-according-to-a-12789378.php
    • Covered in “Eating out increases exposure to harmful phthalates”. By Brett Israel, Berkeley News, March 29, 2018. https://news.berkeley.edu/story_jump/eating-out-increases-exposure-to-harmful-phthalates/
    • Covered in “Eating out linked to potentially harmful chemicals used in plastic packaging, study finds”, by Charley Ross, Huffington Post, March 29, 2018: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/eating-out-linked-to-potentially-harmful-chemicals-used-in-plastic-packaging-study-finds_uk_5abc99c3e4b03e2a5c794fda
    • Covered in “Eating out increases levels of phthalates in the body, study finds”, by Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian, March 28, 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/29/eating-out-increases-levels-of-phthalates-in-the-body-study-finds
    • Covered in “The science about eating out that will scare you into cooking your own dinners”, by Jackie Flynn Mogensen, Mother Jones, March 28, 2018: https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2018/03/the-science-about-eating-out-that-will-scare-you-into-cooking-your-own-dinners/
    • Covered in “Restaurant link to potentially harmful food packaging chemicals”, The Argus, March 28, 2018: https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/national/16124306.restaurant-link-potentially-harmful-food-packaging-chemicals/
    • Referenced in “Feinstein to Introduce Bill to Remove Harmful Chemicals from Food Packaging”, Press Release, March 29, 2018: https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=C2AA1BB5-E857-4722-BDE3-5F93605FAE29
  • Varshavsky J.R., Zota A., Woodruff T.J., A novel method for calculating potency-weighted cumulative phthalates exposure with implications for identifying racial/ethnic disparities among U.S. reproductive-aged women in NHANES 2001–2012. Environmental Science and Technology, 2016; 50(19):10616-10624.
  • Morello-Frosch R., Varshavsky J.R., Liboiron M., Brown P., Brody J.G., Communicating results in post-Belmont era biomonitoring studies: Lessons from genetics and neuroimaging Research. Environmental Research, 2015; 136: 363–372.
  • Quach T., Varshavsky J.R., Von Behren J., Garcia E., Tong M., Nguyen T., Tran A., Gunier R., Reynolds P. Reducing chemical exposures in nail salons through owner and worker trainings: An exploratory intervention study. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2012; 9999: 1–12.
  • Garcia-Reyero N., Poynton H.C., Kennedy A.J., Guan X., Escalon B.L., Chang B., Varshavsky J.R., Loguinov A.V., Vulpe C.D., Perkins E.J., Biomarker discovery and transcriptomic responses in Daphnia magna exposed to munitions constituents. Environmental Science and Technology, 2009; 43: 4188–4193.
  • Poynton H.C., Loguinov A.V., Varshavsky J.R., Chan S., Perkins E.J., Vulpe C.D., Gene expression profiling in Daphnia magna part I: concentration-dependent profiles provide support for the no observed transcriptional effect level. Environmental Science and Technology, 2008; 42: 6250–6256.
  • Poynton H.C., Varshavsky J.R., Chang B., Cavigiolio G., Chan S., Holman P.S., Loguinov A.V., Bauer D.J., Komachi K., Theil E.C., Perkins E.J., Hughes O., Vulpe C.D., Daphnia magna ecotoxicogenomics provides mechanistic insights into metal toxicity. Environmental Science and Technology, 2007; 41: 1044–1050.


May 08, 2024

2024 URF Scholars Recipients

Thirty-six engineering students received 2024 URF Scholars Awards from Northeastern’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. URF Scholars are students who are graduating this year and who have earned a PEAK Experience Award, applied for a distinguished fellowship, or participated in graduate school advising.


Sep 15, 2023

Announcing Fall 2023 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Fall 2023 PEAK Experiences Awards. Projects this fall are tackling a range of topics and modes with students developing an autobiographical zine, studying the development of amphibian limbs, building better rocket parts, and more. BASE CAMP AWARDS Farhad Ibrahimzade COE’26 & […]

Julia Varshavsky

In the Media

Jul 10, 2023

A New Law Is Supposed To Protect Pregnant Workers — But What If We Don’t Know How?

Bouve/CEE Assistant Professor Julia Varshavsky was featured in the KFF Health News article “A New Law Is Supposed to Protect Pregnant Workers — But What If We Don’t Know How?“


Sep 26, 2022

Impact Engines Spur Multidisciplinary Research Innovation to Solve Global Challenges

Northeastern University has selected its first cohort of Impact Engines to ignite measurable change in problem-solving, three of the five of which are led by engineering faculty.


Apr 28, 2022

FY23 TIER 1 Award Recipients

Congratulations to the 15 COE faculty and affiliates who were recipients of FY23 TIER 1 Interdisciplinary Research Seed Grants for 13 different projects.

Julia Varshavsky


Dec 03, 2021

Varshavsky to Manage the New PFAS-Tox Database at Northeastern

Northeastern University is the home of the newly launched PFAS-Tox Database, a collection of over 1000 different studies examining the effects of PFAS on health outcomes, dating up to January 25, 2021. The database will allow users to filter based on specific chemicals studied and whether the research focuses on humans, animals, or in-vitro. Assistant […]

Julia Varshavsky


Jul 09, 2021

New Faculty Spotlight: Julia Varshavsky

Julia Varshavsky joins the Civil and Environmental Engineering in July 2021 as an Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in Bouvé College of Health Sciences.

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