Julia Varshavsky

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



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Research Focus

Environmental exposures and maternal-child health outcomes, biomonitoring, risk assessment in vulnerable communities


Julia Varshavsky 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. She focuses on environmental exposures and maternal-child health outcomes, as well as conducts biomonitoring studies related to advancing risk assessment in vulnerable communities.

Before joining Northeastern, Julia served as a research scientist for the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA, Cal EPA) to conduct biomonitoring studies of health-related chemical exposures, and before that was a postdoctoral researcher in environmental epidemiology and biostatistics for the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), where she conducted biologically-based population-level studies on exposure and health risks associated with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), and organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs). Specifically, her recent work highlights maternal-fetal exposure to PBDEs, PFASs, and OPFRs during mid-gestation in relation to biomarkers of placental development and disease that are associated with maternal and fetal health 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 around developmental impacts of environmental contaminants as the Reproductive Health Working Group coordinator for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE).


  • 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

Professional Affiliations

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

Research Overview

Environmental exposures and maternal-child health outcomes, biomonitoring, risk assessment in vulnerable communities

Selected Publications

  • 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.
  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41372-019-0510-y.
  • 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, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2019.04.004.


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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