TCNJ Magazine Fall 2023

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35 FALL 2023 "My overarching focus," say Alexis Mraz, professor of public health, "is quantifying risk in water." She started as a master's student in environmental health science. Back then, she focused on frogs, given their standing as harbingers of the health of the very water in which they reside. Moving forward, Mraz concentrated on the connection between the envi- ronment — water specifically — and human health. She's interested in the broad strokes — for example, if the waters where we recreate such as oceans, lakes, and city splashpads, are healthy. But her research, of course, drills down to a more detailed level. She looks at water and sanitation health and how to assess — and reduce — the risk of waterborne contami- nants. She's immersed in the epidemi- ology of two research projects — one funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the other by the National Science Foundation — scru- tinizing the presence of Legionella, a bacteria, in water. One project, a collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, is studying the water systems of two dozen hospitals and nursing homes. Mraz and her fellow researchers are focused on reducing outbreaks of Legionellosis, a disease caused by the bacteria. She hopes the research will be expanded to include other opportunistic pathogens that can cause outbreaks in health care settings. In her lab at TCNJ, Mraz spikes a bioreactor with Legionella to measure its growth over time. She will use the resulting data to devise a predictive model that takes into account building design and aspects of a site's plumb- ing system, such as piping material, water treatment, boiler types, and temperature. Such a model will enable Mraz's research team to make specific recommendations to individual health care facilities to reduce the risk of a Legionellosis outbreak. "Legionella can be a frustrating problem for hospital managers who have struggled to treat it and have had reoccurring issues," says Mraz. "We're hoping this project will provide solutions for them to manage current issues and prevent future ones." ■ Christopher Hann, a regular contributor to TCNJ Magazine, knows a thing or two about water as the executive editor of River Towns Magazine. L to R: Professor Alexis Mraz with Kayla Shorter MPH '23 A quality controller Mraz looks at water and sanitation health and how to assess the risk of waterborne contaminants.

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