our research


The Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics is located within the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, a community-based medical school utilizing a network of practice sites and hospitals across Michigan.

The medical facilities of six Michigan communities are linked to the College. In addition, proximity to the Michigan Department of Community Health creates numerous opportunities for collaboration. These linkages provide practice sites for community epidemiologic investigations. Community-based research is supported by both an electronic infrastructure, which links all six campus sites, and a network of family practice groups that collaborate in research. 

Listed below are some examples of research projects conducted by the faculty of The Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.



Airborne pollutants as triggers of Parkinson's Disease via the olfactory system

This is a multi-PI project supported by the US Department of Defense (9/2017-8/2022). Dr. Honglei Chen leads the epidemiology arm of this project. In this study, Dr. Chen and his team have objectively assessed the sense of smell of ~3,400 women, ages 50-79, recruited from the NIEHS Sister Study cohort. The primary goal of this project is to assess roles of air pollutants in olfactory impairment and their relevance to Parkinson’s disease.


Prenatal Exposures and Child Health Outcomes: A Statewide Study (1 UG3 OD023285-01) is a collaboration among five Michigan institutions, and is one of 35 national pediatric cohorts funded under the aegis of the NIH-funded ECHO (Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes) program, a seven-year initiative that began in September 2016. All scientists affiliated with any of the five participating institutions in our state (Henry Ford Health System, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan State University, University of Michigan, and Wayne State University) are eligible to apply to either or both of two grants programs designed to support original research making use of the resources of this project. Dr. Nigel Paneth


Conductive Education Evaluation Project (CEEP) was designed as a randomized clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of routine care for cerebral palsy (CP) with Conductive Education, an intensive, classroom-style CP therapy offered by the Conductive Learning Center (CLC) of Grand Rapids. The study enrolls children ages 2-6 for four week sessions. Signature characteristics of conductive education include specially trained conductors (teachers), daily sessions, rhythmic intention, peer motivation and specialized equipment. The study was first funded from 2007-2009 and received new funding from the State of Michigan in 2016 to restart the trial, enroll more families, and strengthen this research. PIs: Madeleine Lenski and Nigel Paneth. Research Coordinator: Deborah Weiland.


Extremely Low Gestational Age Newborns (ELGAN-ECHO) began in the early 2000s as a large multi-regional NIH-funded study investigating antecedents of brain injury in newborns born under 28 weeks. Now in its third longitudinal phase, it continues as part of the nationwide NIH ECHO (Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes) initiative. In the first phase of the study, over 1,500 newborns and their parents were enrolled at 14 hospitals in the Lake Michigan area, New England, and North Carolina. Developmental assessments were obtained in infancy and for over 85% of children at corrected age of 24 months. The study was refunded to see children for neurodevelopmental follow-up around age 10. Currently in its third phase, now led by Dr Michael O’Shea at University of North Carolina, the cohort continues to be followed in their teen years to learn about long term outcomes of prematurity, environmental exposures, and their relationship to inflammatory and other perinatal biomarkers.
MSU site staff are Principal Investigators Madeleine Lenski and Nigel Paneth, and Research Coordinator Deborah Weiland.


The Michigan Stroke Transitions Trial (MISTT) is a PCORI funded randomized clinical trial designed to help stroke patients and their caregivers after returning home from the hospital. Approximately three quarters of stroke survivors return home, but many face considerable physical, emotional, and financial challenges during the transition period. This 3-arm trial tested the efficacy of social work-led case management, or access to a curated patient-centered website, versus usual care. Outcome measures included QOL and the patient activation measure (PAM). A total of 265 stroke patients and 160 caregivers from 3 Michigan hospitals were enrolled in the trial. For further information contact Mat Reeves (PI) or Michele Fritz (Project manager).

Parkinson’s research in large population-based cohorts

Dr. Honglei Chen has collaborated to establish a Parkinson’s research component in several large prospective cohorts, including the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities Study (ARIC), and the Health ABC study, and the Shanghai Women’s Health Study. These studies have complementary cohort characteristics and share a common goal to dissect the natural history and etiology of Parkinson’s disease.

Pesticides, Olfaction, and Neurodegeneration Among US Farmers (AHS-PASS)

This newly funded R01 project (2/2019 – 1/2024) aims to investigate roles of pesticides in olfaction impairment and their relevance to prodromal neurodegeneration. In Stage 1 of this study, Dr. Honglei Chen and co-investigators will objectively test the sense of smell of ~2,400 farmers from the Agricultural Health Study, and then, in Stage 2, conduct in-home clinical assessments for ~450 farmers to assess cognitive and motor symptoms.

Policy Change and Women’s Health

The goal of this NIH-funded study is to assess the impact of health and social policies, particularly Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and health among women of reproductive age. We are using multiple national datasets to examine impacts of policies on preconception health, reproductive health behaviors, pregnancy health, and birth outcomes. The project is led by Dr. Claire Margerison.


Etiologic Heterogeneity in Preterm Delivery
The aim of this study is to better understand the causes of preterm delivery by identifying the pathways through which risk of preterm delivery is mediated, and the role of maternal serum alpha fetoprotein in these pathways. Over seeing a Minority Supplement under this grant. Claudia Holzman, PI

Jeanette Scheid PI, Co-PI Claudia Holzman, and Laura Symonds.

Pregnancy-Associated Mortality and Morbidity due to Drugs, Self-harm, and Suicide

The US ranked 56th out of 185 nations in 2017 in rates of maternal mortality, according to the World Health Organization, and this rate has been increasing over the past two decades. Because of this, substantial research, public health, and clinical efforts focus on reducing morbidity and mortality thought to be due to or aggravated by pregnancy, specifically hemorrhage, hypertension, and venous thromboembolism. However, deaths due to drugs (both illicit and prescription), suicide, and homicide are increasing and may be equally as common among pregnant women and new mothers.

Our ongoing research is estimating the incidence of deaths during pregnancy and postpartum due to drugs, suicide, and homicide in the US as a whole and assessing whether this incidence has increased over time and/or differs by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or geography.

We are also investigating to what extent deaths represent the “tip of an iceberg” of maternal suffering and service utilization due to drugs, self-harm, and violence and we are identifying “red flags” that clinicians can use to identify women at risk of such morbidity or mortality in the postpartum period.  Dr. Claire Margerison

Research Training in Drug Dependence Epidemiology

Dr. James C. (Jim) Anthony serves as the director of our NIH/NIDA supported T32 and D43 research training fellowship programs based in the Department of Epidemiology within Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. Click here for more information