Education for the future

Developing the next generation of environmental health researchers at the University of Chicago

Up on EHS is an environmental health research training program for college students interested in careers in the environmental health sciences (EHS). For two consecutive summers, trainees work full time in the laboratories of established EHS researchers, including Chicago Center for Health and the Environment (CACHET) members, at the University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago. Rigorous research training is complemented with an EHS-based summer lecture series, year-round career development and skill-building workshops, CACHET seminars and workshops, and a network of faculty mentors dedicated to trainees’ success.

The program culminates in a research symposium to showcase trainees’ work across air, soil and water pollution, climate change, biomarkers of exposure, molecular processes of toxicity, environmental justice, community environmental health, community engagement, and other human health aspects of environmental exposure.

UChicago’s Up on EHS is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The NIEHS Undergraduate Research Education Program (UP) in the Environmental Health Sciences (R25) is a key activity in the implementation of the NIEHS Strategic Plan designed to enhance the diversity of scientists engaged in NIH-funded environmental health science research.

The overarching goal of this R25 program is to enhance the diversity of the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research workforce by providing research experiences and related opportunities to undergraduate and health professional students from diverse backgrounds.

This includes those from underrepresented groups, such as:

Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation (see here and here) to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis.

The following racial and ethnic groups have been shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research: Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders. In addition, it is recognized that underrepresentation can vary from setting to setting; individuals from racial or ethnic groups that can be demonstrated convincingly to be underrepresented by the grantee institution should be encouraged to participate in this program. For more information on racial and ethnic categories and definitions, see NOT-OD-15-089.

Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended

Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, defined as:

  • Individuals who come from a family with an annual income below established low-income thresholds.
  • Individuals who come from an educational environment such as that found in certain rural or inner-city environments that have demonstrably and directly inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to develop and participate in a research career.

These thresholds are based on family size and are published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census; these thresholds are adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index; and adjusted by the Secretary for use in all health professions programs. The Secretary periodically publishes these income levels here.


Up on EHS is a two-year program consisting of two eight-week summer research experiences plus monthly academic year activities. The summer research experiences generally run from the third week of June through the first full week of August. Specific dates are announced with the release of application materials. Please note that accommodations will be made for students whose last days of school overlap with the first days of the Up on EHS lab immersion.


  • Hands-on experience in an environmental health sciences laboratory or research group
  • Year-round career development and skill-building workshop
  • Ongoing mentorship from a network of university faculty, research professionals, program personnel, and peers
  • A taxable stipend of $3,500 per year ($1,000 during the school year and $2,500 during summer)

Eligibility criteria

Competitive applicants must:

  • Be a college student beginning their junior year during the Fall 2024 semester/quarter (rising seniors will be considered)
  • Be a United States citizen or permanent resident
  • Have a strong interest in a career in the environmental sciences, environmental health, or population research
  • Have a strong academic record, particularly in math and science
  • Be able to commit to the full two-year program, including 8-week research experiences (40 hours/week) for two consecutive summers and monthly enrichment activities (at least 2 hours per week) during the academic year

In order to enhance diversity, priority is given to applicants from groups underrepresented in the environmental health, biomedical, and behavioral sciences. Any individual with a demonstrated commitment to increasing the full participation of underrepresented groups in EHS is encouraged to apply.

Please note that students are responsible for their own housing and transportation to and from the University of Chicago/UIC during their summer research experiences.

Admission to Up on EHS is highly competitive. A limited number of students are selected each year.

How to apply:

  • Review the application questions (available here) and application packet for students (available here).
  • Submit the online application form for students – available here.
  • Arrange for two individuals (at least one teacher/professor) to complete the online applicant recommendation form here.
  • Applicants who advance to the second round of application review will complete a virtual interview with the program leadership team

All application materials are due FRIDAY, MARCH 1, 2024

Conflict of Interest Policy: Applicant selection is managed by the program leadership team. Immediate family members of the leadership team, CACHET faculty member, or the Up on EHS Advisory Committee are ineligible for the program. All applications will be subject to the Conflict of Interest Policy.

Do I have to be a University of Chicago Student to apply?

Up on EHS is open to students from any undergraduate institution, and you do not have to be a student at UChicago in order to participate. However, participants must be in Chicago to take part in the summer research immersion (at UChicago or UIC).

We prioritize applicants with a strong academic record (particularly in math and science) and the interpersonal skills necessary to thrive in a professional work environment. Students selected for the program will demonstrate a passion for science and careful consideration of how the program will help them achieve their education and career goals.

I’m an out-of-state student and won’t be in Chicago during the academic year. Will I still be able to participate in the required academic year activities for the Up on EHS program?

Yes. All academic year activities can be modified for out-of-state students.

What qualities do you look for in an applicant?

We prioritize applicants with a strong academic record (particularly in math and science) and the interpersonal skills required for a professional work environment. Those admitted to the program demonstrate a passion for science and careful consideration of how the program will help them achieve their education and career goals.

Tip for all applicants: Spend time on your application essays. We weigh them heavily.

Who should I choose as recommenders?

Consider individuals who can speak compellingly about your academic performance, personal qualities, and interest in the environmental health sciences. At least one recommender MUST be a teacher/professor. Other possibilities include a school counselor, coach, employer, or community leader. Please do NOT ask a close relative (e.g., parent, sibling, aunt)


  • Brisa Aschebrook-Kilfoy, Ph.D., MPH, MPhil – Program Co-Director and Environmental Epidemiologist
  • Habib Ahsan, MD, MMedSc – Program Co-Director, CACHET Director, and Environmental Epidemiologist
  • Andy Craver, MS, MPH – Research Specialist
  • Kayla T. Moore, MPH – Outreach Manager

Faculty mentors

Up on EHS would not be possible without our faculty mentors and their research teams who dedicate precious time, wisdom, and study resources to participants of the program. Our mentors are leaders across all areas of environmental health research including epidemiology, toxicology, exposure assessment, biostatistics, engineering, genomics, and translational, clinical, and population-based health. They are also skilled educators and committed role models. Many are active members/leadership of the Chicago Center for Health and the Environment.

Institute for Population and Precision Health

Andy Craver, Research Specialist

Office: (773) 702-9644