Congratulations to 2021-22 Rural Environmental Health Fellows, Amanda Darling and Charles Sterling

June 11, 2021

Please join us in congratulating Charles Sterling and Amanda Darling, and in welcoming Amanda to the Interfaces of Global Change (IGC) Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program this fall 2021!


Through her research, Amanda Darling aims to contribute toward improvements for safe drinking water resources in rural communities, and provide data for policy-makers to better inform decision making on water and sanitation issues.

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Amanda began her PhD research in spring 2021 working with Dr. Alasdair Cohen in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her research interests include drinking water quality and treatment methods with a focus on rural areas of Central Appalachia. For her PhD dissertation, she will first conduct a systemic review and meta-analysis on drinking water quality and associated health outcomes in the Appalachian Region to identify key exposures of concern. Next Amanda plans to initiate a field-based study, in collaboration with local stakeholders, to evaluate and better characterize drinking water contaminants and associated health outcomes in a low-income rural region of Southwest Virginia.

Click here to read more about Amanda on her IGC profile page

Working at the intersection of environmental engineering and environmental justice, Charles Sterling aims to identify and quantify potential links between social identities, local geology, and drinking water quality in rural Appalachia.

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Charles Sterling began his PhD research in fall 2021 working with Dr. Leigh-Anne Krometis in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, and joined the Interfaces of Global Change program in spring 2021. His research aims to examine relationships between private well water quality and demographic factors such as race and poverty; specifically, whether minority and/or underserved individuals are more likely to rely on contaminated drinking water. The first part of his doctoral work includes a collaboration with the Virginia Household Water Quality Program, a Cooperative Extension program that provides low-cost household water quality analysis and system maintenance education, to provide point-of-use water quality testing to residents in several southwestern Virginia counties.

Click here to read more about Charles on his IGC profile page


The Rural and Environmental Health (REH) Fellowships are awarded to Ph.D. students working at the nexus of environmental and health sciences in rural settings, providing them with a 12-month assistantship and tuition. REH Fellows will also participate in the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program.

Roughly one-fifth of the US population is considered “rural”; however, these rural landscapes comprise 90% of the nation’s land area, and provide the overwhelming majority of the country’s food, energy, water and other natural resources. Simultaneously, rural residents face many health disparities compared to their urban counterparts. Virginia Tech is well positioned to provide a rich training environment for examining environmental health in rural landscapes, with top programs in agriculture, natural resources and environment, and engineering, and growing programs in public health and translational biology and medicine. With support from the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, the Global Change Center has awarded two Rural Environmental Health Fellows per year with Graduate Research Assistantships and research support. Two additional fellowships will be offered in 2022-23 with a request for proposals released in December 2021; interested applicants and faculty sponsors will find more information about the Rural Environmental Health Fellowship here.