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.

Rural Environmental Health Fellows work at the nexus of multiple labs and with external partners with a rural focus, further solidifying current collaborations between environment and health focused faculty and external partners and becoming catalysts encouraging new collaborations. With support from the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, we will award two Rural Environmental Health Fellowships to outstanding applicants in the academic 2021-22 academic year.

The 2021-22 application deadline is 5 pm EST on March 1, 2021.


To apply for a Rural Environmental Health Fellowship:

Rural Environmental Health Fellowship 2021 Request for Applications [.PDF]

Rural Environmental Health Fellowship 2021 Request for Applications [.DOC]



Hannah Patton

PhD Student, Biological Systems Engineering

Hannah Patton’s research focuses on access to safe drinking water in rural Appalachia. She will examine how in-home water availability and perception shape drinking water source selection, patterns of drinking water contamination in homes served by municipal and private water systems, and the potential for commercially available point of use filters to improve water quality. In addition, Hannah is the lead graduate student on a VT “Rapid Response” grant that is delivering in-home water-based STEM education kits to rural communities whose educational options have been limited by the covid19 pandemic.

Advised by Drs. Leigh-Anne Krometis and Emily Sarver


Suwei Wang

PhD Student & Interfaces of Global Change Fellow,
Population Health Sciences

Suwei is characterizing individually experienced temperature of residents in a rural study site compared to an urban study site in Alabama, working with ENACT team members. She is comparing these measurements with estimates of temperature at the nearest weather station and neighborhood-level measurements. She is also examining how time spent outdoors affects physical activity. Ultimately, she would like to contribute to our understanding of microclimates within neighborhoods in an urban versus rural setting and how this affects temperatures experienced and health-related behaviors of residents.

Advised by Dr. Julia Gohlke