For more than 16 years, Dr. Reynolds has worked as a researcher and public health educator in environmental science, specializing in water quality, food safety and disease transmission. Her extensive experience in those research areas includes her role as a principal investigator of numerous projects and the publication of hundreds of journal articles, book chapters and professional reports. In her first teaching position, Dr. Reynolds calls the opportunity "a great mixture of education, research and community service … I think I've always been preparing myself for this type of position."
In addition to co-teaching three classes this semester, Dr. Reynolds is working on several projects, including one in which she joins UA engineers to apply lasers to detect human viruses in drinking water. This type of technology would not only expedite the process of discovering water-borne viruses, but it could detect viruses that were previously undetectable, she said. Between 1971 and 2000 in the United States, water-borne pathogens resulted in nearly 600,000 cases of illness. Dr. Reynolds suspects that millions of cases were undocumented because people who were affected suffered relatively minor symptoms.
"We're very lacking in methods in identifying and characterizing viruses that are transmitted in the environment," said Dr. Reynolds, who is the co-investigator of the study. "We hope that (the laser technology) will be the standard method of virus detection in water."
Dr. Reynolds is the principal investigator of two other projects, which looks for contaminants in the water supply and in the home. In the water study, Dr. Reynolds aims to assess the risk of tap water by analyzing the types of disease-causing organisms captured in the filters of water vending machines. In the home hygiene study, Dr. Reynolds is monitoring the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the home by identifying the bacteria's survival in soft surfaces, including carpets and towels. The MRSA bacteria could cause severe skin infections and result in hospitalizations, or rarely death, Dr. Reynolds said.
Dr. Reynolds hopes that her research yields information that people can use to reduce their risk of illness. "It's difficult to control your food and air supply," she said. "But in your water and in your home, there is some control that individuals can have to reduce their exposure. There are ways to treat your water and there are ways to disinfect your home … From a scientist's point of view, we can continue to develop and improve methods to identify hazards, but that information only goes so far if the public doesn't actively participate in reducing their exposure."
Dr. Reynolds received her doctorate degree from Te University of Arizona in Agriculture and Life Sciences in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, and a master's degree from the University of South Florida in Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. She has previously worked as a research technician, research fellow and an assistant research scientist at the University of Arizona since 1987.
Established by the Arizona Board of Regents in January 2000, The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is the only accredited college of public health in the 12-state Mountain/Pacific region. The UA Zuckerman College of Public Health's mission is to promote the health of individuals and communities with a special emphasis on diverse populations and the Southwest.