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!

REH Fellow- Amanda Darling

Amanda Darling

2021 Rural Environmental Health Fellow


Amanda Darling’s 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. With these research findings, she hopes to contribute to the efforts for safe freshwater and drinking water resources in rural communities, and provide data for policy-makers to better inform decision making on water and sanitation issues.

Advised by Dr. Alasdair Cohen

REH Fellow - Charles Sterling

Charles W. Sterling III

2021 Rural Environmental Health Fellow


Charles Sterling’s research aims to examine potential relationship 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. Additionally, participants will be encouraged to complete a survey with questions focused on demographics, homeownership status and their perceptions of water quality. Working at the intersection of environmental engineering and environmental justice, Charles aims to identify and quantify potential links between social identities, local geology, and drinking water quality in rural Appalachia.

Advised by Dr. Leigh-Anne Krometis

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.