Diana Rohlman ’07 has spent her career researching environmental pollution and working with local communities to help them understand the impact their environment has on their health.
The field of toxicology combines elements of two things she loves — biology, which was her major at Marietta, and theatre, which was her minor. But when Rohlman began her undergraduate career, she had no idea what she wanted to do after she graduated.
Today, Rohlman is an Assistant Professor and Senior Researcher for Oregon State University, where she teaches a class on public health toxicology. She points to her experience at Marietta — particularly the diversity of classes that were offered and her work with her adviser, Dr. David Brown — with inspiring her to pursue a career in the toxicology field.
Rohlman enrolled in her first toxicology course at Marietta not because she was interested in the field but because she needed credits and because she liked Brown, who was teaching the class. By the time she completed her second toxicology course, she knew she wanted to continue to study toxicology at the graduate level.
Rohlman likens the discipline of toxicology to a rescue dog — because it’s got a little bit of everything in it. She was intrigued by the way the field combines biology and chemistry to explore what’s in the environment and whether the environment is going to harm people’s health.
“I just really loved this concept of using all of these scientific fields to address all of these relevant questions.”
After graduating from Marietta, Rohlman earned her Ph.D. in Environmental and Molecular Toxicology from Oregon State University in 2013, where she researched how exposure to certain chemicals affects the immune system. Then, she completed her post-doctoral work with Oregon State’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
Rohlman’s first public health research project centered on concerns about air quality as a result of unconventional natural gas drilling, conventionally called fracking. The project brought her back to rural Ohio and gave her and her former Marietta adviser, Brown, the chance to conduct research together as colleagues.
“For most students, their senior capstone project is the last thing that I work on with them, but with Diana I got another chance to work on a research project with her,” Brown said. “A couple years ago I had the opportunity to work with her on a project that was looking at environmental exposure to organic compounds. It was an interesting project, and I really enjoyed getting to reconnect and see how she was doing in her career.”
Rohlman now works in academia, though she does still get to go out in the field occasionally. She recently completed a project examining industrial air pollution in a small community, and is now researching how wildfire smoke affects human health.