School of Pharmacy
The University of Mississippi

Dr. Courtney Roper

Posted on: July 3rd, 2019 by
Assistant Professor of Environmental Toxicology and Assistant Research Professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Faser Hall 307

Professional Background:

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Oregon State University
  • Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
  • M.S., New York University
  • B.S., Pennsylvania State University


  • Assistant Professor of Environmental Toxicology
  • Assistant Professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Career Highlights:

Dr. Roper received the diverse training necessary to thoroughly research air pollution through epidemiology, chemistry, and toxicology. During her predoctoral training at the University of Pittsburgh she became familiar with concepts used in air pollution epidemiology and also identified the importance of compositional differences in ambient air pollution and the resultant biological differences. Due to the urgent need for the toxicity screening of ambient particulate matter which varies in composition based on source contributions as well as spatial, temporal, and seasonal factors she set out to establish a high-throughput screening method to accommodate the vast, variable samples. For her postdoctoral training, Dr. Roper joined the highly innovative Tanguay Lab which has automated high-throughput zebrafish screening capabilities and has made significant contributions to chemical screening for developmental toxicity, including the U.S. EPA ToxCast program. She was an NIEHS-supported postdoctoral fellow mentored by Drs. Robert Tanguay and Staci Simonich. During this fellowship Dr. Roper developed methods for high-throughput screening of fine particulate matter in zebrafish and established the importance of filter extraction methods due to subsequent chemical and biological response alterations. Dr. Roper has received over 10 regional, national, and international awards including several from the Society of Toxicology and recently was selected as an NIH Loan Repayment Awardee by the NIEHS. Her independent research career began in July 2019 as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Toxicology in the Department of BioMolecular Sciences at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.


Exposure to air pollution is a global public health problem, attributable to nearly 8 million deaths annually and more than 90 % of the global population live in a location exceeding recommended air quality limits. Thus far the mechanisms for these observed health effects are poorly understood, even after decades of research. We aim to perform robust characterization of air pollution, specifically fine particulate matter (PM2.5), to learn more about these environmental exposures. Our transdisciplinary approach to address questions relevant to environmental health requires a combination of environmental chemistry, toxicology, and epidemiology. Current focuses of the Roper Lab include:

Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Filter Extraction: Prior to studying filter-collected PM2.5 the particles must be extracted from the filter material. Currently, there is not a standardized method for this procedure and we have demonstrated that varying methods affect subsequent chemical and biological response analyses. We aim to identify an optimized filter extraction method for consistent and accurate data for inter-laboratory comparisons.

Metrics Beyond PM2.5 Concentration: A majority of human health standards related to air pollution are focused on PM2.5 concentration, disregarding factors like the chemical composition or other health-relevant measures of air pollution exposures. We aim to investigate metrics, beyond concentration, to have a better understanding of these ubiquitous exposures.

Zebrafish as a Biological Sensor: Zebrafish provide an in vivo model to interrogate all levels of development, and the molecular pathways that produce them, in one integrated experiment. Combined with the amenability to high-throughput screening, zebrafish offer a unique model for PM2.5 research to better understand the underlying mechanisms to the known health effects associated with PM2.5 exposures. We aim to establish morphological and behavioral changes in zebrafish following PM2.5 exposure and identify differences based on the collection location of the PM2.5.

Associations to Human Health Outcomes: Linking the robust characterization of air pollution through chemical and biological responses in zebrafish to human health outcomes will provide information on markers of interest for future research to ultimately improve regulatory standards and protect human health.  We aim to measure various metrics of PM2.5 in collaboration with epidemiologists collecting human health outcomes to make associations between laboratory measurements and human health.


Trine, L.S.D., Davis, E.L, Roper, C., Truong, L., Tanguay, R.L., Simonich, S.L.M. Formation of PAH Derivatives and Increased Developmental Toxicity During Steam-enhanced Extraction Remediation of Creosote Contaminated Superfund Soil. Research article. Environmental Science & Technology, 2019. 10.1021/ acs.est.8b07231

Longley, I., Tunno, B., Somervell, E., Edwards, S., Olivares, G., Gray, S., Coulson, G., Cambal, L., Roper, C., Chubb, L., Clougherty, J.E. Assessment of Spatial and Temporal Variability across Multiple Pollutants in Auckland, New Zealand. Research article. Accepted to International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health International, 2019. 10.3390/ijerph16091567

Tunno, B., Longley, I., Somervell, E., Edwards, S., Olivares, G., Gray, S., Coulson, G., Cambal, L., Chubb, L., Roper, C., Clougherty, J. Separating spatial patterns in pollution attributable to woodsmoke and other sources, during daytime and nighttime hours, in Christchurch, New Zealand. Research article. Environment Research, 2019. j.envres.2019.01.033

Chen, X., Chen, Y., Huang, C., Dong, Q., Roper, C., Tanguay, R.L., Zhu, Y, Zhang, Y. Neurodevelopmental toxicity assessments of alkyl phenanthrene and Decholrane Plus co-exposure in zebrafish. Research article. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 2019.

Roper, C., Delgado, L.S., Barrett, D., Simonich, S.L., Tanguay, R.L. PM2.5 Filter Extraction Methods: Implications for Chemical and Toxicological Analyses. Research article. Environmental Science & Technology, 2018. 10.1021/acs.est.8b04308

Tunno, B.J., Tripathy, S., Kinnee, E., Michanowicz, D.R., Shmool, J.L.C., Cambal, L., Chubb, L.G., Roper, C., Cloughtery, J.E. Fine-scale source apportionment including diesel-related elemental and organic constituents of PM2.5 across downtown Pittsburgh. Research article. Journal of environmental Research and Public Health, 2018.  doi:10.3390/ijerph15102177

Tunno, B., Michanowicz, D., Shmool, J., Tripathy, S., Kinnee, E., Cambal, L., Chubb, L., Roper, C., Clougherty, J. Spatial patterns in rush-hour vs. work-week hour diesel-related pollution across a downtown core. Research article. Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2018. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15091968

Roper, C., Simonich, S.L., Tanguay, R.L. Development of a High-throughput in vivo Screening Platform for Particulate Matter Exposures. Research article. Environmental Pollution, 2018. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2018.01.025

Jiangfei, C., Linjie, T., Lei, L., Roper, C., Xiaoqing, G., Yuxin, Z., Chenglian, B., Changjiang, H., Tanguay, R.L., Qiaoxiang, D. Development and behavior alterations in zebrafish embryonically exposed to valproic acid (VPA): animal model of autism. Neurotoxciology and Teratology, 2018. doi: 10.1016/

Roper, C., Chubb, L.G., Cambal, L., Tunno, B., Clougherty, J.E., Fattman, C., Mischler, S.E. Association of inflammatory markers with PM2.5 components: importance of characterizing filter-based PM2.5 following extraction. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, 2017. doi:10.1007/s11270-016-3219-y *

Tunno, B.J., Shmool, J.L., Michanowicz, D.R., Kinnee, E., Tripathy, S., Chubb, L.G., Cambal, L.K., Roper, C., Clougherty, J.E. Spatial and Seasonal Variation in Diesel-Related Pollutants across a Super-Saturation Campaign in Downtown Pittsburgh. Science of the Total Environment, 2016. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.08.011

Roper, C., Chubb, L.G., Cambal, L., Tunno, B., Clougherty, J.E., Mischler, S.E. Characterization of ambient and extracted PM2.5 collected on filters for toxicology applications. Inhalation Toxicology, 2015. doi: 10.3109/08958378.2015.1092185 *

Tunno, B.J., Michanowicz, D.R., Shmool, J.L., Kinnee, E., Cambal, L., Tripathy, S., Gillooly, S., Roper, C., Chubb, L.G., Clougherty, J.E. Spatial variation in inversion-focused vs 24-h integrated samples of PM and black carbon across Pittsburgh, PA. Journal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology, 2015. doi: 10.1038/jes.2015.14

Shmool, J.L., Michanowicz, D.R., Cambal, L., Tunno, B., Howell, J., Gillooly, S., Roper, C., Tripathy, S., Chubb, L.G., Eisl, H.M., Gorczynski, J.E., Holguin, F.E., Shields, K.N., Clougherty, J.E.  Saturation sampling for spatial variation in multiple air pollutants across an inversion-prone metropolitan area of complex terrain. Environmental health, 2014. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-13-28

* Corresponding Author

Book Chapters:

Roper, C. and R.L. Tanguay. Tox21 and Adverse Outcome Pathways. Chapter XIVb in Introduction to Interdisciplinary Toxicology: From Molecules to Man, submitted to editor on 28 August 2018.

Roper, C. and R.L. Tanguay. Zebrafish as a model for Developmental Biology and Toxicology. Section II in Handbook of Developmental Neurotoxicology, Second Edition. 143-151. 2018