Dr. Kinney is a Professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural & Environmental Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Her cross disciplinary research in environmental engineering and molecular biology centers on the investigation of microorganisms and pollutants in natural and engineered systems. Most recently, her research group has been examining the microbiome and contaminants present in a range of indoor environments including schools and homes. Her research team also develops treatment technologies for municipal and industrial wastewaters. Dr. Kinney is Faculty Director of the GLUE (Graduates Linked to Undergraduates in Engineering) Mentoring Program as well as the Mapping the UTBiome initiative at UT Austin. Dr. Kinney joined the faculty at UT Austin in 1996 after earning her Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Davis. She is currently holder of the L. P. Gilvin Centennial Professorship in Civil Engineering and a member of the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering graduate program at UT Austin.
Abstract: While advances in DNA sequencing technology have provided unprecedented insights into the human microbiome, only recently have we begun to use these techniques to investigate the microbiome within the built environment. Americans spend nearly 90% of their time in buildings and thus understanding the full range of microbial exposures that occur within our homes, offices and schools is essential for beginning to unravel the links between microbial exposures and human health. The indoor microbiome that develops in a given building varies as a function of the design and operation of the building as well as human occupancy patterns. Typical building features such as HVAC systems, showers, and attics/ceiling plenums can contribute to the microbial communities found inside buildings. Determining whether these building components serve as microbial sources that introduce microorganisms into the building or as microbial reservoirs that collect microorganisms is a necessary step toward understanding how to minimize undesirable exposures and encourage potentially healthy exposures. In this talk, I will present results of our indoor microbiome studies conducted in range of buildings including portable classroom buildings, conventional high schools and rural homes. These studies have provided insight into several aspects of the microbiome of the built environment including the contribution of hidden, unmaintained spaces to the indoor microbiome as well as the relationship between microbial exposures and asthma severity in rural homes.