Erin Baker

Erin Baker

   Caudill Laboratories 017
   919-445-1189
   erinmsb@unc.edu
  Group Website


Research Interests

How the Environment Affects Human Health, Molecular Biomarkers, Analytical Separations, High Throughput Screening, Mass Spectrometry, Ion Mobility Spectrometry


Research Synopsis

Measuring chemical exposure is extremely challenging due to the range and number of anthropogenic molecules encountered in our daily lives as well as their complex transformations throughout the body. To broadly characterize how chemical exposures influence human health, a combination of genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, endogenous metabolomic, and xenobiotic measurements must be performed to understand the different molecular changes occurring. However, while genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic analyses have rapidly progressed over the last two decades, neither xenobiotic nor endogenous metabolite small molecule measurements have advanced to as great of a degree, even though they are essential for the direct analysis of chemical exposure.

Therefore, the Baker Group is working to develop and optimize new analytical and computational approaches for these measurements. Specifically, they are using various combinations of separation methods including automated solid phase extractions, liquid chromatography, supercritical fluid chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry and mass spectrometry to enable the analysis of thousands of longitudinal samples over the lifetime of exposure.

These analyses allow the assessment of both xenobiotic and endogenous molecular changes to probe the perturbations occurring. Additionally, the Baker Group is creating computational software programs and approaches using R, Python, Java and machine learning for the evaluation and visualization of the molecules they have detected and samples they have analyzed. These new computational capabilities are enabling improved mining of the data and more associations to be formed in the populations studied.

Finally, the Baker Group is extremely passionate about promoting their research and STEM careers to the general public through community engagement and outreach. Thus, they present at various international and local conferences and are excited to get into K-12 schools once the pandemic has lessened.

Professional Background

Erin received her B.S. in chemistry and a minor in mathematics from Montana State University in Bozeman. At MSU, Erin performed undergraduate research in Eric Grimsrud’s lab using ion mobility spectrometry (IMS). She pursued IMS even further during her Ph.D. research in Michael Bowers’ Group at the University of California – Santa Barbara where she evaluated DNA duplexes and quadruplexes by coupling IMS with mass spectrometry (IMS-MS) measurements. Erin then traveled to Tricities, WA where she was a post-doctoral researcher and then a scientist in Richard Smith’s group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.


Research Group

The Baker research group utilizes multidimensional separation techniques such as solid phase extractions, liquid chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry, and mass spectrometry to evaluate molecules present and changing in biological and environmental systems. Research projects include the development of high-throughput analyses to study numerous samples in a short time period as well as informatics studies to evaluate and connect the complex multi-omic data with available phenotypic data.