Ixel Hernandez-Castro grew up next to a dairy farm near Fresno, California, where she remembers a plane would fly by on weekends and spray the fields surrounding her family home with pesticides.
“They’d finish spraying, and we’d run outside to play,” said Hernandez-Castro, MPH, a doctoral student in epidemiology in the department of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “For kids, there’s a lot of touching the environment, rolling on the grass, eating while playing, so though I didn’t know it at the time, I was being exposed to these pesticides.”
The experience motivated Hernandez-Castro to study the effects of household pesticide use on motor development in infants. Her research began as a capstone project for her master’s of public health degree, which she earned in 2020 at USC, and continued as she pursued her doctorate.