Runyu ZOU
Postdoctoral Researcher

Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht | Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University
Utrecht, The Netherlands


Who is Runyu Zou?

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, and the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University. I obtained my Bachelor of Medicine (BMed) and Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees in China, after which I came to the Netherlands to pursue my PhD at Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam. Embedded in the Generation R cohort, my PhD research focused on perinatal determinants of child brain development, using modern epidemiological methods, longitudinal data modelling, and neuroimaging techniques. During my PhD training, I also obtained a Master of Science (MSc) degree in epidemiology. My current research focus is environmental epidemiology and exposome sciences.

What is your focus/role in the FREIA project?

My role in the FREIA project lies in work package 4 ‘Human Validation’, investigating the health effect of EDCs exposure on female reproductive health based on existing cohorts from an epidemiological perspective. This is an important step to complement findings from the lab and to indicate clinical and public health implication. 

What is an interesting result you have obtained so far?

Based on two cohorts from Sweden and Estonia, we found signals for adverse effect of exposure to EDCs such as phthalates, parabens, and PFASs on female fertility, although further studies in heterogeneous populations and of larger sample sizes are warranted to ascertain these findings.

What would you like to accomplish within the FREIA project?

I would like to unravel the effect of exposure to EDCs on female reproductive health, taking into account the complexity of EDCs both as individual chemicals and as chemical mixtures. Being able to obtain consistent findings from evaluating both sensitive biomarkers and intuitive clinical outcomes will also be very inspiring, but we may need a larger sample size.

How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting you/your work?

I joined the FREIA project in November, 2021, so the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on my work is not dramatic, although we did come across less optimal communications and interactions in the virtual world when strict social distancing was still in place. We are getting back to daily routine and I hope we stay free from the pandemic, despite the fact that the virus likely continues to exist in its own way on the globe.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the people following FREIA?

Although researchers are always keen on randomized controlled trials, assessing associations based on observational data is the first and most feasible step to infer causality in the real world. It is not always easy for the public to follow scientific languages, but before explicit conclusion is drawn, it is always good to keep in mind ‘all things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison’.