The Forestry and Environmental Studies School continues to work towards filling the goals Dean Gustave Speth ’64 LAW ’69 set for the school when he was appointed to a second term last October. Two of Speth’s goals – making the environment school more global and strengthening its ties to Yale College and the rest of the university – have begun to come to fruition. Joining the faculty are a visiting environmental law scholar from Singapore and a new permanent assistant professor, whose specialty in environmental health Speth hopes will bring together the environment school and the School of Public Health.
“We have also been working to bring faculty here from abroad on a regular basis,” Speth said. “This semester Lye Lin-Heng is coming from the National University of Singapore (NUS) where she’s a star in their environmental studies program.”
Michelle Bell, who has currently been appointed to a four-year term, studies how changes in air quality affect human health. Speth said he is excited to add these outstanding people to the school.
“They’ll add to the Yale community broadly,” Speth said.
Applying law to the environment
Lye, an associate law professor at NUS and the deputy director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law, will be a visiting associate professor this semester. She will teach a class in comparative environmental law, which looks at the different types of programs countries use to successfully regulate and protect the environment.
“I’ve been teaching that [course on comparative environmental law] for many years with Professor Nicholas Robinson of Pace University Law School,” Lye said.
Lye added that she used Internet video conferencing to connect her class in Singapore with Robinson in New York City, where Pace University is located. Lye said she hopes to create greater collaboration among all three universities by inviting Robinson to visit her course this term.
Lye will also be working on a book this semester based on her comparative environmental law course. She will be co-authoring it with Robinson and described it as “the first comparative environmental law book from a global perspective.”
While at NUS, Lye spearheaded the development of a Masters program in Environmental Management. The program, which is modeled after the Yale environment school’s, was launched three years ago in consultation with Yale professors. Representatives from both universities signed a memorandum of understanding at that time, which provides for collaboration in teaching, research, and perhaps a student exchange.
Speth described Lye as an expert in comparative environmental law, a relatively new field that has not been previously taught at the environment school. Other professors expressed optimism about Lye’s presence on campus.
“She will be a tremendous addition to our faculty. Although we have many lawyers here, we have very few from an Asian perspective,” said Marian Chertow, an assistant environment school professor who teaches a course in the NUS Master’s program on business and the environment once a year.
Lye originally decided to teach at the environment school because of its prestige and the quality of its faculty. She said she hopes to work with other environment school faculty as well as students during her semester at Yale.
“I think the fact that they have invited me, an environmental lawyer, to come here and share my expertise speaks well for the forestry school,” Lye said. “I’m very proud to be here, and I hope to make a positive contribution.”
Joining health and the environment
Bell joins the environment school faculty after a year teaching at Johns Hopkins University. Her background is in environmental engineering and epidemiology, and she combines these disciplines to look at air quality and its relation to human health. She will teach a course on environmental health this semester.
“This course is a broad environmental health course,” Bell said. “My other courses [in the future] are going to be more air-pollution related at first. My interests are broad, so it could go into other things.”
Bell’s work differs from that of other air-quality specialists because she examines the effects of air pollution all the way from beginning to end – from the pollutant’s entrance into the air to its specific impact on human health. She wrote about how changes in hospital admittances for respiratory issues correlated to changes in air quality for her Ph.D. dissertation, which was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“My immediate research will probably continue to be in air quality, but I hope to start looking at other things,” Bell said regarding her future research plans.
One reason why Bell decided to come to Yale was the broad range of interests present at the environment school and the university as a whole. She said she hopes to be a bridge between the environment school and the School of Public Health. Speth agreed that her connection to both schools was one of her primary assets to the environment school.
“This is a real addition because she is an expert in both epidemiology and engineering,” Speth said. “She’s a major addition to our faculty. We’re very excited to have her.”
Bell said she is excited to be teaching at the environment school. As a candidate for this position, she gave a seminar at the school and cited this experience as another reason why she took the position.
“I’m very excited to be here,” Bell said. “I was very impressed with the students when I interviewed, with the types of questions they asked.”
Bell said she hopes to interact with students as well as expand her research work while at the environment sc