Rebecca J. Schmidt, Ph.D. for UC Davis Health

Rebecca J. Schmidt, Ph.D.

Associate Professor



Molecular Epidemiology

Locations and Contact

UC Davis

Public Health Sciences
Medical Sciences 1-C
Davis, CA 95616

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Clinical Interests

Dr. Schmidt is not a clinician. Dr. Schmidt is a molecular epidemiologist that aims to advance understanding of how early life environmental exposures interact with genetic susceptibility and molecular mechanisms to influence neurodevelopmental outcomes of children, with a primary interest in autism spectrum disorders. 

Research/Academic Interests

Dr. Schmidt's research goal is to advance understanding of how environmental exposures, primarily those occurring during gestation, interact with each other, genetic susceptibility, and developmental programming to influence neurodevelopmental outcomes of children. As a molecular epidemiologist, she approaches epidemiologic research from a mechanistic and pathways perspective.

Dr. Schmidt leads pioneering research on gene-environment and nutrient-environment interactions in neurodevelopment and autism, and is working towards a deeper understanding of mechanisms involved, including epigenetic mechanisms, as this field provides ground-breaking framework for their intersections with each other and on methylation reactions during critical periods of embryonic epigenetic programming (a). She has over two decades of epidemiologic experience, and has led or co-led several epidemiologic studies, primarily focused on gestational and childhood development, including the CHARGE autism case-control study, the B-SAFE wildfire pregnancy cohort, the UCD site of the HOPE COVID-19 pregnancy study, the UCD site for the ECHO ASD-Enriched Risk cohort follow-up study of MARBLES and EARLI children who are at high-familial risk for autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions, including ADHD, at older ages, and the continuation of the high-risk MARBLES pregnancy cohort study. She also oversees a large biorepository with over 50,000 specimens and several staff.



Center/Program Affiliation

UC Davis MIND Institute

Undergraduate School

B.S., Biology, University of Iowa, Iowa City IA 1998

Other School

M.S., Epidemiology, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City IA 2000

Other School

Ph.D., Epidemiology, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City IA 2007


Epidemiology Preceptorship, Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology, Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa City IA 1999


MIND Institute/Autism, UC Davis, Sacramento CA 2000-2010

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Keystone Science Lecturer, 2019

Top 20 most read paper / top downloaded article 2017-2018 in Autism Research - Wiley, 2018

Mentor for two graduate students awarded the Ellen B. Gold Fellowship 2015, 2016, 2017

Primary mentor for 2 graduate students selected for FUTURE Certificate Program funded in part by the NIH Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) initiative, 2015, 2018

NIEHS travel awards for The Environmental Epidemiology of Autism Research Network 3rd, 4th, and 5th annual meeting in Toronto, Canada; San Sabastian, Spain; Atlanta GA, 2012, 2013, 2014

Complete List of Published Work in NCBI My Bibliography:  

Mordaunt CE, Mouat JS, Schmidt RJ, LaSalle JM. Comethyl: a network-based methylome approach to investigate the multivariate nature of health and disease. Brief Bioinform. 2022 Mar 10;23(2):bbab554. doi:10.1093/bib/bbab554. PMID:35037016.

Laufer BI, Neier K, Valenzuela AE, Yasui DH, Schmidt RJ, Lein PJ, LaSalle JM. Placenta and fetal brain share a neurodevelopmental disorder DNA methylation profile in a mouse model of prenatal PCB exposure. Cell Rep. 2022 Mar 1;38(9):110442. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110442. PMID:35235788.

Zhu Y, Gomez JA, Laufer BI, Mordaunt CE, Mouat JS, Soto DC, Dennis MY, Benke KS, Bakulski KM, Dou J, Marathe R, Jianu JM, Williams LA, Gutierrez Fugón OJ, Walker CK, Ozonoff S, Daniels J, Grosvenor LP, Volk HE, Feinberg JI, Fallin MD, Hertz-Picciotto I, Schmidt RJ, Yasui DH, LaSalle JM. Placental methylome reveals a 22q13.33 brain regulatory gene locus associated with autism. Genome Biol. 2022 Feb 16;23(1):46. doi:10.1186/s13059-022-02613-1. PMID:35168652.

Harris SM, Colacino J, Buxton M, Croxton L, Nguyen V, Loch-Caruso R, Bakulski KM. A Data Mining Approach Reveals Chemicals Detected at Higher Levels in Non-Hispanic Black Women Target Preterm Birth Genes and Pathways. Reprod Sci. 2022 Feb 2. doi:10.1007/s43032-022-00870-w. Epub ahead of print. PMID:35107823.

Shin HM, Oh J, Kim K, Busgang SA, Barr DB, Panuwet P, Schmidt RJ, Hertz-Picciotto I, Bennett DH. Variability of Urinary Concentrations of Phenols, Parabens, and Triclocarban during Pregnancy in First Morning Voids and Pooled Samples. Environ Sci Technol. 2021 Dec 7;55(23):16001-16010. doi:10.1021/acs.est.1c04140. Epub 2021 Nov 24. PMID:34817155.

Sethi S, Keil Stietz KP, Valenzuela AE, Klocke CR, Silverman JL, Puschner B, Pessah IN, Lein PJ. Developmental Exposure to a Human-Relevant Polychlorinated Biphenyl Mixture Causes Behavioral Phenotypes That Vary by Sex and Genotype in Juvenile Mice Expressing Human Mutations That Modulate Neuronal Calcium. Front Neurosci. 2021 Dec 6;15:766826. doi:10.3389/fnins.2021.766826. PMID:34938155.

Keil Stietz KP, Sethi S, Klocke CR, de Ruyter TE, Wilson MD, Pessah IN, Lein PJ. Sex and Genotype Modulate the Dendritic Effects of Developmental Exposure to a Human-Relevant Polychlorinated Biphenyls Mixture in the Juvenile Mouse. Front Neurosci. 2021 Dec 3;15:766802. doi:10.3389/fnins.2021.766802. PMID:34924936.

Sauder KA, Harte RN, Ringham BM, Guenther PM, Bailey RL, Alshawabkeh A, Cordero JF, Dunlop AL, Ferranti EP, Elliott AJ, Mitchell DC, Hedderson MM, Avalos LA, Zhu Y, Breton CV, Chatzi L, Ran J, Hertz-Picciotto I, Karagas MR, Sayarath V, Hoover J, MacKenzie D, Lyall K, Schmidt RJ, O'Connor TG, Barrett ES, Switkowski KM, Comstock SS, Kerver JM, Trasande L, Tylavsky FA, Wright RJ, Kannan S, Mueller NT, Catellier DJ, Glueck DH, Dabelea D; Program Collaborators for Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). Disparities in Risks of Inadequate and Excessive Intake of Micronutrients during Pregnancy. J Nutr. 2021 Nov 2;151(11):3555-3569. doi:10.1093/jn/nxab273. PMID:34494118.