Van Andel Institute welcomes epigeneticist Dr. Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf to its faculty

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Dec. 7, 2021) — Epigenetics expert Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf, Ph.D., is joining Van Andel Institute’s growing faculty, a move that will further expand VAI’s research into the relationship between environmental exposures and cancer.

Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf, Ph.D.

Fondufe-Mittendorf will arrive in Grand Rapids in January as a professor in VAI’s Department of Epigenetics. She currently is a professor at University of Kentucky, where she studies the relationship between environmental factors, such as arsenic in drinking water, and cancer risk. Her research has revealed how low-dose arsenic exposure transforms healthy cells into malignant ones — revelations that have significant public health implications.

“Our environment has a profound impact on our health, down to the molecular level. My research addresses some of today’s health challenges by developing a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underpinning this critical relationship,” Fondufe-Mittendorf said. “Van Andel Institute is a global center for leading-edge epigenetics research, and I am thrilled to be part of it.”

Epigenetics is a growing field that explores how and when the instructions in our DNA are used, and what happens when things go awry. Fondufe-Mittendorf investigates how environmental impacts, such as exposures to toxicants, disrupts this intricate process and influences health and disease. Her groundbreaking research — which blends epigenetics, toxicology, bioinformatics and medicine — aims to reveal insights that may be translated into new cancer prevention and treatment strategies.

“Understanding how environmental factors impact disease risk is a critical area of research with massive implications. Dr. Fondufe-Mittendorf’s exceptional work is illuminating previously unknown connections that hold great potential for improving human health,” said J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D., chair of VAI’s Department of Epigenetics. “We are over the moon to welcome her to VAI and look forward to her excellent contributions as a first-rate scientist and collaborator.”

Fondufe-Mittendorf is one of six faculty to join VAI in the past year. Her recruitment is part of an ongoing strategic initiative to expand and bolster the Institute’s research programs.

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and her Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Georg-August Universitaet, Germany, followed by a successful postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University.

Fondufe-Mittendorf has earned numerous awards and accolades for her research and mentorship, including the National Institutes of Health’s IDeA Thomas Maciag Award, University of Kentucky Research Professorship and recognition from University of Kentucky’s Chellgreen Center. She also has been profiled in National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Environmental Factor and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Research Spotlight.


Van Andel Institute (VAI) is committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through cutting edge biomedical research and innovative educational offerings. Established in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1996 by the Van Andel family, VAI is now home to nearly 500 scientists, educators and support staff, who work with a growing number of national and international collaborators to foster discovery. The Institute’s scientists study the origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translate their findings into breakthrough prevention and treatment strategies. Our educators develop inquiry-based approaches for K-12 education to help students and teachers prepare the next generation of problem-solvers, while our Graduate School offers a rigorous, research-intensive Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology. Learn more at vai.org.

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