Laura Punnett

Laura Punnett, Work Environment, CPH-NEW, Center for Women & Work

Professor, Work Environment, Distinguished University Professor
Kitson 200 S

Research Interest

  • “Total Worker Health:” Protecting worker health, promoting worker well-being
  • Epidemiology of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
  • The role of working conditions in explaining socioeconomic and gender disparities in health
  • Effectiveness of workplace interventions such as ergonomics programs, health promotion programs, joint labor-management health and safety committees
  • Methods for workplace measurement of ergonomic exposures

Educational Background

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Center for Ergonomics & Department of Environmental and Industrial Health, University of Michigan, 1985-87

Sc.D., Occupational Health; Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 1985

M.Sc., Occupational Health and Safety, Harvard School of Public Health, 1982

B.A., Hampshire College (Medical Social Science/Issues in Women's Health), 1976


Early in graduate school, my interest in women’s health led to an opportunity to work with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (now part of UNITE-HERE) on a study of hand, arm and shoulder conditions among garment workers, which eventually became the topic of my thesis.  Then, as a post-doctoral research fellow at The University of Michigan, I studied musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the automobile manufacturing industry and learned about industrial ergonomics from an engineering perspective.

In 1987 I co-founded the UML Department of Work Environment, where I teach ergonomics and epidemiology.  My research here has benefited from the broad perspective afforded by our inter-disciplinary mix of faculty, my participation in the UML Center for Women and Work, and many opportunities to collaborate with colleagues at other institutions.  Since 2006 I have been Co-Director of the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace, a NIOSH Total Worker HealthTM Center for Excellence, which also involves colleagues at two campuses of the University of Connecticut.

I worked with NIOSH and then OSHA during the late 1990’s on the development of the (ultimately unsuccessful) OSHA Ergonomics Protection Standard, and I helped to propose the Hand Activity Level TLV® (1999) of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.  In 2007-10 I chaired the Scientific Committee on Musculoskeletal Disorders of the International Commission on Occupational Health.  I serve on the Advisory Board for the Occupational Health Surveillance Program of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  I have published over 120 peer-reviewed articles on occupational health, safety, ergonomics, and related topics.