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Environmental Factor, June 2012

SRP graduate student receives prestigious fellowship

By Angela Spivey

David Ciplet

Switzer Environmental Fellowship Program awardee David Ciplet (Photo courtesy of David Ciplet)

David Ciplet, a graduate student in the Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP), has received a prestigious Switzer Environmental Fellowship Program (http://www.switzernetwork.org/grant-programs/fellowship-program)  award. Ciplet is one of 20 students, nationwide, selected to receive the fellowship in 2012, and one of three students from the Brown University SRP Community Engagement Core to receive it in recent years.

Switzer Fellows are highly talented graduate students in New England and California whose studies are directed toward improving environmental quality and who demonstrate the potential for leadership in their field. Ciplet will receive a cash award to support his graduate study, as well as networking and leadership support from the foundation.

“I feel both honored and extremely fortunate to be included as part of this network of change-makers,” Ciplet said. “It is inspiring to be among such a dedicated and accomplished group.”

The previous SRP students who received a fellowship from the Switzer Foundation were Laura Senier, Ph.D., who won the fellowship in 2007, and Elizabeth Hoover, Ph.D., who received it in 2008.

Senier is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on the causes for common, complex diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes that are impacting public health science and policy in the United States. Hoover remained at Brown and is now an assistant professor of American studies and ethnic studies. Her research interests include environmental health and subsistence revival movements in Native American communities.

Encouraging equitable environmental policy

Ciplet is a member of the Contested Illnesses Research Group at Brown, which studies the formation and impact of social movements related to health, such as disputes over environmental causes of asthma, breast cancer, and Gulf War illnesses. Ciplet said that the group has been a critical support structure in his own work, in which he aims to conduct research that encourages more equitable and effective environmental policy. “Much of my research, to date, has generated knowledge about how international climate change policy can more adequately support developing countries in their efforts to adapt to climate change impacts,” Ciplet said.

Ciplet has also focused on domestic policy. His dissertation research is focused on factors that are enabling and constraining a transition to more sustainable energy policy in the United States. “Like my research on international climate change policy, I seek to contribute knowledge that is both timely and accessible, in order to encourage more effective policy on this issue,” he said.

Involving students in environmental justice

In addition, Ciplet hopes to find ways for students to engage in local and global efforts for environmental justice. As a research assistant in the SRP Community Engagement Core, Ciplet leads a coordination team of Brown University students who support numerous environmental health and justice initiatives. The team is preparing for its fourth summer with the Community Environmental College, a free 8-week program at Brown that educates teenagers on environmental justice issues, including toxicants, air pollution, waste, food, and climate change. 

Ciplet said that the Switzer fellowship will help him in realizing all those goals. “I believe that the unique support structure and social networks that Switzer provides will enable me to progress in making both aspects of this vision a reality. This fellowship will enable me to develop the skills, knowledge base, and experience needed to serve as an effective bridge between local community struggles for environmental health and justice, and broader political processes intended to generate solutions to complex environmental problems.”

(Angela Spivey is a contract science writer for the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.)




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