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Superfund Research Program

September 14, 2016 New

Lili He Recognized as Member of the 2016 Talented 12 by the American Chemical Society

Lili He, Ph.D.


Lili He, Ph.D., professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and collaborator on a Superfund Research Program (SRP) small business project, was selected as one of the top young chemists in the nation by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The feature in the latest issue of Chemical and Engineering News, highlights skilled young scientists that the ACS considers rising stars in chemistry. Lili He worked with Wayne Weimer, Ph.D., of Agiltron, Inc. as part of an SRP small business grant to develop a portable detector for trace-level polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on Superfund sites. She is also developing similar detection methods to measure and monitor dangerous bacteria and unwanted nanomaterials in food.

Since starting her own lab, she has also pioneered a technique for studying the depth at which pesticides can penetrate spinach leaves. Regulators worry that washing the leaves might not be enough to get rid of pesticides, potentially exposing consumers to harmful levels of the chemicals.

Visit the Lili He’s page as part of the Talented 12 story to learn more about her and her research.

September 07, 2016 New

UCSD Professor and Nobel Prize Winner Roger Tsien Dies

Roger Tsien

Roger Tsien, Ph.D., a biochemist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and founding member of the UCSD Superfund Research Program Center since 2000, died on August 24 in Oregon. He was 64.

"Roger's vision was vast and yet incredibly precise," David Brenner, vice chancellor at UCSD Health Sciences and dean of the UCSD School of Medicine, said in a statement. "He saw both the big picture, but also the incredible need to see and understand — in glorious color — all of the infinitesimal details that make it up, that make up life."

Tsien is best known for his work on green fluorescent protein (GFP) for which he earned a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008. With Osamu Shimomura, Ph.D., an emeritus professor at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Martin Chalfie, Ph.D., a professor of biological sciences at Columbia University, Tsien helped scientists peer within living cells and organisms as never before, earning not just the 2008 Nobel Prize but scores of subsequent awards and accolades.

Shimomura identified the crucial jellyfish protein and revealed that it glowed bright green under ultraviolet light. Chalfie showed how it could be used as a biological marker. Combining his deep skills in chemistry and biology, Tsien found ways to make GFP glow more brightly and consistently; he then created a full palette of fluorescent proteins that scientists could use to track different cellular processes at the same time.

GFPs have become a fundamental fixture in life sciences labs around the world, allowing researchers to look into cells or whole animals, to watch molecules interact in real time, and to ask questions once thought impossible.

"He was ahead of us all," said Tsien's wife, Wendy. "He was ever the adventurer, the pathfinder, the free and soaring spirit. Courage, determination, creativity, and resourcefulness were hallmarks of his character. He accomplished much. He will not be forgotten."

Visit the full UCSD press release for more about Tsien's life and work.

August 18, 2016

NIEHS Anniversary Event Highlights SRP History and Research

Timeline posted on a wall

A timeline of NIEHS, WTP, and SRP history at the meeting shows milestones over the last 50 years.

(Photo courtesy of the BU SRP Center)

NIEHS staff, grantees, and partners gathered in Boston July 18 - 20 to celebrate 50 years of NIEHS and three decades of the Superfund Research Program (SRP), directed by William Suk, Ph.D., and the Worker Training Program (WTP), directed by Joseph "Chip" Hughes, Jr. More than 150 people attended the NIEHS conference, which was co-hosted by the Boston University (BU) SRP Center and the New England Consortium - Civil Service Employees Association (TNEC-CSEA).

Presenters discussed the origins of the SRP and WTP and how the programs linked research with translation into practical applications. Current NIEHS director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., and former NIEHS director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., both spoke during the meeting, reflecting on the history of the SRP and WTP. Birnbaum welcomed the group and noted how both programs work to protect health from toxicants and toxic chemicals.

SRP Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., gave opening remarks and moderated a panel of grantees, including David Christiani, M.D., and Robert Hurt, Ph.D., who shared SRP history through their perspectives and experience. Christiani, from Harvard University, led a 35-year longitudinal study of respiratory disease in cotton-textile workers in Shanghai, China. He had early interactions with SRP during the early 1990s and conducted research on genetic susceptibility to occupational exposures.

Michael Petriello and Linda Birnbaum

University of Kentucky SRP Center trainee Michael Petriello, Ph.D., (left) also attended the meeting and presented a poster related to exposure of dioxin-like pollutants. At the poster session, he discusses his work with Birnbaum (right).

(Photo courtesy of Heather Henry)

Hurt, from the Brown University SRP Center, said that they used the mandated SRP research translation core to initiate conversations and professional workshops leading to the recognition of vapor intrusion as a pathway of contamination. The Brown SRP Center has also recently taken on a coordinating role to better understand poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in response to stakeholder needs. In the last 12 months, several communities in the Northeast have discovered PFASs in their public and private drinking water supply wells. In response to concerns about the chemical, the Brown SRP Center recently held a workshop on PFASs with the New England Waste Management Officials' Association. PFASs are also present in firefighting foam, an area of interest for WTP, which wants to ensure that firefighters are not being exposed to additional hazards.

Other NIEHS grantees highlighted the SRP's emphasis on integrating multidisciplinary research with community engagement and real-world solutions. BU SRP Deputy Director David Ozonoff, M.D., described how the SRP filled a need for crucial research with a meaningful community focus. Northeastern SRP Center researcher David Kaeli, Ph.D., discussed the use of big data and encouraged the workshop participants to think about how information produced from research can be managed so it is easily shared with communities.

People listening to speakers

Attendees hear from GreenRoots on the banks of Chelsea Creek.

(Photo courtesy of BU SRP)

The workshop kicked off with a tour of Chelsea, Massachusetts, where the BU SRP Center is working to raise awareness of environmental and public health research and concerns and to support residents in efforts to achieve cleaner and healthier environments. As part of the community tour, attendees heard from GreenRoots, a local grassroots environmental justice organization, and saw first-hand the disproportionate environmental threats facing the city. BU SRP Community Engagement Core leader Madeleine Scammell, Sc.D., served as the local host for the tour as well as the meeting itself, where she welcomed participants and shared her experience with the SRP program, as both a former trainee and a current investigator.

A recent NIEHS Environmental Factor article highlights additional information about the meeting.

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