Superfund Research Program
UA SRP Grantee Receives NSF Grant to Initiate Citizen Science Project
Monica Ramirez-Andreotta, Ph.D., was recently awarded more than two million dollars by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance informal environmental health learning through a citizen science program. As the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) Center Research Translation Core leader, Ramirez-Andreotta works to provide evidence-based information on arsenic, mining, and other potential hazards in the Southwest U.S. and their impacts on human health and the environment.
With the NSF grant, Ramirez-Andreotta and co-investigators will build a citizen science program coupled with a peer education model to increase environmental science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) literacy. The project targets historically underrepresented populations who are likely to be disproportionately impacted by climate change, water scarcity, and food insecurity.
Using gardens irrigated by harvested rainwater as hubs for environmental health education efforts, the team will conduct research that advances our understanding of how public participation in scientific research can increase environmental health literacy and the evidence base for how to broaden participation in STEM learning in informal environments. The project also will facilitate the co-generation of a robust dataset that will not only inform guidelines and recommendations for harvested rainwater use but also will build capacity in underserved communities and inform the safe and sustainable production of food sources.
In previous UA SRP work, Ramirez-Andreotta initiated Gardenroots, a project to determine whether home garden vegetables grown in a town near the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund site had elevated levels of arsenic and other contaminants. By building co-created public participation in a scientific research program, this project also looked to educate, build human capacity, and increase community networking regarding resource-related issues. Ramirez-Andreotta was also the recipient of the 14th annual SRP Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award in 2011.
Lili He Recognized as Member of the 2016 Talented 12 by the American Chemical Society
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.
UCSD Professor and Nobel Prize Winner Roger Tsien Dies
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.