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Your Environment. Your Health.

Information about the Annual Meeting

Meeting Summary

The 2012 Superfund Research Program (SRP) national scientific meeting celebrated the 25th anniversary of transdisciplinary SRP research and training to protect human health and the environment. Since 1987, the SRP has provided funding to researchers to conduct multidisciplinary studies to address the intractable issues plaguing the national Superfund program. The meeting was a showcase of the Program’s contributions and a forum to discuss future directions by identifying emerging technologies and their applications to understanding and mitigating the risks of hazardous waste sites.

Four scientific sessions organized research presentations into these themes: interdisciplinary collaborations, risk assessment and remediation, research to inform the community, and research on a global scale.

The first full day of the conference focused on the Program's success in establishing a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration that generates new thinking and results that are not achievable by single-discipline science. Topics also highlighted the significance of training interdisciplinary scientists and engineers to address the complex problems associated with hazardous substances. There was an emphasis on using research to inform the risk assessment and remediation decision-making processes.

The second day emphasized the importance of transdisciplinary research contributions to improving public health, including a special lecture by John Groopman, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University, who explained the global chronic disease landscape and the future of public health interventions. During this day, presentations were dedicated to hypothesis-driven research as it applies to impacted communities as well as global issues.

A special symposium was held on the third day of the conference to address the complexity of environmental exposures. Topics focused on identifying and integrating emerging approaches and advanced technologies in the understanding of exposure and response to multiple stressors that are applicable to both human and environmental health. During this forum, SRP grantees discussed approaches to understand this exposure-disease paradigm.

Sponsored by

  • National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences – Superfund Research Program
  • Duke University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Annual Meeting Steering Committee

Wetterhahn Awardee

Portrait of Karen Wetterhahn

Karen E. Wetterhahn, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry and the Albert Bradley Third Century Professor in the Sciences at Dartmouth College, died June 8, 1997 at age 48. Her death was the result of dimethylmercury poisoning caused by the accidental spill of a few drops of the chemical on her latex glove-covered hand. Dr. Wetterhahn was an established authority on the effects of heavy metals on biological systems as well as a dedicated teacher and mentor. She played an integral role in the administration of the sciences at Dartmouth and co-founded Dartmouth's Women in Science Project (WISP), which is aimed at increasing the number of women majoring and taking courses in the sciences, including mathematics and engineering.

Dr. Wetterhahn served as the Program Director of the Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (SRP) in Hanover, New Hampshire from 1995 to 1997. In addition to overseeing the program, she was a Principal Investigator who studied the effects of toxic heavy metals on cellular processes. An acknowledged international expert in chromium carcinogenicity, Dr. Wetterhahn was a leader in conducting research on how metals initiate cancer and other metal-induced human diseases at the molecular level. She fostered links between biology, chemistry, environmental studies, engineering, and the medical school. "The life sciences are interdisciplinary" Wetterhahn insisted.

Her untimely death has given us an opportunity to reflect on the value of understanding how heavy metals can interfere with important cellular processes that are vital to life. As a way of honoring the life and scientific accomplishments of Dr. Wetterhahn, the SRP has established an annual award to recognize an outstanding graduate student or post-doctoral researcher that best demonstrates the qualities of scientific excellence exhibited by Dr. Wetterhahn.

The recipient of the Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award receives support to one major scientific conference, in addition to travel funds to attend the Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting where the awardee is invited to present their research. The recipient is also invited to present their research at NIEHS and to meet with staff and to learn about NIEHS. Nominations are accepted from scientists directing projects funded by the SRP

Nominations for the Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award will be accepted from July 1st until August 3rd. For more information about the award and how to nominate an SRP grantee, visit the Annual Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award Application Guidelines Webpage.

The 2012 recipient of the Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, announced at the meeting, is Nicki Baker of the University of Kentucky. The SRP acknowledged Baker for her contributions to research on how environmental toxins impact obesity and type 2 diabetes. Baker found that when obese mice experienced weight loss, those exposed previously to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a class of hazardous chemicals, lost the benefit of glucose homeostasis, reducing the influence of weight loss in preventing type 2 diabetes.

For more details on the annual Karen Wetterhahn Award and for more information about Nicki Baker, see the Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award webpage.

Student Poster Winners

Non-Biomedical poster session winners
Non-Biomedical poster session winners (left to right): Timothy Jobe, Sahar Fathordoobadi, and Daniel Brown

Each year the program encourages students to participate in the SRP Annual Meeting poster session. As part of this, there is a friendly poster competition where three biomedical and three non-biomedical student are recognized for their clarity, knowledge, and the relevance of their research to the goals of the SRP. This year, 143 students competed in the poster competition.

Non-Biomedical poster session winners:

  • 1st place: Timothy Jobe, University of California, San Diego
    "Regulation of the High Affinity Sulfate Transporter, SULTR1;2, in Glutathione Biosynthesis Mutants Exposed to Cadmium and Arsenic"
  • 2nd place: Sahar Fathordoobadi, University of Arizona
    "Role of Biomineralization in Arsenic Sequestration under Landfill Conditions"
  • 3rd place: Daniel Brown, Duke University
    "Sublethal Embryonic Exposure to Complex PAH Mixtures Alters Later Life Behavior and Performance in Fundulus heteroclitus"
Biomedical poster session winners
Biomedical poster session winners (left to right): Erika Fritsch, Chase Williams, and Caitlin Howe

Biomedical poster session winners:

  • 1st place: Caitlin Howe, Columbia University
    "Associations between S-Adenosyl methionine, S-adenosylhomocysteine and Arsenic Methylation"
  • 2nd place: Chase Williams, University of Washington
    "Effects of Cadmium on Molecular Biomarkers In the Olfactory System of Coho Salmon"
  • 3rd place: Erika Fritsch, University of California, Davis
    "Non-Coplanar PCBs and Ca2+ Signaling In Teleost Species: Addressing Comparative Mechanisms of Toxicity and Developed Resistance in New Bedford Harbor"

SRP Research Translation and Outreach Meeting

Meeting Summary

Members of the Research Translation Cores (RTC) and Community Engagement Cores (CEC) from across the SRP Centers gathered to discuss issues relating to communicating complex science to the press. Sunshine Menezes from the University of Rhode Island Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting hosted the science communication session.

During the session, Brian Jackson, Ph.D., and Laurie Rardin of Dartmouth College presented a case study about how they handled press communications after Jackson’s study on arsenic and organic brown rice syrup was published in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives.” Following Jackson and Rardin, Helen Chickering-Nicholls, from NBC News, presented ways to develop clear messages for the news media.

The RTC/CEC session also included two breakout discussions where meeting participants created targeted messages related to specific SRP research themes. Key messages were presented at the meeting and the discussions continue on the CEC/RTC Network teleconference calls.


  • Welcome and Overview
    Sunshine Menezes, Metcalf Institute
  • Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program: A Case Study
    Brian Jackson and Laurie Rardin, Dartmouth College
  • Talking to the Media: A Primer on Developing Clear Messages for the News Media
    Helen Chichering-Nicholls, NBC News
  • Breakout Session: Framing a National Message
    Helen Chichering-Nicholls, NBC News
    Tyler Dukes, Reporters’ Lab
    Susan Booker, Environmental Health Perspectives
    Sunshine Menezes, Metcalf Institute
  • Breakout Session: Framing a Local Message
    Helen Chichering-Nicholls, NBC News
    Tyler Dukes, Reporters’ Lab
    Susan Booker, Environmental Health Perspectives
    Sunshine Menezes, Metcalf Institute
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