Superfund Research Program
Grantees AxNano and NC A&T Host Kickoff Meeting with NIEHS
On November 9, NIEHS Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grantee AxNano, LLC and collaborators at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) gathered with NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff in Greensboro for a program Kickoff Meeting. Meeting attendees discussed the program's scope of work and their recent remediation technology commercialization efforts. They also took a tour of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, a collaborative project of NC A&T and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Two members of the AxNano team are former Duke SRP trainees. Grant Principal Investigator Alexis Carpenter, Ph.D., trained under Mark Wiesner, Ph.D., and Colm Humphreys, Ph.D., trained under Richard Di Giulio, Ph.D. The AxNano team, in partnership with investigators at NC A&T, was awarded a Phase I STTR grant earlier this fall to develop and commercialize a slow release technology for remediating contaminated water while improving safety and efficacy.
Their proprietary platform technology, called controlled release polymer structure (CRPS), improves an existing advanced remediation technology called In Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO). While ISCO is incredibly promising for groundwater pollution remediation, the current methods used are time- and resource-intensive, do not work well under all conditions, and potentially place workers at risk because of the use of strong oxidizers in the process. Unlike current liquid and gaseous ISCO methods, the new CRPS technology uses a solid phase material to limit the risk of exposure to workers and is designed to treat specific contaminated zones under a variety of natural conditions.
Once CRPS technology for ISCO remediation has been optimized, AxNano and their collaborators at NC A&T plan to evaluate the system's performance, determine scale-up design, and transition the technology into a commercial product.
Brown SRP Center Hosts Seminar to Bridge Gap Between Science, Arts, Humanities, and the Public
Researchers and staff at the Brown University Superfund Research Program (Brown SRP) Center hosted an informal tour and seminar that was attended by local artists, high school teachers, and community activists from the Providence, Rhode Island area. Held on October 12, the seminar gave participants an opportunity to observe, in some cases for the very first time, the inner workings and culture of a toxicology laboratory.
The event was largely orchestrated by local artist and activist Holly Ewald and Lab Technician Shelby Wilson from the laboratory of Kim Boekelheide, M.D., Ph.D. The collaboration was facilitated by the Brown SRP Center's Community Engagement Core State Agency Liaison Christina Ergas, Ph.D., to fulfill the aim of enhancing long-term, mutually beneficial, bi-directional communication. One of the goals of this exercise was to enable the Center's scientists to understand better the social context of their research and for community members and youth to understand the relevance of Brown SRP Center research findings to their local environment.
The seminar included background information on the Mashapaug Pond Superfund site and Brown SRP's work there, as well as presentations by two of the lab members. Participants had a chance to talk and ask questions about specific research topics, model systems used in the lab, and how lab findings related to Mashapaug Pond. The group discovered the challenges of translating scientific information to individuals in different academic disciplines and to the public.
Moving forward, Wilson hopes to use a hands-on art project wherein participants can interpret science artistically. She also noted that one of the ways scientists can begin to bridge the communication gap is by stepping out of the lab and becoming actively involved in community projects. Both of these strategies should prove useful in promoting two-way communication and building stronger interdisciplinary relationships in the community.
Alumni Duke SRP Trainees Present at ITEHP Career Symposium
On September 30, Duke University alumni, including former Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center trainees, presented at the Duke University Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program (ITEHP) Career Symposium. The event included several informal networking sessions and featured 11 alumni presentations.
Two of the presenting ITEHP alumni, Alicia Timme-Laragy, Ph.D., and Elena Craft, Ph.D., are former Duke SRP trainees and recipients of the NIEHS-supported Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, which recognizes one outstanding SRP trainee each year. Both discussed their career paths and presented thoughtful, career-focused talks. Craft is currently a senior health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund in Austin, Texas, and Timme-Laragy is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
The symposium, which drew 75 attendees, kicked off with four Career Affinity Group meetings, giving current students the opportunity to meet with alumni working in industry, academia, non-profits, and government.