Superfund Research Program
Congratulations to the 2017 winners of the K.C. Donnelly Externship Award!
Oluwadamilare (Dami) Adebambo
Oluwadamilare (Dami) Adebambo is a doctoral candidate at North Carolina State University and part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center. She is mentored by Rebecca Fry, Ph.D., and Damian Shea, Ph.D. For her externship, she will travel to Columbia University to work with Ana Navas-Acien, Ph.D., and Andrea Baccarelli, Ph.D.
Adebambo's current research focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind inorganic arsenic and cadmium exposures and pregnancy outcomes such as preeclampsia. This externship will allow her to explore how changes at the molecular level impact health outcomes – for example, epigenetic changes, which modify the way genetic information is expressed without directly changing DNA, and loss of function in placental mitochondria, which are responsible for cellular energy production in cells. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in underlying placental disease, and these changes may help explain how individual metal and metal mixture exposures lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes.
"This fellowship will provide me access to vital resources, such as experience in mitochondrial DNA assessment and epigenetics, and allow me to continue my efforts to understand the underlying mechanisms involved in health effects of metals," said Adebambo. "It will also enable me to continue my development into a strong female leader in the science community."
Pamela Barrett, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Washington SRP Center under Rebecca Neumann, Ph.D. Barrett will travel to Dartmouth College for her externship to work with Brian Jackson, Ph.D.
Her current research focuses on understanding how specific attributes of urban lakes — such as mixing, stratification, or redox conditions — influence the mobility, bioavailability, and toxicity of arsenic. This externship will provide Barrett with training on different chemical separation procedures, extraction techniques, and analytical methods that can be used to measure arsenic speciation in different environmental and biological samples. These tools will help her explore seasonal trends in arsenic speciation in water and the relationship to arsenic accumulation in plankton.
"The KC Donnelly externship will equip me with a new set of analytical skills that will enhance my research capacity as I move forward in my career," said Barrett. "This experience will stimulate my thinking about the future evolution of my work and its application to other questions in environmental health science."
Anne Bozack is a doctoral candidate at the Columbia University SRP Center under Mary Gamble, Ph.D. She will conduct an externship at the Oregon State University SRP Center, under the guidance of Molly Kile, Ph.D.
Bozack is currently investigating the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and arsenic exposure on DNA methylation, a common marker of epigenetic changes, which alter the way DNA is expressed. The externship will extend her current work by focusing on statistical approaches for characterizing complex PAH mixtures and methods to analyze how the association between arsenic exposure and birth outcomes is modified by DNA methylation in a cohort in Bangladesh.
"This externship will complement my interest in environmental epigenetics by providing me with the tools to manipulate and process high-dimensional data and apply advanced statistical techniques," said Bozack. "I will be trained by a diverse group of scientists, which will broaden my understanding of environmental epidemiology and the relationship between environmental exposures and human health."
Nancy Cardona is a public health doctoral candidate at the University of Puerto Rico - Medical Sciences Campus with the Northeastern University Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) SRP Center. Cardona works under the guidance of Carmen Velez-Vega, Ph.D., and will travel to the University of Arizona to work with Monica Ramirez-Andreotta, Ph.D., for her externship.
Cardona is currently conducting research on household product use among women in the PROTECT preterm birth study. Through the externship, Cardona will work with two ongoing citizen science garden projects: Gardenroots and Project Harvest. She will design report-back and promotional materials, develop training programs for different stakeholder groups, and learn how to evaluate outcomes of participatory research.
"This externship will provide me with the tools and techniques necessary to conduct community-based research using new community-engaged strategies and to successfully translate results into action," said Cardona. "This is a unique opportunity to network, collaborate, and contribute to much needed research on the impact of contamination in underserved communities and improving environmental health education and literacy."
Rosemarie de la Rosa
Rosemarie de la Rosa is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley SRP Center under the guidance of Martyn Smith, Ph.D. De la Rosa will spend her externship working with Thomas Webster, Ph.D., and Jennifer Schlezinger, Ph.D., at the Boston University SRP Center.
Her current research focuses on understanding the cumulative effects of chemical and non-chemical stressors, such as psychosocial stress, on human health. The externship will provide de la Rosa with skills in molecular modeling and experimental design to understand the effects of mixtures of potentially harmful chemicals on a molecular pathway involved in stress response.
"Participating in this externship will equip me with the technical training necessary to analyze complex chemical mixtures – representative of realistic human exposures – using a bioassay that I previously developed," said de la Rosa. "This opportunity prepares me to pioneer significant research that drives improvements in public health, particularly for under-resourced communities."
Jennifer Guelfo, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher with the Brown University SRP Center under the guidance of Eric Suuberg, Ph.D. Guelfo will spend her externship at the U.S. EPA's National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory under the mentorship of Mark Cantwell, Ph.D.
Guelfo's work aims to communicate information about the fate and transport of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment to community members and stakeholders. Through the externship, she will expand her knowledge about PFAS in Narragansett Bay and, more broadly, in coastal regions by surveying water, sediment, and shellfish. This information will be of high interest to surrounding communities and stakeholders.
"The KC Donnelly externship will provide me with experience in field sampling techniques and allow me to establish valuable collaborations with an interdisciplinary team of scientists," said Guelfo. "It will also help me establish an academic career that uses an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, research, and research translation related to emerging environmental challenges."
Victoria Parker is a doctoral student at the University of Iowa SRP Center under the direction of Michael Duffel, Ph.D. For her externship, Parker will travel to the University of Kentucky to work with Lisa Cassis, Ph.D.
Parker is investigating how polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) inhibit important enzymes that work with the hormones estrogen and androgen in the body. Since these enzymes play important roles in the development of fat cells, called adipocytes, changes to their function can have important consequences for obesity, diabetes, and related cardiovascular effects. The KC Donnelly externship will expand upon her current work with human adipocytes to explore important differences between human and rodent cell models.
"This externship will provide an excellent opportunity to advance my research, collaborate with leading experts in my field, and prepare me to achieve my career goals," said Parker. "I look forward to working with Dr. Cassis and to developing perspectives and expertise that connect my intersecting research interests in environmental endocrine disruption, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease."
Eric Uwimana is a fourth-year doctoral candidate at the University of Iowa SRP Center under Hans Lehmler, Ph.D. For his externship, he will work with Isaac Pessah, Ph.D., at the University of California, Davis.
Uwimana's current research focuses on airborne PCBs, including how they are deposited in the body after inhalation and how the body metabolizes them in rats, mice, and human models. Through this externship, he will use a high-throughput screening approach to study the relationship between PCBs and liver disease. The externship will expand upon his current work by exploring the underlying mechanisms of how PCBs contribute to liver disease and by including experiments with liver cells from both mice and humans.
"I would like to improve and protect human health by contributing to our understanding of how certain chemicals may affect our health and by working with national and international regulatory agencies to inform environmental policy in Africa and around the world," said Uwimana. "The KC Donnelly Externship will expose me to state-of-the-art high-throughput screening techniques and allow me to interact with leading experts in my field."