Superfund Research Program
Stephanie Kim is the 21st recipient of the Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award. The award, which recognizes one outstanding SRP graduate student or postdoctoral researcher who exemplifies qualities of scientific excellence, was presented November 29 at the Superfund Research Program (SRP) Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California.
Kim, a doctoral candidate at Boston University (BU) under the mentorship of Jennifer Schlezinger, Ph.D., and Stefano Monti, Ph.D., was recognized for her research exploring how exposure to harmful contaminants impact cellular and molecular processes leading to metabolic disorders.
"I believe the SRP model of investigating a research question from different disciplines can help to address complex questions about the role of hazardous contaminants in human disease," said Kim. "My research integrates methods from biochemistry, bioinformatics, genetic epidemiology, and toxicology to understand how contaminants impact metabolic health."
Kim is examining how exposure to various chemicals, including phthalates and organophosphate flame retardants, alter metabolic mechanisms in human cells and in rodents. Specifically, she is exploring how hazardous chemicals activate a nuclear receptor called peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma, which is essential in regulating how fat cells differentiate and function. By exploring this pathway, Kim hopes to understand how hazardous chemicals alter important metabolic processes that regulate fat, sugar, and energy balances in the body.
"Stephanie is an excellent scholar, dedicated to scientific inquiry and to improving environmental health," emphasized project leader Schlezinger. "The results of Stephanie's work will revolutionize how we think about how exposure to hazardous chemicals contributes to the obesity epidemic and to the increased risk of developing metabolic disease."
In addition to her lab work, Kim likes to be involved with mentoring students and volunteering. She mentors high school students as part of the BU Upward Bound Math and Science Program, a college preparatory program that serves low-income and first-generation college-bound students. Kim also volunteers for the Medical Reserve Corps in Massachusetts, focusing on disaster preparedness and public health education.
"Stephanie will be an outstanding leader who will make an enormous impact on scientific research and on the public," said BU SRP Center Director David Sherr, Ph.D.