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Your Environment. Your Health.

Progress Reports: Michigan State University: Research Translation Core

Superfund Research Program

Research Translation Core

Project Leader: Brad L. Upham
Grant Number: P42ES004911
Funding Period: 2006-2020
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

Learn More About the Grantee

Visit the grantee's eNewsletter page Visit the grantee's eNewsletter page

Progress Reports

Year:   2019  2018  2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006 

Studies and Results:

  1. Communication occurs at multiple levels.
    1. SRP activities are reported in the "Center for Integrative Toxicology – Toxicology Track Newsletter" (, which informs the greater MSU community of accomplishments, events, seminars, meetings and funding opportunities. This helps form a more integrative communication network between our center and stakeholders across the MSU campus. The CIT is also shared with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and has announced job openings for the MDEQ. The communication track comes out several times a month where 32 newsletters were published in 2013 (see above link).
    2. In the past, the Research Translation Core would solicit information from the PIs from each research project and support core with little success. With the renewal of this program, Dr. Upham is now actively meeting with each group and will be reporting their activities to NIEHS. Due to the lapse of this program's funding, each research project and support core had to recruit new students and renew their research programs, thus there was a lapse in activity. All research projects and support cores are now fully active and their activities will be reported to the NIEHS throughout the program. In addition, the Core will be producing 2-3 newsletters/yr highlighting some of our center's activities.
    3. As noted above, the Research Translation Core will publish 2-3 newsletters per year highlighting their activities to be posted through NIEHS, which will inform other centers of their activities with the expectation to enhance collaborative activities with other SRP centers. They plan to publish the first newsletter in February, 2014.
  2. The annual meeting is a crucial conduit to network with other centers. At the 2013 Annual meeting –October 16, Dr. Upham led a focus group on developing mobile apps relevant to the SRP programs. At this meeting, the Research Translation Core discussed ideas for potential mobile app developments, and have maintained communication with each other concerning mobile apps through emails. The group includes the following: Candi Spier-UC Davis, Christie Oliver-U. Kentucky, Lindell Ormsbee-U. Kentucky, Dave Stone-Oregon State U., Naomi Hirsch-U. Oregon, Andy Larkin-Oregon State U., Gretchen Kroeger-Duke, Jim Rice-Brown U, Liz Guzy-Harvard, Trina von Stackelberg-Harvard, Meredith Golden-Columbia, Justin Crane-NIEHS, Prahlad Jat. Oregon State University has already developed a mobile app that integrated GPS monitoring of the users location with actual predictors of atmospheric pollutants adverse effects. The group discussed several possible new mobile apps such as extension of the OSU apps to other states, beach advisories, nutrition, toxicity of environmental contaminants for professionals and the lay public (possible an ATSDR collaboration), and fish/game advisories were some of the main ones discussed. Here at MSU, the Core met with representatives from the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality (Joseph Bohr-Aquatic Biologist/specialist) and Community Health (Kory Groetsch-Toxicologist and Michelle Bruneau-Communications Specialist) and began developing a mobile-app for Fish Advisories in the state of Michigan. Once developed, the intent is to share this with other centers for Fish Advisories in their respective states.

    Another interaction that has developed from the annual meeting is a collaborative effort with Gretchen Kroeger from Duke in developing a program to educate medical students in environmental health. As a follow-up, the Research Translation Core has initiated a joint effort in preparing two introductory seminar presentations on environmental health for presentation to medical students during grand round presentation series.

  3. Bidirectional partnerships with state and federal agencies and community groups.
    1. State: The Research Translation Core has a strong relationship with the Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). Their two main contacts are Drs. Alan Taylor-Environmental Geologist and Deborah MacKenzie-Taylor-Environmental Toxicologist. They routinely communicate with each other via email, phone and in person at the bimonthly meeting of the Tittabawassee-Saginaw Rivers Contamination Community Advisory Group (TSRC-CAG) to the region 5-EPA. Dr. Taylor also coordinates the state of Michigan's environmental remediation efforts of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds in the Tittabawassee/Saginaw River system. The RTC has coordinated interactions between the MDEQ and our Project 6-Geochemical Controls, in particular securing sediment samples collected from T/S river systems by the state for project 6 experiments. These contacts were also instrumental in connecting the RTC to state personnel involved in the Fish Advisory program as described above. The Core is also planning a joint seminar series between our SRP program and the MDEQ.
    2. Federal: The Core's relationship with EPA-Region 5 is in development, and there is an open line of communication with them. Their contacts are Mary Logan-Remedial Project Manager (Chicago Office) and Dianne Russell-Remedial Project Manager (Saginaw Field Office). Dr. Upham briefly meets with them at the bimonthly meetings of the TSRC-CAG.
    3. Community: Dr. Upham routinely attends the bimonthly meetings of the TSRC-CAG and maintains communication with this group through their facilitator, Douglas Sarno. These meetings have been an invaluable resource for informing the MSU-SRP on the remediation efforts of EPA and the state of Michigan as well as the EPA community engagement efforts in this community. Dr. Upham also coordinated a meeting between MSU-SRP (Drs. Kaminski-Director, Brad Upham-RTC PI, Wynne Wright-CEC PI, and Stephen Boyd-project 6-PI) and the chair of this GAG, Dr. Deborah Huntley who has since become a member of the Core's External Advisory Group. There is now an established relationship between the MSU-SRP and TSRC-GAG, and Dr. Upham is serving as the liaison between the two groups. The TSRC-CAG has indicated that they plan to use us as an informational resource with future plans to have us periodically present research findings and general knowledge to this group concerning contaminations by dioxin and dioxin-like compounds. Dr. Kaminski presented an overview of the SRP program at their last CAG meeting followed by an enthusiastic question/answer period.
  4. Dr. Boyd is also serving as Chair of the Technical Advisory Group that provides technical/scientific assistance for the "Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force" associated with the Velsicol Supefund site located in St Louis, MI.

  5. Technology transfer.
    1. The Research Translation Core has made several sets of tools to outside researchers both as freely available web tools on their public site and as open source software. These include a pipeline for analysis of gene-targeted metagenomics for dioxin degradation genes that is being used by Project 5 to reveal the natural diversity of these genes and high-throughput tools being used by Project 5 for 16S rRNA targeted Illumina sequencing to reveal diversity of the dibenzofuran degrading community in Iowa soil.
    2. Core-D Bioinformatics group has made publically available their bioinformatics software (BMDExpress and GEAX software) under the MIT public license on SourceForge (
    3. The RTC is actively in progress in developing mobile apps with the first focusing on State Fish Advisories as described above. This mobile application is being designed to allow the user to connect with the State Fish Advisory Program and MSU-SRP, built-in feedback survey, and GPS data collection on when and where these apps are being used.
    4. The RTC is planning a two-seminar series by the RTC-Coinvestigator, Dr. Syed Hasham and a representative from the MSU Technologies Intellectual property Office for the MSU-SRP program investigators and trainees on the formal mechanisms of patenting and commercialization of research products and ideas.
  6. Educational resources.

    In collaboration with the CEC, the Research Translation Core has entered into a partnership with Midland High School to develop an environmental science curriculum in concert with four teachers (Brian Edelbrock-Biology/Chemistry, Brian Reinhardt-Environmental Biology/Chemistry, Jeff Yoder-Chemistry, and Carol Neff-Theory of Knowledge). They have developed a social and natural science curriculum on environmental contamination with an emphasis on the local contaminants, namely dioxin and dioxin-like compounds. The partnership provides teachers with curricular materials to facilitate environmental science education at the advanced secondary science level. These four teachers will present this curriculum to about 200 students annually. They are also considering building an after school "environmental club" that would reach other students. The curriculum is built on the following principles:

    • Inquiry-based – stresses participation and collaboration, allowing students to become active agents and work together to engage in multiple stages of research.
    • Cultivates critical thinking skills; encourages curiosity towards science; is process oriented; nurtures students' ability to affect change
    • Interdisciplinary – blends lessons from natural and social sciences
    • Stimulates systems or interdependence thinking
    • Place-based – focus is on the students' home community
    • Facilitates understanding of the importance of place; increases personal responsibility; increased students' ability to vision and affect change
    • Competency-based – adheres to state science standards


The level of sophistication and maturity of RTC is being shaped by the bidirectional approaches in developing meaningful relationships with their external stakeholders in state and federal government agencies, communities affected by environmental contaminants, and other SRP centers. This is an evolving and expanding process that is opening new avenues for researchers to engage with their external stakeholders that will not only provide a flow of scientific information from the research program, but allow fundamental new ideas and needs flow from the Core's external stakeholders to its research programs. Such a program will also offer opportunities for RTC trainees to move beyond the traditional training in research by expanding on their horizons to more effectively engage the larger community beyond their specific area of expertise.

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