Superfund Research Program
Project Leader: Bruce A. Stanton
Grant Number: P42ES007373
Funding Period: 2000-2020
The Training Core (TC) supports interdisciplinary training in environmental health sciences for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and directs their progression to independence. The activities organized by the TC are designed to provide unique interdisciplinary training and research experiences and to develop leaders in the field of environmental health. Trainees conduct research involving inter-project collaborations not traditionally linked in academic departments, such as molecular toxicology and physiology; microbiology and physiology: plant biology, genetics, and spatially resolved elemental imaging; molecular toxicology and epidemiology; and decision theory and risk assessment. Key activities of trainees include: (1) participation in weekly seminars, chalk talks, and monthly student-faculty lunches; (2) speaking at the annual scientific retreat and the "Superfun" Day organized to develop scientific and leadership skills; (3) enrolling in graduate courses taught by SRP faculty, including "Synchrotron X-ray Microprobe Analysis in Environmental and Life Sciences" to conduct X-ray fluorescence imaging at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), a course on Bioinformatics, and a Lab Management and Leadership Skills workshop; (4) enrolling in relevant courses/symposia/workshops at other institutions; (5) presenting research reports at scientific meetings, including the annual SRP meeting and the Society of Toxicology (SOT) and Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) meetings; and (6) participating directly in community outreach and research translation activities relevant to the Program. In 2015, the TC has organized a two-day training workshop to be held in Boston on April 1 - 2 in collaboration with the Superfund Research Programs at Boston University and Northeastern University. All graduate students in the Northeast Superfund Programs have been invited to attend. The goals and outcomes of the TC are to:
- Recruit high-caliber trainees. All trainees recruited into the program must meet the highest academic standards and demonstrate a passion for environmentally relevant research and an ability to work across traditional disciplinary boundaries. They must be committed to learning effective communication to the public and relevant stakeholders and to understanding the pivotal role the community plays in improving the quality of environmental health research. Postdoctoral fellows are actively recruited in a variety of ways, but most fellows in the program were trained in other Superfund Research Programs by colleagues and were personally referred to the program and/or actively recruited by faculty at scientific meetings and the annual SRP meeting. Graduate trainees are recruited into the following programs in which SRP faculty actively participate: Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine (PEMM), Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB), and the Thayer School of Engineering. Many undergraduates apply to the Program following their participation in the Dartmouth Women in Science Program (WISP), the Dartmouth Academic Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE), and the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) Center for Environmental Research, all of which provide unique, hands-on research experiences for individuals in groups that are under-represented in the sciences. In 2014, Todd Warczak and Britton Goodale were recruited to the Program.
- Provide a unique inter- and multidisciplinary education in the environmental sciences. The TC achieves this by: (1) requiring that trainees develop interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary projects and (2) encouraging inter- and multidisciplinary thinking. The TC does this by providing required introductory and advanced courses in emerging disciplines within the field of environmental health and by maintaining an open, creative, and collegial community among SRP trainees, faculty and staff. The TC recognizes and rewards innovation, encourages trainees to develop and test hypotheses at the interface between their own discipline and that of other faculty, and provides them with the financial and educational support they need. In 2014, Vivien Taylor and Shoreh Farzan received KC Donnely Awards, which provided them with unique inter- and multidisciplinary educational opportunities in the environmental sciences.
- Train scientists to effectively communicate with a broad spectrum of audiences. The TC achieves this by providing formal required courses in scientific writing, grantsmanship, and public speaking. Many of these courses are innovative within the communications field; for example, improvisational training to help scientists respond thoughtfully to questions during conferences and community forums. The TC sponsors a seminar in Science Communication taught by Nancy Serrell, a member of the Research Translation Core, to develop the ability to translate research findings to stakeholders and community members. In 2014, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science (Stony Brook University) led a one-day workshop at Dartmouth to help trainees improve the way in which they communicate their research to the public, the media, and more. Britton Goodale and Tom Hampton (Stanton lab) and Todd Warczak (Guerinot lab) participated. In addition, trainees are encouraged to use these skills by participating in SRP-sponsored science cafés (Todd Warczak, Kate Buckman and Vivien Taylor in 2014 - 2015), as well as in other venues where researchers interact with stakeholders, local communities, and the press. For example, Kate Buckman (Methylmercury Production and Fate in Response to Multiple Environmental Factors), presented a poster at the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative Annual Meeting. The theme of the meeting was Science to Policy: Benefiting from Actionable Science. Buckman's poster, "Mercury bio-sentinels: student citizen scientists collect dragonfly larvae in national parks in Vermont, New Hampshire, and coast-to-coast," discussed the investigator-initiated citizen science dragonfly larvae project with local high school science classes, which uses dragonfly larvae as a biomarker for mercury in ecosystems. Vivien Taylor also presented a poster at the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative Annual Meeting. Taylor's poster, "Mercury cycling in Vermont vernal pools," reports on research related to her grant with Kate Buckman (Methylmercury Production and Fate in Response to Multiple Environmental Factors) from NSRC (Northeastern States Research Cooperative) to study the role of landscape on mercury concentration and bioavailability in vernal pools around Vermont, collaborating with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and involving citizens.
- Develop leaders in the environmental sciences. The TC provides leadership roles within the Program for trainees (e.g., wherein trainees organize and host visits by invited speakers and the monthly chalk talks); by nominating trainees to leadership positions in SRP, SETAC, and SOT; and by sponsoring an annual "Superfun" Day focused on career development and leadership training.
In summary, the TC is proud of its past training record in developing outstanding environmental scientists: four trainees have received the prestigious Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, and Dr. Joseph Shaw, a recent trainee, received an Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) research award in 2010. In 2014, Vivien Taylor and Shoreh Farzan received KC Donnely Awards, and Andres Cardenas (Oregon State University) received a KC Donnely Award to work with Dr. Karagas (Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Exposure Assessment of Metals).
The results of Training Core activities are communicated directly to the NIEHS SRP staff on a regular basis; trainees attend the Annual SRP Meeting and present abstracts; and they participate in science cafés, present posters at local and national meetings (e.g., SOT), and speak at local schools.