Superfund Research Program
Research Experience & Training Coordination Core
Final Progress Reports
The Iowa Superfund Research Program (ISRP) Program Cross-Disciplinary Training Core (TC) is charged with identifying and recruiting quality students and providing them with outstanding cross-disciplinary learning and laboratory training. The goal is to prepare students for their professional life by fostering personal and professional connections among students and leaders in the fields of academe, government and industry. Core leaders perform a multitude of activities, a few of which are mentioned below.
Monthly meetings are a central component of the ISRP and the TC, where all participants from every discipline are brought together to learn and to discuss the progress and challenges of ISRP research. These meetings are an outstanding training tool. In these 2-hour meetings, research results from a core or research project are generally presented by trainees, students or post-docs, and not by the project leaders. These presentations are usually accompanied by lively discussions among the participants, including the students, about methods, results and future plans. Through these meetings, the trainees learn to interact in a highly interdisciplinary environment, to clearly present and discuss research, and to actively participate in a group made up of all levels of scientific hierarchy-- directors, peers, and novices. The ISRP wants its trainees to be critical but always constructive, and to work in a cooperative way with a focus on results and solutions.
Trainees are given ample opportunities to interact with constituents at study/field sites; as community discussion leaders at Science Cafés; as science partners during the 1-day-research-experience that is offered periodically to students from a junior high in the research cohort; as hosts to invited speakers at the seminar series from academia, government, and industry; and as observers and learners during the biannual International PCB Workshops. The most recent International PCB Workshop in October 2014 in Woods Hole, MA, included a strong delegation of activists, parents, and EPA employees who are confronted with the problem of PCBs in US schools. All these "non-curricular" activities broaden the consciousness of trainees, making them aware of the problems and needs of laypersons and professionals who will be the beneficiaries of their research work.
An important aspect for the success of the TC is the strong cooperation with other entities at the University of Iowa (UI). The TC strongly interacts with the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Human Toxicology and programs in Radiation Biology, Pharmacy, and Environmental Engineering.
The TC provided fellowships and tuition support for 7 graduate students working on Superfund-related topics. This number of fellowships was only possible thanks to the generous matching funds provided by the UI Graduate College. The Graduate College appreciates the goals of the TC in preparing trainees for the professional world and is now providing expert advice for trainees to help them identify appropriate job offers and to prepare distinguished CVs. This excellent cooperation between the different agencies at the UI provides enormous benefits for trainees.
All these activities are producing clear results: ISRP has a constantly growing number of alumni, former students and post-docs who got started in their professional life at the ISRP. The center added to these alumni in 2014 with 4 PhD graduates.
Dr. Laura Badtke, who studied human levels and PCB-induced changes of the anti-atherosclerosis serum antioxidant enzyme paraoxonase 1, worked as the ISRP administrator and liaison to the TC, the Community Engagement , and the Research Translation Core. Because of this experience in science communication and administration, she will soon join an international company as a science writer.
Dr. Kiran Dhakal, who discovered sulfate metabolites in the blood and urine of rats after inhalation exposure to a PCB which may serve as biomarker of exposure, has now joined the Superfund Research Program at UC-Davis as a post-doc. There he will expand his research tools by learning complementary techniques and applications.
Dr. Sabine Vorrink, who discovered important regulatory interactions between the hypoxia and the aryl hydrocarbon pathways, the latter known to mediate the toxicity of dioxin-like PCBs, celebrated her graduation with a 6 month tour around the world, and is now pursuing a career in her native Germany.
Dr. Fabian Grimm, who unraveled a possible role of PCBs in Alzheimer's disease through modulating activity of tranthyretin fibrillogenesis, joined a laboratory in Texas with academic and industry ties. He is this year's recipient of the prestigious 2015 SOT Colgate-Palmolive Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in in vitro Toxicology by the SOT.
The ISRP is happy and proud of the outstanding research achievements of these 4 trainees who have started their careers. Seventy-three graduate students and post-docs have so far been trained in the ISRP and entered into careers in academia, government, and industry, utilizing the training they obtained in the program.