Superfund Research Program

December 2019

Large group of people in a conference room

SRP Annual Meeting participants listen intently during the Wetterhahn Award lecture, presented by Elkin.
(Photo courtesy of Adeline Lopez)

The Superfund Research Program (SRP) Annual Meeting, held November 18 – 20 in Seattle, brought together SRP researchers, trainees, administrators, and partners to share findings and discuss research and training. The meeting centered on "Data to Knowledge to Action" and emphasized how fundamental research has stimulated knowledge translation, training, and prevention and intervention activities. SRP is a program of NIEHS.

SRP trainees, who are graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, were at the center of many scientific sessions, where they described innovative findings and new directions in research. Among them, Elana Elkin, Ph.D., winner of the 2019 Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, discussed how exposure to environmental contaminants may affect placental development and function, which play a role in preterm birth and other adverse birth outcomes.

Trainees also discussed their work and received feedback and new ideas during two poster sessions. Four graduate students received awards for their posters as part of a competition featuring more than 90 graduate student entries.

Bill Suk, Prarthana Shankar, Zunwei Chen, and Shuai Xie

SRP Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., left, presented the poster winners with their awards. From left: Prarthana Shankar, Zunwei Chen, and Shuai Xie. Not pictured: Jessica Ewald.
(Photo courtesy of Sara Amolegbe)

In the environmental sciences and engineering category, the winners were:

  • Jessica Ewald, University of Iowa: Growth of Dehalococcoides and increased abundance of reductive dehalogenase genes in PCB-contaminated sediment microcosms
  • Shuai Xie, Brown University: Sorption process of trichloroethylene at low concentration on various building materials

In the health sciences category, the winners were:

  • Zunwei Chen, Texas A&M University: A compendium of human cell lines from different organs as an in vitro model for rapid grouping of Superfund chemicals into classes
  • Prarthana Shankar, Oregon State University: Identification and functional characterization of the AHR2-dependent gene, wfikkn1, in zebrafish

The meeting also included talks from 2018 KC Donnelly Externship Award winners, trainees who described their experiences and results from SRP-funded externships.

During a special trainee program before the main meeting, trainees gained valuable professional development and community engagement skills. They learned about population health disparities and environmental justice, as well as the importance of engaging with local communities. They also received tips for job applications and heard about diverse careers in environmental health from SRP alumni.