Superfund Research Program
Cross-Disciplinary Training Without Borders Training Core
Project Leader: Gabriele Ludewig
Grant Number: P42ES013661
Funding Period: 2006-2020
Project Summary (2015-2020)
The 20th century brought the chemical revolution and the steady increase of large scale production of chemicals. Only later did the problem of environmental persistence of some of these new and useful chemicals become evident, and only recently did we discover the magnitude of the negative health effects of these persistent pollutants, ranging from an involvement in the increase in brain diseases and metabolic syndrome, to cancer, fertility problems, reduced function of the immune system, and even hearing loss and autism. Moreover, these pollutants may volatilize, contaminate indoor and outdoor air, and travel large distances across borders and continents. Meanwhile, society must deal with these legacy contaminants, inform affected populations, protect humans and the environment, and prevent ongoing and future contamination. To be successful, environmental health and engineering professionals have to deal with these problem chemicals in multiple dimensions. The traditional training approach designed to produce specialized experts in individual, narrow disciplines is clearly inappropriate to prepare trainees for leadership roles in environmental health and technology. Instead, future scientists and engineers need thorough training in their specific fields, basic knowledge about socioeconomic, legal, engineering and science aspects outside their fields, and an ability to communicate and cooperate with specialists in other disciplines and with various stakeholders and affected groups.
The goal of the Training Core of the Iowa Superfund Research Program (isrp) is to prepare students through holistic, cross-disciplinary training "Without Borders" for these challenges. To achieve these goals, the Training Core strives recruit excellent, highly motivated trainees into Superfund research, promote cross disciplinary didactic education, support existing and the development of new interdisciplinary research by trainees, and provide trainees with experiences beyond the curriculum and research to prepare them for a successful transition into professional life and ability to effectively interact with diverse audiences.
In the last iteration of the grant, 52 graduate students and 20 postdocs obtained such training. This was possible because of the established, successful and supportive collaborations among the isrp faculty members who represent diverse areas of expertise such as toxicology, occupational & environmental health, free radical biology, medicinal pharmacology, environmental engineering and urban & regional planning. In addition, the Training Core is blessed with significant support from the Graduate College of the University of Iowa. The outstanding achievements of our students and postdocs in the years since this isrp was founded and the exceptional diversity of isrp trainees, including minorities and a multitude of ethnicities and nationalities, demonstrate that the Core is achieving its mission of training the scientists and engineers for the 21st century who work across all borders to solve the problems of hazardous chemicals.