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Superfund Research Program

Research Experiences and Training Coordination Core

Project Leader: Thomas C. Sheahan
Co-Investigator: Kristin Hicks
Grant Number: P42ES017198
Funding Period: 2010-2025
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2020-2025)

Since its inception in 2010, the PROTECT Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC — formerly the Training Core) has prepared trainees for successful careers in the environmental health fields, with results evident in trainees' impressive follow-on positions in industry, government labs and agencies, and academia. The RETCC provides innovative learning opportunities that emphasize multidisciplinary and team-based approaches, the application of leadership, communication, community-based methodologies, and other professional skills. The specific aims (objectives) of the RETCC are to:

  1. Provide high quality transdisciplinary training, education, professional development, and mentoring experiences to diverse trainees at the institutions participating in the PROTECT program;
  2. Collaborate and share best practices with other SRP centers to jointly develop and deliver professional development, training, and networking opportunities for trainees across multiple SRP centers;
  3. Facilitate trainee interactions with the Community Engagement Core, the Human Subjects and Sampling Core, and the research translation component of the Administrative Core to promote trainee engagement with cultures and communities connected to our collaborating institutions in order to provide place-based, experiential environmental health and justice education; and
  4. Provide ongoing interaction with the Data Management and Analysis Core, through various training modalities and mentorship, on the use of data analytics as a research tool and the importance of well-designed and implemented data management as an environmental health practice.

The rationale for the Core's approach is that environmental health professionals must have disciplinary depth while also knowledgably considering the breadth of collaborating disciplines. The RETCC uses a logic model in its design that identifies the resources required to implement the program, planned activities and outputs, and outcomes that are expected over time. The model is refined through a regular evaluation program. Key activities are planned to create tailored training experiences in 4 areas: recruitment/orientation; education and training; community building, networking, and mentoring; and professional development. Sample activities include Individual Development Plans and completion awards; technical and professional development webinars; PROTECT research-related coursework; in-person trainee programs at Northeast and SRP Annual Meetings; participation in the SRP Student/Postdoc/Alumni Network (SPAN); support for fellowships and award applications; and community-based initiatives related to environmental health and social justice.

The RETCC involves 35 to 40 trainees per year across a wide spectrum of experience, discipline, and educational levels. The trainees are mostly M.S. and Ph.D. students, as well as postdoctoral researchers, working in disciplines that include environmental engineering, geology, epidemiology and biostatistics, sociology, public health, toxicology, and data science. The trainees are engaged in RETCC activities with a typical duration of 3 years, allowing for continuity and progression in their level of training.

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