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University of New Mexico

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Superfund Research Program

Training Core

Project Leader: Matthew Campen
Co-Investigators: David Begay, Nancy Maryboy (Indigenous Education Institute)
Grant Number: P42ES025589
Funding Period: 2017-2022

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Project Summary (2017-2022)

The University of New Mexico Metal Exposure and Toxicity Assessment on Tribal Lands in the Southwest Superfund Research Program Center (UNM METALS) has been designed in collaboration with key Native American communities at abandoned uranium mine waste sites where metal mixtures are the dominant exposure sources. The UNM METALS Training Core provides its trainees an integrated and comprehensive research training experience that additionally integrates indigenous culture and learning styles into effective bidirectional research activities that are respectful and responsive to community needs.

The primary Training Core goal is to support the development of the next generation of leaders in environmental and environmental health science. The researchers achieve this goal through implementation of a training plan that helps trainees to achieve 1) research excellence, 2) critical thinking skills, 3) professional development, 4) team research skills and 5) incorporation of culture and community into research plans.

These five broad training goals are met through activities within the three training objectives.

  • Objective 1. Support and provide transdisciplinary research training and education.
  • Objective 2. Provide outstanding professional development opportunities to support the growth of future leaders in environmental and environmental health sciences.
  • Objective 3. Engage trainees in multi-directional communication and integration of findings, emerging ideas, and knowledge with the partner communities and with the UNM SRP.

The UNM METALS Training Core uses innovative best practices in transdisciplinary research training such as co-mentorship reflecting environmental and health sciences in the areas of Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Engineering.

Training activities that emphasize interaction across research areas, and incorporation of individual development plans ensures trainees are thoughtfully defining and achieving their goals in a timely manner. The researchers partner closely with existing and successful training programs focused on transdisciplinary research on campus, particularly those that foster research experiences and training to enhance diversity.

An important innovation is the involvement of the Indigenous Education Institute in the training program to provide formal training and consultations in areas related to working with the native communities served by the UNM METALS Center. Training also includes research and career development activities and opportunities to develop effective communication skills with diverse audiences. There is an emphasis on team and transdisciplinary activities and research, and opportunities for community outreach experiences. Close associations with the Community Engagement Core and Research Translation Core ensure continuation of the established bi-directional relationships with the Native communities. Trainees are an integrating force for collaboration and communication across the transdisciplinary research projects and with their academic, government, and community partners.

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