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Your Environment. Your Health.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Superfund Research Program

Science and Engineering for Sensors, Mechanisms, and Biomarkers of Exposures

Center Director: Bevin P. Engelward
Grant Number: P42ES027707
Funding Period: 2017-2027
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Summary (2017-2022)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Superfund Research Program (MIT SRP) Center brings engineering and scientific innovation to bear on critical problems relevant to stakeholders in Maine and Massachusetts. Their problem-oriented program centers around two pervasive contaminants, N-nitrosamines (potently carcinogenic to animals) and PAHs (carcinogenic to people). Both of these contaminants are present in multiple Superfund sites and they continue to be produced by ongoing industrial activities today.

Native Americans in Maine and people living in the Mystic River Watershed in Massachusetts have expressed serious concerns about contaminants in their environments. In both locations, people are negatively impacted by legacy contaminants, and in both cases, there are Environmental Justice communities of concern. The Loring Air Force Base Superfund site impacts the Native Americans, and the Industri-Plex, Wells G&H, and Olin Superfund sites impact people living in the Mystic River Watershed (a land area north and east of Boston, covering 76 square miles that drains into rivers feeding into the Boston Harbor).

The MIT SRP Center with its diverse expertise (from engineers, to chemists, to biologists and to biological engineers) has the tools, the commitment, and the willingness to collaborate, making it possible to take on these serious environmental health challenges. Specifically, the MIT SRP Center aims to:

  • Identify novel PAH breakdown products
  • Develop novel sensor technologies
  • Use high fidelity duplex consensus sequencing to reveal patterns of mutations that can be traced to specific contaminants
  • Reveal how gene-environment interactions impact susceptibility to genomic instability and cancer
  • Use phosphoproteomics and transcriptomics to uncover systems-level molecular responses that shed light on underlying mechanisms of disease and give rise to novel biomarkers of disease risk

These tools inform policy, enable risk estimates, and guide remediation. The bi-directional program is based on established relationships with local agencies that represent stakeholders. To maximize the impact of the Program, the team continues to grow relationships with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the NIEHS, and Tribal Leaders. Embedded in all of the MIT SRP Center activities are training opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs, thus supporting the next generation of environmental health scientists.

The technologies and approaches being developed can be broadly disseminated among Superfund sites and elsewhere. The MIT SRP Center enables reduced risk, guidance for remediation, and support for policy decisions, thus having a direct and measurable impact on public health.

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