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University of Alabama at Birmingham

Superfund Research Program

Research Experience and Training Coordination Core

Project Leader: Lisa C. McCormick
Co-Investigator: Mona Fouad
Grant Number: P42ES027723
Funding Period: 2020-2025
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Project Summary (2020-2025)

The goal of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Superfund Research Program (UAB SRP) Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC) is to provide multi- and trans-disciplinary training in environmental health sciences in a nurturing, stimulating, and collaborative environment. The program supports two to three years of structured and rigorous research training for graduate students enrolled in the UAB Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS; Ph.D. candidates) and postdoctoral fellows (M.D., Ph.D., or combined M.D.-Ph.D.). The multidisciplinary nature of the training is fostered by the diversity of 24 faculty mentors who hold primary appointments in the Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Public Health and in the College of Arts and Sciences and who are members of UAB University-Wide Interdisciplinary Research Centers (UWIRCs). In concert with the research projects, the RETCC supports both graduate students and postdoctoral trainees (˜2:1 ratio over the duration of the RETCC) in each year of the program, with an incremental increase in trainee slots – 3, 4, 5, 6, and 6 – in years 1 through 5, respectively. The faculty mentors are grouped into four thematic areas based on scientific expertise: (1) environmental health and lung disease, (2) environmental science and engineering, (3) minority health and health disparities, and (4) social sciences and study design. The multi- and transdisciplinary structure of the training is facilitated by co-mentoring of all trainees by faculty selected from different thematic groups. The RETCC allows students/trainees rigorous education and training in lung cellular and molecular biology, physiology, and disease pathogenesis with an emphasis on chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), asthma, and pulmonary infections. Environmental and engineering research experiences provide trainees with skills and expertise in toxicology, gas/metal sensing technology, mass spectrometry, and remediation/mitigation. In addition to the research projects being conducted in the mentors’ laboratories, training encompasses a highly structured didactic program that includes (1) a “survival skills” curriculum in collaboration with the UAB Office of Postdoctoral Education and the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, (2) a research core curriculum in collaboration with the Deep South Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center, (3) training in minority health/disparities in collaboration with the Comprehensive Minority and Health Disparities Research Center, and (4) study design in collaboration with epidemiologists and environmental health scientists at the UAB School of Public Health. Strong emphasis is placed on the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities. Formal instruction includes study design, including environmental health sciences courses at the School of Public Health. By completion of the training program, trainees will be prepared to assemble, launch, and lead research projects focused on chronic obstructive lung disease, asthma, pulmonary infections, and environmental science and engineering.

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