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Columbia University

Superfund Research Program

Research Experience and Training Coordination Core

Project Leader: Ana Navas-Acien
Co-Investigator: Benjamin C. Bostick
Grant Number: P42ES033719
Funding Period: 2022-2027
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2022-2027)

The Columbia University Northern Plains Superfund Research Program (CUNP-SRP)’s mission is to advance science and technology to improve water quality and mitigate metal-related health effects in tribal communities in the Northern Plains and other rural and suburban communities affected by groundwater contaminants, including those near Superfund sites and abandoned mines. The CUNP-SRP research projects and cores use systems science, local community knowledge, and cross-cutting technologies to provide an ideal framework for interdisciplinary research and training. Leveraging these CUNP-SRP opportunities, the Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC) trains a diverse group of future leaders who can traverse biomedical and earth sciences research to accelerate innovation, incorporate community input, and improve public health through the following aims:

  • Provide rigorous training in disciplinary, interdisciplinary, participatory, and translational research through a shared curriculum that includes Indigenous research ethics, exposure science, data science, and teamwork. Trainees work with the Data Management and Analysis Core (DMAC) and project scientists to analyze high-dimensional data using contemporary statistical approaches following comprehensive training in participatory research ethics.
  • Enable hands-on skills that underscore real-world applications of the trainees’ field and laboratory research through their participation in Community Engagement Core and research translation activities, including opportunities to work with tribal organizations and communities to mitigate water contaminants and related health effects.
  • Develop leadership skills to prepare trainees for successful and diverse careers, enabling them to take ownership of several CUNP-SRP aspects including seminar speaker selection, journal club organization, mentoring high school students from the Northern Plains, and development of their own scientific and creative initiatives.
  • Promote diversity in environmental health, earth sciences, and engineering by recruiting and supporting graduate and postgraduate trainees of diverse backgrounds and perspectives into the RETCC, including candidates who are Native Americans.

RETCC Leaders and CUNP-SRP investigators engage in departmental admission committees to review candidates as well as in recruitment efforts, including networking with Northern Plains colleges, to encourage and support eligible students to apply to our programs. The RETCC is designed to unite trainees (typically 15 trainees at any given time, including graduate students and postdoctoral scholars) from across Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to provide interdisciplinary training in public health, medicine, earth sciences, and engineering. Successful accomplishment of the proposed aims will yield alumni who are proficient in their chosen disciplines and in interdisciplinary research, with real-world perspectives, a strong set of practical skills, respect for communities, and leadership qualities that will enable them to launch their careers as successful environmental health and earth scientists and engineers.

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