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Extramural Update

January 2009

2008 Wetterhahn Memorial Award winner Laura Senier
2008 Wetterhahn Memorial Award winner Laura Senier (courtesy of Brown University)

Laura Senier Receives the 2008 Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award

The NIEHS Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP) has announced that Laura Senier of Brown University is the recipient of the eleventh annual Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award ( The award was presented to Senier on December 9 at the SBRP Annual Meeting in Pacific Grove, California ( see related story (

The SBRP presents this annual award to an outstanding scholar to pay tribute to the life and scientific accomplishments of Karen E. Wetterhahn, Ph.D., former director of the Superfund Basic Research Program at Dartmouth College. Wetterhahn died in 1997 as a result of accidental exposure to dimethylmercury.

An acknowledged international expert on the effects of heavy metals on biologic systems, Wetterhahn was a leader in conducting research on how metals initiate cancer and other metal-induced human diseases at the molecular level. She fostered links among biology, chemistry, environmental studies, engineering and medical science, insisting that "the life sciences are interdisciplinary."

Senier is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at Brown University. Following her graduation cum laude from Colby College, she earned an M.A. from Brown University and an M.P.H. from Boston University. Senier is currently working on her dissertation under the guidance of Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies and Director of the Brown University SBRP Community Outreach Core Phil Brown, Ph.D. ( Exit NIEHS Her research examines how genomics is influencing public health research and practice in the United States, especially in the area of breast cancer research.

Since joining the Brown University Community Outreach Core in 2005, Senier has coordinated research and communication activities with many community partners, including the Environmental Neighborhood Awareness Committee of Tiverton ( and the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council. Her deep sensitivity to these communities allows her to find creative ways to use university resources to assist under-funded and under-staffed groups to facilitate their interaction with state agencies.

Senier's accomplishments include serving as first-author on a May 2008 article in Environmental Science & Technology about the Tiverton experience, preparation of a first-authored article for Organization and Environment and publication of her M.A. thesis in a special issue of Sociological Inquiry edited by the renowned sociologist Lee Clark. In the spring of 2007, Senier's strengths and abilities were further recognized with the receipt of a Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation Fellowship Award. Brown describes his colleague as "a multi-talented person," who has been "central" to Brown University's SBRP Community Outreach Core's successes.

The staff of the NIEHS SBRP congratulates Ms. Laura Senier on her research accomplishments and wishes her continued success in her scientific career.

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