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Environmental Factor

March 2011

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New Science Communications Fellows have ties to NIEHS

By Eddy Ball
March 2011

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Joe Braun, Ph.D.

Braun is working with Russ Hauser, M.D., Sc.D.( Exit NIEHS, and Robert Wright, M.D.( Exit NIEHS, through an NIEHS grant( funding research on early life exposure to lead, bisphenol A, phthalates, and childhood neurodevelopmental outcomes. He is first author on a new review with Hauser, "Bisphenol A and children's health( Exit NIEHS," published online ahead of print in Current Opinion in Pediatrics Feb. 2. (Photo courtesy of Joe Braun)

Aimin Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Chen's NIEHS grant( funded a study of developmental neurotoxicants in e-waste that was profiled in the Environmental Factor (see story( in January of this year. (Photo courtesy of the University of Cincinnati)

Five of the ten 2011 Science Communication Fellows announced Feb. 7 by Environmental Health Sciences (EHS)( Exit NIEHS have received training or research support from NIEHS. Like their predecessors, this year's fellows will spend the next year polishing their communication skills and learning effective ways to inform journalists and the public about new research findings in environmental health and green chemistry.

A number of NIEHS-supported scientists, including several Outstanding New Environmental Scientist awardees, have completed Science Communication Fellowships since EHS created the program in 2007. Among them was Laboratory of Neurobiology (LN) Biologist Negin Martin, Ph.D., who was selected to be a part of the program in 2009 when she was completing a fellowship with LN Chief David Armstrong, Ph.D.

According to EHS, the yearlong part-time training is designed to polish science communication skills, and prepare researchers for talking to reporters and the public about scientific topics. The fellows work with editors and writing staff at EHS to produce original research reviews and commentaries on media coverage. The program is unique because it involves scientists who identify findings that shed light on links among the environment, human health, and chemistry.

EHS and Advancing Green Chemistry (AGC) sponsor the fellowships. EHS publishes the online news sources, Environmental Health News( Exit NIEHS and The Daily Climate( Exit NIEHS. AGC publishes chemistry updates online( Exit NIEHS.

The EHS announcement included the following awardees with ties to NIEHS:

  • Joe Braun, Ph.D.,( Exit NIEHSis a research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. As an epidemiologist, he studies the role of endocrine disrupting compounds - such as bisphenol A and phthalates - in children's development. His current research examines whether these compounds impact children's traits that are sex linked, such as visual and spatial abilities, aggression, hyperactivity, anxiety, and depression.
  • Aimin Chen, M.D., Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS, is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He conducts epidemiologic research of environmental toxicants and their effects on mothers' and children's health. His current research interests focus on children's health outcomes from exposure to heavy metals, flame retardants, and electronic-waste recycling processes.
  • Roxanne Karimi, Ph.D is a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. She studies the transfer of pollutants - such as mercury - through aquatic food webs and examines human exposure to these pollutants from fish consumption.
  • Brandon Moore, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Louisiana Tech University. His research compares reproductive effects in wildlife - specifically reptiles and fish - from exposure to different levels of pollution in the environment. He investigates reproductive organs and cell processes to understand how pollutants can shape and alter sexual development and function in wildlife. Observed alterations in organ structures and associated genetic markers between unexposed and exposed animals shed light on potential reductions in reproductive fitness and fertility.
  • Tamara Tal, Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS, is an NIEHS postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State University. As a developmental toxicologist, she studies how changes in the way genes are read or processed during development lead to abnormal brain function later in life. Broadly, her current work seeks to understand adverse behavioral outcomes following developmental exposure to a wide range of environmentally prevalent chemicals. To do so, she uses zebrafish to investigate how early life exposures to neurotoxic chemicals alter the chemical or cell signals that promote normal brain development.
  • Heather Volk, Ph.D., is a research assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute in the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, as well as at the Saban Research Institute at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. An epidemiologist, her research focuses on examining the interaction of environmental and genetic risk factors on neurodevelopment. She currently studies environmental exposures for autism and is focusing on the potential impact of traffic-related air pollution.
Roxanne Karimi, Ph.D.

Karimi earned her doctorate with NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) training support( at Dartmouth College. In December 2007, she was awarded SRP's Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award (see story( as an outstanding scholar and citizen scientist. (Photo courtesy of Roxanne Karimi)

Brandon Moore, Ph.D.

During his doctoral studies at the University of Florida, Moore received research support through an NIEHS grant( to reproductive biologist Louis Guillette, Ph.D., for studying inhibins and environmental estrogens in ovarian disease. Moore was first author on five publications associated with that grant. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Moore)

Tamara Tal, Ph.D.

Tal is a trainee in the laboratory headed by Robert Tanguay, Ph.D., a professor in the Oregon State University Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology and director of the NIEHS Toxicology Training Grant( there. (Photo courtesy of Tamara Tal)

Heather Volk, Ph.D.

Volk is first author on a new study, partially funded by an NIEHS grant(, that found an association between residential proximity to a freeway and an increased risk of autism. She collaborated with NIEHS-supported scientists at the University of California, Davis Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute. (Photo courtesy of Heather Volk)

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