The NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) marked its 30th anniversary at the annual meeting Dec. 6-8 in Philadelphia. SRP researchers, administrators, trainees, and other partners shared findings and discussed experiences with community engagement and research translation. The meeting was hosted by the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) SRP Center(https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/programs/Program_detail.cfm?Project_ID=P42ES023720).
“As we celebrate 30 years, we are focusing on how fundamental research has stimulated knowledge, research translation, and training activities,” said SRP Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., in opening remarks. “Collaboration across disciplines has generated innovation in environmental health science research and facilitated cutting-edge research by our trainees.”
In an opening message delivered via video, NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., praised SRP as a problem-solving program that produces tangible results. “The SRP efficiently leverages a robust scientific infrastructure to develop new ways to detect, assess, and address serious, long-existing hazards to people’s health,” she said. “Bringing together experts in biology, chemistry, physical sciences, engineering, and other disciplines is the right formula for scientific breakthrough and new discovery.”
Fundamental research for innovation and health
Complementing the theme of the meeting, SRP researchers and trainees shared important progress in detecting and measuring contaminants in environmental samples, such as water and sewage sludge, and in biological samples, such as blood.
In the past three decades, SRP grantees discovered many mechanisms by which contaminants can lead to disease. Research presented at the anniversary meeting addressed perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and mercury.
Presenters also spoke about moving fundamental research into the field, including new technologies to reduce or remove contaminants from water, soil, and sediment. Other speakers focused on community-based approaches to studying exposures and health effects, and sharing information with the public.
Training future scientific leaders
Scientific sessions featured talks by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and included several poster sessions. Five talks were given by the 2016 KC Donnelly Externship Award Winners. Angela Gutierrez, winner of the 2017 Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, also gave a presentation.
A special trainee program featured sessions on scientific writing and public speaking. It also introduced trainees to diverse professional career tracks and provided networking opportunities with SRP trainee alumni.
A collaborative session with the Research Translation and Community Engagement Cores highlighted successes and lessons learned in communicating risk to people who are exposed to hazardous chemicals.
(Adeline Lopez is a research and communication specialist for MDB Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training.)