CANCELLED: Seminar: Addressing Uncertainty and Population Variability in Risk Assessment: Challenges and Opportunities

Unfortunately, due to the winter weather, we have had to cancel this seminar.

Please join us for our next Superfund Research Program Seminar: Addressing Uncertainty and Population Variability in Risk Assessment: Challenges and Opportunities on Friday, February 10, 2017, 12:00 – 1:00, at 184 Hope Street, Barus and Holley room 190.

Dr. Weihsueh Chiu will be discussing the rapid advance of high-throughput testing and other new biological technologies has the potential to address a broad range of needs in health risk assessment. One important need is for risk assessments to quantitatively characterize uncertainty and variability, so as to provide decision-makers with a sense of the confidence in estimated risks and the extent to which susceptible individuals are protected. New and emerging tools, methods, and approaches to characterize uncertainty and variability are beginning to be incorporated into risk assessment. A common theme for all these approaches is the integration of population-based data and experimental models using probabilistic computational/statistical models. For instance, probabilistic PBPK modeling approaches provide a characterization of toxicokinetic uncertainty and variability, but have been applied in only a few cases such as the common Superfund contaminant trichloroethylene. On the other hand, approaches to address uncertainty and variability in toxicodynamics or downstream disease processes are only beginning to be explored. Additionally, a new probabilistic framework developed by the World Health Organization provides a potential means to integrate both old and new data streams together, while also providing more quantitative and transparent characterizations of risk. Taken together, these new approaches have risk management implications related to specifying the acceptable levels of uncertainty, population incidence, and magnitudes of effect in a particular risk context.

Weihsueh A. Chiu, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He also has a Research Fellow appointment at the Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. He received a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Harvard University, and earned a PhD in Physics from Princeton University as well as a Certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Dr. Chiu spent the first 16 years of his career in government service, first at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and then at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Throughout his career, he has been involved in a diverse span of risk-related topics, such as defense against chemical-biological warfare agents, radioactive contamination in biosolids, human health risks from environmental chemical exposures, and the interface between science and policy. His recent research has focused on human health risk assessment, particularly with respect to toxicokinetics, mechanisms of toxicity, physiologically-based pharmacokinetic modeling, dose-response assessment, and characterizing uncertainty and variability. He has a particular interest in the development and use of Bayesian and probabilistic methods. Much of his research has used the common contaminants trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene as model compounds, but recently he has become involved in projects utilizing high throughput in vitro systems addressing over a hundred compound at a time. Dr. Chiu has served on a variety of expert review panels for government agencies, as well as workgroups for the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer, International Program on Chemical Safety, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

We hope to see you there!

Brown contributes to the Environmental Health Sciences FEST

NIEHS celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, and this past month hosted an institute-wide, four-day celebratory event called the Environmental Health Sciences FEST in Durham, NC. Over 1300 attendees engaged in presentations and panel discussions on the full spectrum of topics supported by the institute ranging from the molecular mechanisms of toxicity, to pollutant fate and transport, citizen science, exposure prevention, and bench-to-field research translation.

The Brown SRP sent 15 participants to the Durham including nine trainees, and our center made significant contributions to the success of the FEST. Opening plenary talks by Institute Director, Linda Birnbaum, and Program Director, William Suk, highlighted one of our center’s recent publications in PNAS* and featured our recent interactions with Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and Dr. Birnbaum on the Brown campus. On the first day, graduate student Ruben Spitz won first place in the environmental sciences and engineering category for his poster “Breathable Graphene Oxide Toxicant Barriers.”

On Tuesday, Dr. Marcella Thompson from the Community Engagement Core gave a platform oral presentation on her work with the Narragansett Tribe titled “Are These Fish Safe to Eat? The Namaus (All Things Fish) Project.” Dr. Robert Hurt, Center Director and Project 4 Leader presented an oral talk titled “Nano-Enabled Technologies for Environmental Health.” in a session on bench-to-field research translation. To wrap up the week, Dr. Jennifer Guelfo, State Agency Liaison Postdoctoral Fellow, and Thomas Marlow, graduate student in sociology working with the Community Engagement Core, discussed “The Benefits of Research Translation to Environmental Research: An Example Reaturing Perfluoroalkyl Acid (PFAA) Fate and Transport.”

Additional poster presentations were given by:

  • Christina Ergas, State Agency Liaison Postdoctoral Fellow, (Poster: 12/6: Communicating Environmental Risk: A Community Assessment Survey)
  • David Klein, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, (Poster Session 12/6: Determining Male Reproductive Toxicity of Bolus Versus Continuous Exposure to Trichloroethylene)
  • Tom Marlow, Graduate Student, (Presentation 12/8: The Benefits of Research Translation to Environmental Research: An Example Reaturing Perfluoroalkyl Acid (PFAA) Fate and Transport; Poster 12/5: Hazardous Conditions: Industrial Growth and Environmental Inequality in Rhode Island, 1954-2010)
  • Michael Murphy (Trainee) (Poster 12/5: Uncovering Historical Environmental Health Threats at Mashapaug Pond, Rhode Island)
  • Ruben Spitz (Trainee) (12/5: Poster: Breathable Graphene Oxide Toxicant Barriers)
  • Jonathan Strom (Trainee) (Poster 12/7: Sub-slab depressurization systems for vapor intrusion mitigation – some aspects of design)

Overall, the FEST was a great success and will be remembered as a special event in the history of the environmental health field in the United States.

* Wenpeng Zhu, Annette von dem Bussche, Xin Yi,Yang Qiu, Zhongying Wang, Paula Weston, Robert H. Hurt, Agnes B. Kane & Huajian Gao, “Nanomechanical mechanism for lipid bilayer damage induced by carbon nanotubes confined in intracellular vesicles” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 (44) 12374-12379 (2016).


Ruben Spitz, graduate student

Ruben Spitz, graduate student

Michael Murphy, graduate student

Michael Murphy, graduate student

Thomas Marlow, graduate student

Thomas Marlow, graduate student

Christina Ergas, State Agency Liaison Postdoctoral Fellow

Christina Ergas, State Agency Liaison Postdoctoral Fellow

Jonathan Strom, graduate student

Jonathan Strom, graduate student

Monthly Seminar: Nanotechnology to the Rescue

November 18 we will be joined by Dr. Philip Demokritou, Director of the Harvard-NIEHS Nanosafety Research Center and Director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology at Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, for this month’s SRP Seminar Series. Dr. Demokritou will speak about “Nanotechnology to the Rescue: A chemical free, antimicrobial platform using  Engineered Water Nanostructures.”

As always, this seminar is open to the public. Please join us Friday, November 18 at noon in Barus and Holley (184 Hope Street), Room 190.

More about the lecture
Despite advances in  public health, infectious diseases continue to affect millions of people, often with serious outcomes.   The toll of airborne infectious disease is further complicated through the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, while the constant antigenic shift of influenza viruses creates difficulties for vaccine development. Similarly, microbial contamination is a leading cause of foodborne illnesses and food waste in the US   with the annual cost exceeding 15  billion USD.  Control of these   infections remains a challenge and currently relies on interventions that have significant shortcomings, including health risks. Air disinfection for the interruption of transmission relies on UV-A radiation, HEPA filtration and biocidal gasses while for food disinfection chemical and thermal methods are widely used and create many inefficiencies and environmental health implications.   New, innovative, effective, low cost and most importantly chemical-free, ‘green’ technologies, possessing fewer drawbacks than the existing ones, are urgently in need in the battle against infections.

Recently, a novel nanotechnology-based, chemical free, antimicrobial platform was developed.  It relies on the synthesis of Engineered Water Nanostructures (EWNS) using electrospray and ionization of water. These nano-structures possess unique physicochemical and biological properties   and have been found to interact and inactivate pathogens through destruction of their cell membrane, on surfaces and in the air. The synthesis and property characterization of EWNS will be presented. Their effectiveness  on inactivation of microorganisms on surfaces and air will also be discussed. Applications across the Farm-to-Fork chain for enhanced food safety and quality assurance will be presented. (Disclaimer: Funding  for the development and characterization of EWNS platform was provided by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and United States  Department of Agriculture   (USDA))


Dr. Laura Senier Returns to SRP for Guest Lecture

Dr. Laura Senier, M.P.H., Ph.D. will be returning to Brown as this month’s Superfund Seminar Series lecturer. Dr. Senier, as an assistant professor of sociology, anthropology and health sciences at Northeastern University focuses on the intersection of medical and sociological research with implementation and practice in communities.

Join us Friday, October 28, 2016 for for Brokering Environmental Justice: Community Health Partnerships in Three Milwaukee Neighborhoods: Environmental justice partnerships nationwide are redefining healthy communities as places where residents can not only be safe from environmental hazards but also can purchase nutritious foods, exercise in safe and attractive recreation spaces, and work in jobs that produce a family-supporting income. Activists advancing such a broad notion of environmental justice must reconcile the contradictory needs and interests of diverse stakeholders: residents, elected officials, regulatory agencies, and the business community. We study three Milwaukee neighborhoods that have sought to redevelop contaminated industrial land in pursuit of multiple goals: to foster economic revitalization, improve population health, preserve natural resources, and address environmental and social inequalities. In two of the three sites, we find that coalition brokers cultivated a sustainable development frame that was broad enough to unify diverse stakeholders and embedded that frame in the mission of a brokering organization. We attribute stalled redevelopment efforts in the third site in part to the lack of a coalition broker who could foreground the social justice concerns of marginalized communities. Our work highlights successful strategies and barriers in the formation of cross-movement coalitions for environmental justice, and how sensitive mobilization strategies must be to local context.

Lecture: Friday, October 28, 12:00 p.m., Brown University Alpert Medical School Building, 222 Richmond Street, Room 270.



Superfund Seminar Series Begins September 9

Dr. Joel Pedersen will be joining us for the first Superfund Seminar Series of the 2016-2017 season. Friday, September 9, 2016, Dr. Pedersen, professor of environmental organic and biophysical chemistry; behavior of organic chemicals, macromolecules and nanoparticles in terrestrial and aquatic environments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will lecture on Insights into Nanoparticle Interaction with Cell Surfaces from Model Systems. 

Dr. Pedersen’s talk will focus on how cell surfaces (cytoplasmic membranes, bacterial cell envelopes) serve as initial points of contact between cells and nanomaterials that have been either intentionally or inadvertently released into the environment. Mechanistic understanding of nanomaterial interaction with cell surfaces requires consideration of bnanoparticle surface chemistry and the chemical composition, physical properties, and lateral organization of cell surfaces. We have developed models for cell surfaces containing key molecular components to study in detail the processes and cell surface properties perturbed by interaction with specific ligand-nanoparticle combinations. We complement our experimental investigations with computational studies to provide further insight into processes at the nano-bio interface. We have found that phase-segregated domains, glycolipid species, and membrane proteins influence nanoparticle interaction with model cell surfaces. We will discuss our recent work demonstrating the importance of different lipid and non-lipid components of cell surfaces on their interaction with engineered nanoparticles.

The Pedersen research group focuses on environmental interfacial chemistry and studies interfacial processes affecting the behavior of nanoparticles, biomolecules, and organic molecules in terrestrial and aquatic environments.

Event details: Friday, September 9, 2016, noon, Barus and Holley, 184 Hope Street, Room 190, Providence, RI

Urban Pond Procession 2016: Celebrating Indigenous Culture and Urban Water

Dr. Christina Ergas, SRP State Liaison Postdoctoral Fellow, attended the Urban Pond Procession on May 14th. The theme for this year was “Celebrating Indigenous Culture and Urban Water.”
Loren Spears opened the procession with a Narragansett ceremonial blessing, and then folks marched away from Roosevelt Lake toward JT Owens Park with fish costumes, environmental signs and banners, rain sticks, and ornate lanterns. The procession marched to meet up with the Extraordinary Rendition Band (ERB) who then led the group with pulsing rythms. We marched first to Reservoir Elementary school and then to Mashapaug Pond where Thaun played the water drum and blessed the pond with cleansed water. Afterward, the ERB led everyone to JT Owens Park. There, the crowd ate food and watched a documentary about indigenous ties to the pond from a large floating screen that sat on the pond.
Brown SRP and UPP have a continuing partnership to education the community about the  Masapaug Pond watershed pollution and clean up. For more information and photos please visit the UPP’s facebook page. IMG_20160514_181106337IMG_20160514_191306345

9th Annual Urban Pond Procession

UPP Poster 2016-8-3 lt sm

Experience Mashapaug Pond in New Ways at the Annual Artist-Led Procession
Place-Based Celebration of Art, Culture, and History
Focus the year: Indigenous Culture and Urban Waterways

Free & Open to the Public  
Date: May 14, (Rain date May 15)
Time: 6-9 pm
Where:  Start at Roosevelt Lake behind the Casino in Roger Williams Park.
The 1.5 mile route ends at J T Owens Park, 350 Niantic Avenue, Providence. For shuttle service, park at J T Owens Park, ride the shuttle, (5:30 to 6:15 pm), to procession start. *

UPP Arts will host the 9th Annual Urban Pond Procession on May 14 in partnership with local artists, scientists, historians, schools, community members, and representatives of the Tomaquag Museum. Choreographed by Lisa Abbatomarco, the 2016 Procession will depart at 6:00 PM from Roosevelt Lake behind the casino in Roger Williams Park and travel to J T Owens Park on Mashapaug Pond where a ceremonial blessing by Tomaquag Museum representatives will open the celebration of this year’s theme, the Pond’s Indigenous Culture and Urban Waterways. The evening’s programming will include a variety show featuring student projects created to explore Mashapaug Pond’s cultural and environmental history.

Artist and UPP Arts founder and Executive Director, Holly Ewald will debut a new floating sculpture that doubles as a film screen by showing student films. Ewald’s work, Full Circle: Art As Reflection, was fabricated by The Steel Yard with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism. The installation will be on view at Mashapaug Pond through October 2016 and will be used for a film series through out the summer.

The annual Urban Pond Procession draws over 250 youth, families and other community members each year. This year’s participants include: Extraordinary Rendition Band, the Extraordinary Youth Ensemble, Big Nazo Puppets, Tomaquag Museum performers, What Cheer Brigade and Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts. Teaching artists include Kate Lacouture at Reservoir Avenue Elementary, Denali Tiller at Alvarez High School, Wanda Hopkins and Dawn Spears with 21st Century Learning Community in Cranston at Gladstone Elementary School & Bain Middle School.

Every year the procession focuses on a different theme to celebrate and build stewardship of Mashpaug Pond and the Lower Pawtuxet River Watershed with local residents, schools and elected officials. Mashapaug Pond was a settlement site for Indigenous People for centuries and many still recognize it as an important ancestral site. Loren Spears, Director of the Tomaquag Museum, is an advisor for all our arts-based school and public workshops.

About UPP Arts
The mission of UPP Arts is to engage artists and communities in public art-making for the purpose of celebrating and building stewardship of our shared environment.

Photo Opportunity: Indigenous blessing and performance at Mashapaug Pond Boating Center behind Save A Lot on Reservoir (7:15 pm) and finale performances w/film showing on floating screen (8 pm) J T Owens Park

* Directions to J T Owens for shuttle service: From north take Rte. 95 South to Elmwood Ave. exit, straight onto Roger Williams Ave., left on Reservoir Ave., bear right towards Rte. 10 north and bear right onto Niantic Ave.. J T Owens Park is on your right.

Holly Ewald, Executive Director, UPP Arts


April Seminar: Dr. Matthew Rand on Methylmercury Toxicity

Mark your calendars! April 8, 2016 at noon Dr. Matthew Rand, associate professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, will be speaking about the mechanisms of methylmercury toxicity at the Superfund Research Program’s Monthly Seminar Series. The lecture will be held in room 190 of Barus and Holley at Brown University (184 Hope Street).

A brief abstract of his lecture: Methylmercury (MeHg) is a ubiquitous and persistent toxicant in our environment that, with adequate exposure, irreversibly damages the developing nervous system. Since exposure to MeHg is an inevitable consequence of eating fish, understanding the relative risk of MeHg toxicity versus benefits of fish nutrients remains a priority public health issue.  To better define MeHg risk we have characterized MeHg tolerance and susceptibility traits in both people and fruit flies, with the goal of elucidating fundamental developmental, cellular and molecular pathways responsible for mediating MeHg toxicity.  Our findings demonstrate a remarkable variance in rates of metabolism of MeHg in people that also highlights a potential influence of the gut microbiome. With Drosophila, we have unveiled an unexpected role for myogenesis and muscle development as a target for MeHg disruption. Altogether, our studies broaden the understanding of the toxic potential of MeHg and contribute to a greater understanding of the risks in the context of exposures typically encountered by people today.

March Seminar: Dr. Stephanie Malin, Colorado State University

On Friday, March 11, 2016, Stephanie Malin, Ph.D., assistant professor of Sociology at Colorado State University, will present Western Wells and Well-Being: Community Impacts of Unconventional Oil and Gas Production in Colorado. Dr. Malin will provide overviews and preliminary results from two research projects on unconventional oil and gas (O&G) production, which she has led since 2014. The first project is a two-year, multi-community study funded by the National Institutes of Health NIEHS program. Dr. Malin is the lead social scientist on this innovative project, which involves mixed methods, including survey data collection, participant observation, in-depth interviews, and biomarker analysis. The study examines quality of life and stress impacts related to living in close proximity to unconventional O&G production, as well as public perceptions about the technology and related regulations. In the second study, funded by Colorado State University’s Water Center, she examined the (tip of the) food-energy-water nexus here in Colorado, focusing on the relationships between agricultural production, water markets and rights, and unconventional O&G production.

Join us for this event! Barus and Holley, room 190, 12:00-1:00 p.m.