Robert Hurt invited to give nanosafety talk at ACS National Meeting

Robert Hurt, Director of the Brown Superfund Research Program, will be giving an invited talk at the 253rd American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition, which is being held in San Francisco, CA on April 2-6, 2017. Dr. Hurt’s presentation, “Formation and oxidative stability of metal sulfide nanoparticles and 2D nanosheets”, will be in the Environmental Chemistry Division as a part of a special session entitled: “Sulfidation of Metal-based Engineered and Natural Nanomaterials: Implications for their Fate and Effects in the Environment” on April 3rd.
Nanoparticles released to the environment are believed to undergo profound physical and chemical transformations that influence their fate and transport, and also determine their final form when they reach biological receptors in the natural environment, or return to humans in food, air, or water. These issues will be explored during this upcoming Brown Superfund Research Program talk.
For more information on the meeting or to register, please visit:

New SRP publication in Aquatic Toxicology

April Rodd and Agnes Kane have a new SRP-related publication in Aquatic Toxicology.  Dr. Rodd kindly summarized the article for us:

My recently accepted article in Aquatic Toxicology focuses on a new alternative toxicity testing platform targeted towards fish. Using 3D cell culture technology developed here at Brown, we formed 3D liver microtissues from a fish liver cell line. Compared to the 2D monolayer cells typically used in toxicology, these microtissues live longer and are better differentiated, meaning that they act more like real livers and allow us to better predict the response of fish. We used benzo(a)pyrene as a model compound to test out our new model and showed that our microtissues are sensitive over multiple exposures. This shows that our fish liver microtissues can be a valuable tool for evaluating environmentally relevant exposures for aquatic toxicology testing.

The article can be found at:

Brown SRP Trainee Rubin Spitz to speak at upcoming NIEHS Webinar

Ruben Spitz, who won first prize for his poster at last year’s Superfund Research Program (SRP) Annual Meeting, will be participating in an upcoming National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Webinar. Rubin will be discussing his poster: Breathable Vapor Toxicant Barriers Based on Multilayer Graphene Oxide. This is an excellent opportunity for those who were not able to view the poster at the Annual Meeting – as well as for peers, SRP researchers, SRP alumni, and SRP’s partners – to hear Rubin and other winners describe their current research and activities.
The Webinar will take place on March 6, 2017 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST. For more information and to register, please visit NIH’s SRP Annual Meeting Poster Winners Webinar Series page.
We hope you can participate!

New Surendra Sharma Publication

Surendra Sharma has a new publication, arising from work with the Brown Superfund Research Program: “Polychlorinated biphenyls target Notch/Dll and VEGF R2 in the mouse placenta and human trophoblast cell lines for their anti-angiogenic effects” in Scientific Reports. The full article is available here.

Superfund Research Program Seminar: Crowdsourcing Undone Science

Please join us for our next Superfund Research Program Seminar: Crowdsourcing Undone Science on Friday, March 17, 2017, 12:00 – 1:00, at 184 Hope Street, Barus and Holley room 190.

Undone science has tended to be seen as a problem of information scarcity: relevant data are scarce or absent.  But undone science may simultaneously be a problem of information overload: new monitoring and surveillance technologies can generate data at a rate that outstrips social movement groups’ capacity for interpreting them.  In the natural sciences, one strategy used for confronting ever-larger data sets has been to recruit volunteer “citizen scientists” to help in the analysis.  Could this approach, known as “crowdsourcing,” be used by social movement groups to overcome information overload and get undone science done?  Dr. Ottinger suggests that crowdsourcing can be valuable in cases where social movement groups have a clear framework for interpreting their data, but is likely to founder where they reject experts’ interpretative frameworks yet struggle to articulate alternatives.

Gwen Ottinger is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University, where she directs the Fair Tech Collective, a research group dedicated to using social science theory and methods to inform the development of technology that fosters environmental justice.  She is author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges, which was awarded the 2015 Rachel Carson Prize by the Society for Social Studies of Science.

Please join us!

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.