2011 Science Communication Fellows Begin Year-long Training.

Release date: February 7, 2011


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. They will work with editors and writing staff at Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) to produce original research reviews and commentaries on media coverage. Additionally, they will be available as sources to journalists seeking information for stories related to these important and burgeoning fields.

The Fellows’ formal training begins with a two-day conference to be held March 3-5 in Washington, DC.

The Fellows program, now in its fifth year, trains scientists early in their careers to more clearly articulate research results and explain their relevance in an effort to deepen public understanding of issues related to environmental health and green chemistry. The program is unique because it involves scientists who identify findings that shed light on links among the environment, human health and chemistry.

Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) and Advancing Green Chemistry (AGC) sponsor the fellowships. EHS publishes the online news source Environmental Health News (http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org) and The Daily Climate (http://www.dailyclimate.org). AGC publishes chemistry updates at http://www.AdvancingGreenChemistry.org.

The 2011 Fellows represent a wide range of interests and experiences. They hail from major universities located in four countries – the United States, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom. They bring a commitment to educate the public about the connections between chemicals and human and ecological health. Their professional and academic backgrounds range from environmental toxicology to epidemiology to green chemistry.

Every month, the Fellows will translate new research findings into short summaries written for a general audience. The summaries are then published at www.environmentalhealthnews.org. They will also write brief reviews – also published there – commenting on how well the media are covering environmental health science and green chemistry issues.

During the past two decades, significant changes in the research and clinical practice of environmental health have occurred. During the same time, green chemistry emerged as a tool for training chemists to develop safer chemicals. Most people are unaware of how profoundly the research in both areas has evolved and of the intertwining interests of the two seemingly diverse areas. The Fellows – at the interface between the science and journalism – address the large gap between these rapidly moving research frontiers and public understanding of the disciplines and their connections.

The Fellows were selected through a competitive process by a selection committee of seven prominent scientists: Lynn R. Goldman, George Washington University; Louis J. Guillette, Jr., Medical University of South Carolina; Patricia A. Hunt, Washington State University; Richard J. Jackson, University of California-Los Angeles; Shuk-mei Ho, University of Cincinnati; Shanna H. Swan, University of Rochester; and Frederick vom Saal, University of Missouri-Columbia.

The 2011 Science Communication Fellows:

Joe Braun, MSPH, PhD, RN, is 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, MD, PhD, 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.

Renee Gardner, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. She uses studies of exposed mothers and infants to understand how early-life exposures to toxic chemicals – especially metals – affect the developing immune system of children. Additionally, she studies cell cultures in the lab to better understand the impact of toxic metals on the human immune system.

Roxanne Karimi, PhD, is a postdoctoral research associate at 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, PhD, 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.

Audrey Moores, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at McGill University. She is a chemist who studies how nanoparticles that are made from metals can be used as effective catalysts in industrial processes. These materials are very small and have interesting chemical properties and activities that differ their larger, bulk counterparts. The ultimate goal of this research is to provide better, greener alternatives using these well-defined catalysts, so as to reduce the waste generated and the energy and material input needed to produce chemicals for use in everything from commodities to pharmaceutics.

Steven Neese, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in comparative biosciences at the University of Illinois. He is a behavioral toxicologist who studies how environmental contaminants affect cognition during aging. His current research assesses how exposure to estrogenic contaminants – specifically bisphenol-A – can affect normal cognitive aging in animas in order to understand how these interactions may impact people’s brain health.

Tamara Tal, PhD, is a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ 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.

Wim Thielemans, PhD, MRSC, is a lecturer in chemistry and chemical engineering at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Situated at the interface between chemistry, chemical engineering and materials science, his research interests focus on the development of polymers and composites from renewable sources, chemical surfaces modification and self-assembly of nanoparticles derived from starch and cellulose and their interaction with other materials and the environment.

Heather Volk, PhD, MPH, is a research assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and 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.

Environmental Health Sciences (EHS), publisher of the daily news services EnvironmentalHealthNews.org and TheDailyClimate.org, sponsors the fellowship in partnership with Advancing Green Chemistry (AGC). EHS, based in Charlottesville, Va., is a non-profit organization that promotes public understanding of links between environmental factors and human health. AGC – also in Charlottesville, Va. – advances development and adoption of green chemistry by promoting research, linking strategic partners and highlighting opportunities among stakeholders. The Science Communication Fellows program is funded by grants from the Kendeda Fund.


Environmental Health Sciences: Pete Myers, jpmyers@ehsic.org, 434.220.0348; Wendy Hessler, whessler@ehsic.org, 402.397.9928, 402.672.1715.

Advancing Green Chemistry: Karen O’Brien, kpobrien@advancinggreenchemistry.org, 434.220.3701.

Science Communication Network: Amy Kostant, amy@sciencecom.org, 202.463.6670