Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Last week, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn even more about the University of Kentucky's impact on the Commonwealth.
I met with Bernie Hennig, Director of the UK Superfund Research Center. We had a fascinating discussion about the important work occurring at this center, where UK researchers study a variety of important environmental science and health issues.
Dr. Hennig explained that Kentucky has more than 200 federal Superfund sites, (sites contaminated with hazardous substances), including 14 that are on the National Priority List.
The UK Superfund Research Center is highly interdisciplinary and supports the efforts of more than 50 scientists and students from 15 departments within the colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environment; Arts and Sciences; Engineering; Medicine; and Public Health.
A team led by Dr. Zach Hilt is looking at new ways of finding and capturing pollutants in the environment, while Dr. Dibakar Bhattacharyya's team is studying how nanotechnology can help clean up these pollutants, making a safer environment.
To help those already exposed to these persistent chemicals in the environment, scientists in Dr. Hennig's lab are examining the potential for healthful nutrition to offset some of the inflammatory aspects of exposure that contribute to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Lisa Cassis's team is examining the complex relationship between PCB exposure and the development of obesity and diabetes, while Dr. Kevin Pearson is looking at how exercise during pregnancy can benefit the offspring of exposed animals, utilizing experimental conditions that mimic human exposure. A number of cores led by faculty from across the university focus on analysis, translating findings, engaging communities, and training the next generation of scientists to support this important research.
Just last month, we announced that the Superfund Center received a $12.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health; it will support the researchers in better understanding how to minimize negative health and environmental impacts from hazardous waste sites.
This is particularly exciting because UK is one of only four programs funded in 2014.
Thanks to Dr. Hennig's leadership and the compelling work of our UK researchers, the UK center sits in a very elite group of just 19 centers nationwide, and has received funding for its Superfund work since 1997.
Of course, our UK Superfund Research Center also provides extraordinary opportunities for graduate research. I was very moved by Dr. Hennig's stories about the graduate students who, like the faculty members who work at the center, are dedicated to environmental cleanup and improving health with their research.
Three of these Superfund trainees, Maggie Murphy, Brad Newsome and Li Xiao, shared their experiences. I encourage you to listen to their compelling stories.
I welcome you to look at the UK Superfund Research Center website to learn more about the Superfund Center activities and about all the UK scientists and students who are part of this Center.
All the best,