Research Experience and Training Coordination Core

Co-leads: Angela Slitt, URI College of Pharmacy; Elsie Sunderland, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science

The major scientific theme of the University of Rhode Island (URI)-led STEEP (Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFAS) SRP Center is to provide solutions to aid the NIH Superfund Research Program (SRP) in addressing emerging per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), reducing human exposure, training, and engaging affected communities. The STEEP Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC) provides pre- and post-doctoral level trainees with resources and opportunities to become skilled scientists/engineers, equipped to address various aspects of emerging contaminants, specifically the scientific, remediation, community, and translational facets of PFAS.

To do so, STEEP assembled a competent group of scientists, engineers, and professionals from URI, Harvard University, and Silent Spring Institute. The RETCC capitalizes on the multi-institutional strengths of the STEEP team, centered on emerging contaminants, and proposes innovative and interdisciplinary training activities.

Trainees participate in at least one of four new trainee action centered teams focused on:

  • high-school pedagogy
  • research translation
  • science-policy support
  • community engagement and outreach.

The four STEEP research projects involve seven PIs/senior investigators and the RETCC maintains 10-12 fully supported graduate students as primary STEEP predoctoral trainees. Additional graduate students are supported as secondary STEEP trainees for a total of 25 graduate trainees.

In addition, two STEEP fellowships supporting students from underrepresented groups are included through the URI Graduate School Minority Program. Overall, STEEP provides a rich interdisciplinary training experience that brings together trainees from diverse scientific fields, including oceanography, public health, pharmacy, engineering, biostatistics, and computer science, empowering them to be change makers and problem-solvers. STEEP trainees develop skills to become the next generation of scientists in hazardous substance research who can advance public policy, regulatory science, chemistry safety, and human health protection.