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Data Science Core

Decision Science Core

Community Engagement Core

Exposure Science Core

Research Translation Core

Administrative Core

Training Core


December 2021

Story by Aubrey Bloom, CVMBS Communications

Forty environmental health scientists from around the country gathered at Texas A&M University to hone the skills necessary to understand and respond to complex natural and man-made disasters during Texas A&M Superfund Research Center’s 2021 Disaster Research Training Workshop, Dec. 2-3.

Twenty-one trainees represented Texas A&M entities, including the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, (CVMBS) the School of Public Health, and the College of Architecture. Read More…

Disaster Research Training Workshop, December 2021
Mock media briefing
Interacting with Incident Command
Interacting with Incident Command/Gov Agencies
Prep for Field Sampling
Field Sampling
Field Sampling
Field Sampling
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Field Sampling
Mock Town Hall Q&A
Risk communication with a reporter

Texas A&M Superfund Center Trainees Share Excitement About Their Research Through Short Narrated Videos

September 2021

A number of trainees from across the units in the Center volunteered to create short videos that detail their research and its impact on the protection of human health and the environment.

The importance of science communication to broad audiences is one topic that the Center’s Training Core has been emphasizing through “soft skills” boot camps. Trainees polished their skills in this area by working with the CVMBS Communications team in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences to record and narrate short videos that tell the story of what they work on and how their research is making an impact on regulatory science and communities.

The wide range of topics of these presentations includes analytical chemistry (Alan Valdiviezo and Noor Aly), studies in human cells (Lucie Ford), methods for remediating chemical contamination (Meichen Wang), data analysis (Burcu Beykal), and community engagement (Leanne Fawkes).

We invite you to Meet Our Trainees!


Story by Megan Myers, CVMBS Communications

August 13, 2021

Alexandra Cordova, a Ph.D. student in the Texas A&M Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology (IFT) program, has been awarded a prestigious K.C. Donnelly Externship Award Supplement by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Research Program (SRP).

As one of 14 award recipients, Cordova received $10,000 to fund her research with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and will present on her project at the 2022 Superfund Research Program’s annual meeting.

The award, established in 2009, honors environmental health researcher and Texas A&M Superfund member Kirby (K.C.) Donnelly, Ph.D.; it supports SRP graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are pursuing transdisciplinary research.

“I’m so honored and grateful to receive this award,” Cordova said. “Scientific collaboration in exposure science represents one of the main legacies imparted by Dr. K.C. Donnelly to the Superfund Program at Texas A&M, and this is kept alive today in the teamwork demonstrated by investigators in all branches of the program.

“Throughout my time thus far as a graduate student, I have deeply admired this quality of our program, and I look forward to incorporating and encouraging scientific and transdisciplinary collaboration throughout my forthcoming career,” she said. “This award is incredibly special for us, since my adviser, Dr. Ivan Rusyn, was recognized as K.C. Donnelly Professor by Texas A&M University in 2019. I am so grateful to Dr. Donnelly for inspiring me, my mentor, and my support system.”

As a member of the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center, Cordova works in the laboratory of Dr. Ivan Rusyn, a University Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVMBS) Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS). Her work involves using novel analytical methods to determine the chemical compositions and sources of complex petroleum substances.

The K.C. Donnelly award will support Cordova’s work to develop a new approach to chemically characterize complex substances, which will help researchers understand how spilled substances may behave during a disaster event.

The proposed work will be conducted at LANL in New Mexico, where Cordova will work under the mentorship of Dr. Jared Crochet.

“This award is a great honor for the entire Superfund Center at Texas A&M and I am very pleased that Ms. Cordova’s innovative project that would greatly benefit from a partnership with LANL was recognized,” said Ivan Rusyn, M.D., Ph.D.

Cordova is from Frisco, Texas, and graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in finance.

Dr. Weihsueh Chiu appointed to Chair a NASEM committee, and dual appointment to the USEPA Science Advisory Board and the Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee

August 2021

Dr. Weihsueh Chiu, Decision Science Core PI, and Professor of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, will chair an adhoc committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that will provide the US EPA with a review of the variability and relevance of existing laboratory mammalian toxicity tests for human health risk assessment to inform the development of approaches for validation and establishing scientific confidence in using New Approach Methods (NAMs).

Dr. Chiu is also appointed to the US EPA Science Advisory Board with dual appointment to the Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee.

Texas A&M Superfund Research Center Leads the Way in Developing New Approach Methods (NAMs) for Regulatory Toxicology

August 2021

Research at Texas A&M University Superfund Research Center is paving the way for the use of in vitro and in silico methods in regulatory decision-making. Studies into replacement of animal tests with alternative methods has been ongoing for decades, but a recent shift in how regulatory agencies in the United States, Europe and the rest of the world approach regulatory science creates a renewed emphasis on actionable new methods that can be relied upon when deciding on human and environmental health hazards. The focus on development and application of the so-called “New Approach Methodologies (NAMs)”, technologies and approaches that can potentially provide relevant hazard and risk assessment information without the use of animal testing, is creating opportunities for the researchers and regulators to join forces to further establish scientific confidence in these approaches.

Development and application of NAMs is especially important for rapid hazard and risk assessment in cases of environmental and anthropogenic emergencies that may lead to redistribution of chemical contaminants of unknown type and quantities. In these situations, traditional approaches are often too slow or incomplete to provide timely information to decision-makers. To evaluate the complexities of hazardous chemical exposures, potential adverse health impacts, and potential hazards of exposures to complex mixtures, the Center’s multi-disciplinary teams collaborate on a number of projects that advance the field of NAMs in regulatory toxicology.

Just in the past 2 years, scientists in the Center published more than a dozen peer-reviewed articles (see below) that demonstrate the opportunities of applying human cell-based in vitro, tissue chip and computational methods to test for potential human health hazards of chemicals, complex substances and mixtures. These projects involve collaborations between research teams and Center's Decision Science and Data Science support cores. In addition, almost all of these studies have been driven by Center’s trainees who gain valuable experience in fundamental research and the regulatory applications of the new science.

1.Cardiotoxicity Hazard and Risk Characterization of ToxCast Chemicals Using Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes from Multiple Donors.
Burnett SD, Blanchette AD, Chiu WA, Rusyn I. Chem Res Toxicol. 2021 Aug 27. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.1c00203. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34448577
2.A new approach method for characterizing inter-species toxicodynamic variability.
Burnett SD, Karmakar M, Murphy WJ, Chiu WA, Rusyn I. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2021 Aug 24:1-20. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2021.1966861. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34427174
3.Heart Muscle Microphysiological System for Cardiac Liability Prediction of Repurposed COVID-19 Therapeutics.
Charrez B, Charwat V, Siemons BA, Goswami I, Sakolish C, Luo YS, Finsberg H, Edwards AG, Miller EW, Rusyn I, Healy KE. Front Pharmacol. 2021 Aug 4;12:684252. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.684252. PMID: 34421592
4.Molecular mechanisms of environmental toxin cadmium at the feto-maternal interface investigated using an organ-on-chip (FMi-OOC) model.
Kim S, Richardson L, Radnaa E, Chen Z, Rusyn I, Menon R, Han A. J Hazard Mater. 2021 Aug 2;422:126759. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.126759. PMID: 34391970
5.Curated Data In - Trustworthy In Silico Models Out: The Impact of Data Quality on the Reliability of Artificial Intelligence Models as Alternatives to Animal Testing.
Alves VM, Auerbach SS, Kleinstreuer N, Rooney JP, Muratov EN, Rusyn I, Tropsha A, Schmitt C. Altern Lab Anim. 2021 Jul 7:2611929211029635. doi: 10.1177/02611929211029635. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34233495
6.Quantitative in Vitro-to-in Vivo Extrapolation for Mixtures: A Case Study of Superfund Priority List Pesticides.
Valdiviezo A, Luo YS, Chen Z, Chiu WA, Rusyn I. Toxicol Sci. 2021 Jun 17:kfab076. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfab076. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34142158
7.Human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived cardiomyocytes as an in vitro model in toxicology: strengths and weaknesses for hazard identification and risk characterization.
Burnett SD, Blanchette AD, Chiu WA, Rusyn I. Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. 2021 Aug;17(8):887-902. doi: 10.1080/17425255.2021.1894122. PMID: 33612039
8.Risk Characterization and Probabilistic Concentration-Response Modeling of Complex Environmental Mixtures Using New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) Data from Organotypic in Vitro Human Stem Cell Assays.
Hsieh NH, Chen Z, Rusyn I, Chiu WA. Environ Health Perspect. 2021 Jan;129(1):17004. doi: 10.1289/EHP7600. Epub 2021 Jan 4. PMID: 33395322
9.Risk Characterization of Environmental Samples Using In Vitro Bioactivity and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Concentrations Data.
Chen Z, Lloyd D, Zhou YH, Chiu WA, Wright FA, Rusyn I. Toxicol Sci. 2021 Jan 6;179(1):108-120. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfaa166. PMID: 33165562
10.Testing the efficacy of broad-acting sorbents for environmental mixtures using isothermal analysis, mammalian cells, and H. vulgaris.
Wang M, Chen Z, Rusyn I, Phillips TD. J Hazard Mater. 2021 Apr 15;408:124425. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.124425. PMID: 33162237
11.Grouping of UVCB substances with new approach methodologies (NAMs) data.
House JS, Grimm FA, Klaren WD, Dalzell A, Kuchi S, Zhang SD, Lenz K, Boogaard PJ, Ketelslegers HB, Gant TW, Wright FA, Rusyn I. ALTEX. 2021;38(1):123-137. doi: 10.14573/altex.2006262. PMID: 33086383
12.A Bayesian Method for Population-wide Cardiotoxicity Hazard and Risk Characterization Using an In Vitro Human Model.
Blanchette AD, Burnett SD, Grimm FA, Rusyn I, Chiu WA. Toxicol Sci. 2020 Dec 1;178(2):391-403. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfaa151. PMID: 33078833
13.Cardiovascular Effects of Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Their Major Metabolites.
Grimm FA, Klaren WD, Li X, Lehmler HJ, Karmakar M, Robertson LW, Chiu WA, Rusyn I. Environ Health Perspect. 2020 Jul;128(7):77008. doi: 10.1289/EHP7030. PMID: 32701041
14.Rapid hazard characterization of environmental chemicals using a compendium of human cell lines from different organs.
Chen Z, Liu Y, Wright FA, Chiu WA, Rusyn I. ALTEX. 2020 Jun 8;37(4):623-638. doi: 10.14573/altex.2002291. PMID: 32521033
15.In Vitro Bioavailability of the Hydrocarbon Fractions of Dimethyl Sulfoxide Extracts of Petroleum Substances.
Luo YS, Ferguson KC, Rusyn I, Chiu WA. Toxicol Sci. 2020 Apr 1;174(2):168-177. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfaa007. PMID: 32040194
16.Predicting tubular reabsorption with a human kidney proximal tubule tissue-on-a-chip and physiologically-based modeling.
Sakolish C, Chen Z, Dalaijamts C, Mitra K, Liu Y, Fulton T, Wade TL, Kelly EJ, Rusyn I, Chiu WA. Toxicol In Vitro. 2020 Mar;63:104752. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2019.104752. PMID: 31857146

Texas A&M Superfund Research Center, College of Medicine Initiate Community Outreach To Demystify COVID 19, Address Vaccination Hesitancy

June 2021

Texas A&M Superfund Research Center (SRC)  COVID Community Outreach team of researchers and trainees, along with partners from the Texas A&M College of Medicine, recently initiated a series of community engagement events to demystify COVID 19 and address vaccination hesitancy.

Building on the experiences of the SRC’s Community Engagement Core, the group also partnered with local leaders and organizations to provide a community resource to address the mis/dis-information on vaccinations.

Since March 2021, SRC has leveraged existing connections, and built new ones, to encourage and promote vaccinations. The center identified vaccination hesitancy as a health equity issue that community partners needed assistance with, and quickly mobilized a coordinated and sustained multi-prong effort to engage and help. 

Through this effort, the center learned that there were many pockets of largely unvaccinated communities, each with its own reasons for vaccination hesitancy.  Bringing the information to those communities was key in gaining the trust and understanding of Hispanic and Black residents, and bringing the vaccine to them in partnership with the College of Medicine made access to the vaccine equitable. 

Events have been held at the Salvation Army, local churches, and community parks, and depending on the community, language translators were on-hand. Flyers were posted in the local newspaper serving the Hispanic community, and Spanish-speaking graduate students posted flyers in the Hispanic neighborhoods and were given on-air time on local Hispanic radio stations. 

News clips and press releases:

Texas A&M School of Public Health, Superfund Center Present Community Webinars on COVID-19 Disparities, Encouraging Vaccination

March 2021

Read story.

The Texas A&M Superfund Research Center and Texas A&M University School of Public Health recently partnered to present a series of community webinars on COVID-19 and vaccinations, during which experts from multiple fields explained the science behind the virus and vaccines for those without a science background and for whom English might not be their first language.

Texas A&M Superfund Community Engagement Core enables local flood resilience through innovative land use plans

February 2021

Read story.

Dr. Galen Newman, Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, and Community Engagement Core Principal Investigator, Texas A&M Superfund Research Center, presented "Integrating Prediction and Performance Models into Scenario-based Resilient Community Design" at the ESRI Geodesign Summit, February 2021.

Work of Project 2 faculty and trainees on developing novel sorbent materials to prevent exposures to environmental contaminants during disasters recognized as NIEHS Extramural Publication of the Month (February 2021)

February 2021

CitationWang M, Orr AA, Jakubowski JM, Bird KE, Casey CM, Hearon SE, Tamamis P, Phillips TD. Enhanced adsorption of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by edible, nutrient-amended montmorillonite clays. Water Res 188:116534, 2021.

Humans and animals can be exposed to mixtures of chemicals from food and water, especially during disasters such as hurricanes and floods that can mobilize toxic soil and sediments containing harmful chemicals. To address this problem in food, feed and water, Project 2 developed broad-acting, clay-based enterosorbents that can reduce exposures when included in the diet. Several recent publications from Project 2 demonstrated the development and application of these broad-acting clays that can bind a wide range of environmental contaminants (Wang et al., 2021; Wang et al., 2020; Wang et al., 2020; Orr et al., 2020; Wang et al., 2019; Wang et al., 2019; Wang et al., 2019; Wang et al., 2017). Based on these studies, a patent application was filed on August 2019 by the Office of Technology Transfer at Texas A&M University (No. PCT US 19-47356), title: Development of porous and broad-acting enterosorbent materials that can be used to mitigate acute exposure to mixtures of hazardous toxins in food and feed following outbreaks, natural disasters, and emergencies. Based on this impactful work, a worldwide exclusive license has been awarded by Texas A&M University to TESI, Inc. (Bastrop, TX) for further development of this technology.

Texas A&M Superfund Research Center’s Community Engagement Core Visits with t.e.j.a.s. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services) to Assess the Impact of Hurricane Laura

September 2020.  Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm at the Louisiana-Texas border in the early hours on August 27, 2020. Wide-spread property damage occurred in the path of the storm with wind and storm surge being the major impacts. In preparation for the arrival of Laura, multiple communities along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline in both Louisiana and Texas were on high alert. Major petrochemical and other industrial facilities in the Greater Houston area, including those in close proximity to several environmental justice neighborhoods in East Houston, were undergoing shutdown procedures known to be associated with massive releases of environmental pollutants. [caption id="attachment_2542" align="alignright" width="290"] Dr. Garett Sansom sets up air monitoring equipment in a local park.[/caption] Texas A&M Superfund Research Center (TAMU SRP) mobilized several teams of researchers who were on stand-by to deploy for environmental sampling and assistance to the residents. Fortunately, the storm spared most of the Greater Houston and Galveston areas of major damage. Still, Community Engagement Core personnel from the Center visited with t.e.j.a.s. leadership to assess the state of air quality and evaluate for any potential human health hazards in the Manchester and other neighborhoods in East Houston. Dr. Garett Sansom, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at Texas A&M School of Public Health and Ms. Leanne Fawkes, a graduate student in the same department, met with t.e.j.a.s. Juan Parras, Ana Parras, Yvette Arrelano and Nelleli Hidalgo on August 29, 2020. This visit afforded an opportunity to discuss ongoing, upcoming, and proposed collaborative projects between t.e.j.a.s and TAMU SRP projects impacting Houston, Galveston, and surrounding industrial areas. A number of concerns from the communities are a subject of ongoing collaborations with TAMU SRP researchers. Following Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the ITC Petrochemical fire in 2019, there was a renewed concern of benzene exposure within the environmental justice communities in East Houston. Research conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and state officials, as well as research teams from Texas A&M University, confirmed elevated levels of benzene and total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) within the community.  In response to t.e.j.a.s.-organized community pressure and public meetings with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), several NGOs, and representatives from Valero, sixteen benzene air quality monitors were placed along the northern border of Manchester. There have also been complaints from residents of an increase in smells associated with benzene, this complaint was reported to t.e.j.a.s., these reports are consistent with complains also issued to the National Recreation and Park Association. There is concern that these monitors are placed in inadequate areas unable to collect data that would be of critical importance to the community. In addition, while hydrogen cyanide gas is currently permitted to be released within the community of Manchester, there are no ongoing monitoring locations looking for this possible exposure. Community groups ask for assistance from TAMU SRP and other partners to provide ongoing evaluations of air quality assessing for hydrogen cyanide. Concomitantly, there is growing confusion over which areas within the neighborhoods are public or privately owned. This is exacerbated by the slow southern growth of industrial property. The residents would like an updated, as well as historical, understanding of land use/parcel data for their community. [caption id="attachment_2541" align="alignright" width="338"] Leanne Fawkes, MPH, prepares to collect samples in Manchester.[/caption] This meeting served as an excellent opportunity to discuss upcoming joint projects between t.e.j.a.s. and TAMU SRP. First, several workers unions and community organizations were approached in an attempt to better understand the working conditions and possible health implications of industrial exposures in the region. There is a desire for TAMU SRP to lead a worker-health study comparing their experiences with the communities. Second, the possibility of designing a longitudinal health study was evaluated. Unfortunately, complex hazardous exposures that may lead to a disproportionate number of adverse health outcomes in environmental justice communities remain poorly characterized. t.e.j.a.s. and TAMU SRP share a desire to initiate a long-term longitudinal project which would greatly enhance our understanding of the environmental impacts on human health.  Importantly, t.e.j.a.s. community leaders expressed strong desire to advance the collaboration with TAMU SRP by not only conducting studies and obtaining valuable scientific evidence, but to also move into actual action, supported by the scientific evidence, in Manchester. Specifically discussed during this and other meetings, were plans to host a two-day conference/workshop dedicated to developing actionable items for positive change in the environmental health of the community. Planning is underway to develop a program and engage with other Houston-based environmental groups, representatives of Federal and State governments and congressional delegation.         ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Case Study on a New Comparative Approach to Better Determine Trade-offs in Remediation Scenarios to Maximize Benefits While Minimizing Risks

  August 2020Dr. Weihsueh Chiu, Decision Science Core Principal Investigator at the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center, collaborated with colleagues at the University of Michigan, on a case study applying quantitative, comparative risk analysis to assess population health benefits and risks of various remediation scenarios for the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site.   Their work was recently highlighted in an Environmental Health Perspectives Science Selection news article, Unbalanced Burden?  Potential Population-Level Health Risks and Benefits of Superfund Cleanup noting that “. .  the use of a comparative risk analysis in population-based assessments of environmental remediation alternatives has the potential to better inform cost-effective decision-making that maximizes benefits while minimizing risks to human health.”   EHP Science Selection News: Original EHP study: (online Dec 2019)      

Garett Sansom awarded Early Career Fellowship from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) Gulf Research Program to expand his research on risks to Houston’s environmental justice communities

July 2020.  Prior research provides evidence of disparate levels of exposure to environmental risks among low socioeconomic status and majority minority communities in the United States. Such areas, often called environmental justice communities, experience higher than average levels of air, water, and soil pollution exposure, which can be exacerbated by population and urban growth that increases exposure to extreme weather events such as hurricanes and nuisance flooding. “Despite decades of research there is still much we do not know about the health consequences of living within these communities, best practices to mitigate issues, or how the compounding impacts of natural and anthropogenic hazards affects individuals and groups,” said Dr. Garett Sansom, Co-investigator at the Texas A&M University Superfund Research Center, and Research Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health. To address these issues, Dr. Sansom’s research is focused on marginalized communities within highly industrial regions primarily along the Houston Ship Channel, Galveston Bay, and locations throughout the petrochemical corridor that experience natural and anthropogenic hazards. By employing a community engagement framework, wherein Sansom collaborates and co-learns directly with community stakeholders throughout the life of a project, Sansom strives to improve our understanding of, and responses to, chemical and nonchemical stressors in these areas. “Direct community engagement ensures that research both advances science knowledge, strengthens the applicability of findings to local issues, helps build local capacity to enact positive change within the community, increases community awareness and resilience, and improve health outcomes”, said Sansom. As a recipient of the 2020 NASEM Early Career Fellowship, starting from September 1, 2020 and through the next 2 years, Sansom will expand upon his previous research that identified several gulf coast communities that had detectable levels of lead in their drinking water. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has recently proposed changes to their Lead and Copper Rule that is poised to help protect communities and children who may be exposed to these harmful compounds. These proposed changes are in line with his recommendations following his 2019 manuscript published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and present a good opportunity to grow on his initial findings. Utilizing site-suitability analysis via ArcGIS, regions at risk of exposure will be located and recruited into a study that will provide a holistic lead exposure analysis based upon drinking water and paint samples. Common health and behavioral consequences based upon lead exposure, such as reduced standardized test scores, will be collected for all school-age children within the home. Preliminary analysis has identified several communities and a goal of 520 homes will be approached for recruitment in order to collect a generalizable group. “Community-based organizations, such as Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Galveston Bay Foundation, and Several Houston Independent School District centers have already committed their support for this effort,” said Sansom. This study should prove to be one of the largest such endeavors accomplished within the United States.   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  

Texas A&M and North Carolina State University Researchers Develop A Web-based Dashboard for County Level COVID-19 Risk Assessment

April 2020.  Numerous expert groups have coalesced around a common general roadmap for addressing COVID-19 pandemic: (1) reduce the spread of disease through social distancing, (2) gradually ease restrictions while monitoring for resurgence and healthcare overcapacity, and (3) eventually move to pharmaceutical interventions. However, the responsibility for navigating the COVID-19 response falls largely on state and local officials, who require data at the community-level to make decisions such as resource allocation, addressing vulnerable populations, and enhancing/relaxing social distancing measures. While multiple data streams are available now to track relevant indicators such as disease incidence, personal mobility, and health, it remains challenging to integrate disparate datasets and model predictions, while effectively communicating the complexities of big data to both decision-makers and the general public. COVID-19 Pandemic Vulnerability Index (PVI) Dashboard is a web-based, GIS-enabled, decision-support dashboard that integrates multiple data streams relevant to COVID-19 response (see graphic). Importantly, COVID-19 PVI works at the county level, where the nation’s health departments mostly reside, giving each a: • Vulnerability Index used for country-wide prioritization ranking of future infections, and • Vulnerability Scorecard which integrates multiple prospective indicator scores related to infection status, mitigation efforts, and pandemic-related vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the dashboard enables simultaneous visualization of the geospatial distribution of both overall scores and the score components. This dashboard will help decision-makers to identify current and potential future county-level “hot spots,” to understand the both dynamic and baseline factors that affect pandemic spread/severity, and to determine appropriate resource allocations and mitigation efforts. The COVID-19 PVI dashboard was adapted from an existing tool ToxPi*GIS, and is being developed by an interdisciplinary team from Texas A&M University and North Carolina State University. The team seeks input from state and local officials and other experts to refine both the underlying indicators/data sources as well as dashboard functionality so as to best support COVID-19 decision-making. Underlying data and methods are fully transparent and can be quickly amended/updated based on additional information and feedback.



Ivan Rusyn, MD, PhD ( Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) Weihsueh Chiu, PhD ( Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) David Reif, PhD ( North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)

  Read Full Press Release          

HGBEnviroScreen: Enabling Community Action through Data Integration in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria Region

READ 2020. Bhandari S, Lewis PGT, Craft E, Marvel SW, Reif DM, Chiu WA. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Feb 11;17(4). pii: E1130.  PMID: 2053902. PMCID: PMC7068489. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041130.

A Free Web-Based Tool, HGBEnivroScreen, Can Assist Communities in Understanding Risk Factors and Developing Environmental Justice Action Plans

January 2020. The Houston–Galveston–Brazoria (HGB) region faces numerous environmental and public health challenges from both natural disasters and industrial activity. It is also home to a number of historically disadvantaged communities that have limited ability to understand their vulnerabilities and risks. Even though local, state and Federal agencies collect various types of data that can assist in identification and understanding of the risks to each community, the access to these complex data is not straightforward and the interpretation of the information may require specialized expertise.  To address these challenges and to empower both residents and community stakeholders, a team of researchers in the Research Translation and Decision Science Cores of Texas A&M Superfund Center, led by Dr. Weihsueh Chiu, developed HGBEnviroScreen.  This project was done in close collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund. This web-based tool can be used to identify and prioritize areas of heightened vulnerability, and can assist communities in understanding risk factors and developing environmental justice action plans. Using data from the 1090 census tracts in the HGB region, they accrued data into five domains: (i) social vulnerability, (ii) baseline health, (iii) environmental exposures and risks, (iv) environmental sources, and (v) flooding. Then, they integrated and visualized these data using the Toxicological Prioritization Index (ToxPi). They found that the highest vulnerability census tracts have multifactorial risk factors, with common drivers being flooding, social vulnerability, and proximity to environmental sources. Thus, HGBEnviroScreen is not only helping identify communities of greatest overall vulnerability but is also providing insights into which domains would most benefit from improved planning, policy, and action in order to reduce future vulnerability. Full article:            

Texas A&M University Superfund Research Center and Galveston Bay Foundation collaborate to address community concerns following chemical fires at the ITC facility

January 2020.  A major chemical fire broke out in South-East Houston in March 2019 at the Intercontinental Terminals Company storage facility in La Porte, TX. Local, State and Federal agencies have responded to this industrial incident; still, the fires raged for more than a week. This event had a major impact on environmental quality in the region and extensive sampling was performed by the authorities and researchers to address community concerns. Texas A&M Superfund Center responded to this event by deploying teams of faculty and trainees from the Community Engagement Core to monitor air, water and soil quality within days of the start of the incident (   Texas A&M University Superfund Research Center members who participated represented multiple components – Community Engagement Core, Research Translation Core, Decision Science and Exposure Research Cores, and Project 3. The research team included Garett Sansom, research assistant professor in the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, Weihsueh Chiu, professor in the Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and trainees from the Center. The Texas A&M University Superfund Research Center collaborated with a local NGO, Galveston Bay Foundation, to obtain water samples in the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. Samples were collected at multiple locations and times (from March-August 2019), and analyzed for a range of perfluorinated compounds. Data showed considerable transient elevations in perfluorinated compounds in water. The data were shared with the NGOs, local and state agencies. A series of meetings were held to explain the findings, the implications to human health, and address questions from the community members.   Media links:

Texas A&M University Superfund Center hosts a delegation from Taiwan EPA and the Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau

September 16, 2019 – Texas A&M University Superfund Center Research Translation Core and Center administration welcomed a delegation from Taiwan to present the research and training efforts related to disaster research. The delegation was led by Hung-The Tsai, deputy Minister of Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration and Yein-Rui Hsieh, Director General of the Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau (TCSB) of Taiwan EPA. They were accompanied by several colleagues from the Evaluation Management Division of TCSB, National Cheng Kung University, National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, Environment Resource & Information Co., and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston. Several topics were discussed with substantive discussion and consideration of the joint research, translation and training opportunities. These included the detailed overview of the research projects and core facilities of the Texas A&M Superfund Center, examples of ongoing community engagement and research translation efforts, and the strategy of the Center to conduct research that informs disaster recovery and community resilience. Two areas were of especial interest to the visitors – the use of new approach methodologies for rapid decision-making and workforce development opportunities through disaster research-focused training activities. “We are pleased to welcome our colleagues from Taiwan and share in the knowledge and experiences of the Center,” said Ivan Rusyn, University Professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at Texas A&M University and director of the Superfund Center. “There are many opportunities for us to share our successes and also learn from our guests about their solutions to common challenges in disaster preparedness and emergency response.” Texas A&M Superfund Center already has a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Taiwan University and planning is underway for several hands-on training programs in exposure assessment, development of Community Action Plans, and risk communication. Expansion of these plans to other government and academic institutions in Taiwan was found to be of mutual interest between the Taiwan EPA and Texas A&M Superfund Center.  

Burcu Beykal in the NIEHS Trainee Spotlight

September 2019.  Burcu Beykal, a 5th year Ph.D candidate and Data Science Core trainee at the Texas A&M University (TAMU) SRP Center, was featured in the NIEHS SRP e-Posted Notes (Issue 188, September 6, 2019), "Beykal Optimizes Computer Models to Address Environmental Health Problems".  She develops computer algorithms to make data science models perform better so they can be applied to complex engineering and biomedical problems.  Under the guidance of Dr. Stratos Pistikopoulos, she analyzes data for several TAMU SRP projects. Beykal co-authored a publication focused on development of the TAMU SRP computational platform for data integration, visualization, and analysis, and she was recently awarded first place for her proficiency in the Python Programming Language at the TAMU INFORMS Python Competition and second place in the oral presentation category at the TAMU Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association Symposium. Beykal is actively involved in several student organizations, and is also a journal reviewer for Computers & Chemical Engineering, Journal of Global Optimization, Computational Geosciences, and International Journal of Electrical Power and Energy Systems. Read the complete article in: NIEHS e-Posted Notes, Sept 6, 2019        

4 New Texas A&M Superfund Research Center Pilot Projects Underway for 2019-2020

June 2019.  Texas A&M University (TAMU) Superfund Research Center is pleased to announce selection of four new pilot projects (May 2019-April 2020). Supported by the generous funding from Texas A&M University Office of Research, each of these projects will expand on the goals of the Texas A&M University Superfund Research Center, that is, to develop comprehensive tools and models for addressing exposure to mixtures during environmental emergency-related contamination events.   Mikyoung Jun and James Kaihatu, Project 1 Co-Investigators, have partnered with Shankar Chellam, Professor, TAMU Civil Engineering, to expand their capabilities in using numerical models and statistical  interpolation techniques to ascertain possible pathways of contaminated runoff, and the transport from likely sources in the Houston area, from Hurricane Harvey.     Galen Newman Co-Investigator of the Community Engagement Core, and Dongying Li, Assistant Professor, TAMU Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, will establish preliminary evidence regarding the relations between environmental exposure and psychological health in communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. These results will help identify the roles of exposure to green space in promoting emotional resilience in hurricane-impact community environmental modifications. Galen Newman, will also be working with OneConcern, a California-based startup developing solutions for disaster resilience, on integrating urban analytics into engagement and performance evaluation for resilient growth.  This pilot project will test the capabilities of what can be measured for existing conditions and the potential to measure the impacts of one proposed master plan using two flood prone neighborhoods.   Weihsueh Chiu, Principle Investigator in Decision Science Core, and trainee Sharmila Bhandari will work with Kevin Fries of OneConcern to evaluate the potential risk from chemical contamination due to flood waters by combining OneConcern’s flood modeling simulations with TAMU SRP GIS data for the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area.   This interdisciplinary team of scientists from biomedical, geosciences, urban planning, data science and engineering disciplines come together to design comprehensive solutions for complex exposure- and hazard-related challenges in environmental disaster events.  

Superfund trainees are HAZWOPER certified

May 2019.  Safety training and preparedness in hazardous situations are important factors in responding to environmental disasters and emergency-related events.  @tamusuperfund trainees took a week-long, hands-on course and earned their 40-hr Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) certification.  This OSHA HAZWOPER standard (29 CFR 1910.120) was enacted to help protect workers involved in hazardous waste cleanup, disposal, and emergency response.  Annamarie Bokelmann, Instructional Assistant Professor, at the Texas A&M University, School of Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health Department and The Texas A&M Ergo Center, provided the trainees with a comprehensive course addressing all aspects of the HAZWOPER standard. The @tamusuperfund 40-hr HAZWOPER-certified Team include trainees Noor Aly, Sharmila Bhandari, Krisa Camargo, Gaston Casillas, Zunwei Chen, Chimeddulam Dalaijamts,  Katie Kirsch, Lauren Lewis, Yu-Syuan Luo, and Alina Roman-Hubers, and Dr. Garett Sansom, Co-PI of Community Engagement Core.      

Two projects featured in the NIEHS news

May 2019. Two projects by the Texas A&M University (TAMU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, Community Engagement Core, led by, Galen Newman, Ph.D. and Jennifer Horney, Ph.D. were featured in the NIEHS news Translating Research to Assessments and Planning for a Changing Climate, April 24, 2019.  These projects are improving community assessments and resilience planning in areas facing the challenges of climate change-related disasters, such as wildfires and flooding. In one project, the work by Horney and trainee Katie Kirsch, helped create a guide for local municipalities to take actions following wildfires. In another project, Horney and Newman developed a Resilience Scorecard for the Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Resilience Center. This scorecard was applied in the Geodesign process to assess flood vulnerability and develop a resilience master plan for League City, Texas. These projects illustrate how the TAMU SRP Community Engagement Core is translating its research to help towns, cities, and community members better protect their health. See article:  

UNC and Texas A&M partner with First Street Foundation on data modeling of environmental disasters

April 2019. Researchers at the University of North Carolina’s Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems and the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center, have entered into a partnership with the First Street Foundation.  Both academic Centers and the Foundation share a common interest in understanding and management of environmentally-related disasters. The Foundation's work involves using large real-estate datasets and state-of-the-art risk modelling techniques to quantify and communicate flood risks to homeowners across the US.  Combining these capabilities with the unique datasets developed by the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center will enable better understanding of the relationships between the mobilization of contaminated sediments in the Galveston Bay and risks to human health and property values posed by flooding during extreme weather-related events.  “Hurricanes Ike and Harvey have revealed substantial flooding risks in the Houston metro region, particularly those that occur outside the 100-year FEMA floodplains where the vast majority of properties remain uninsured by the federal government,” said Gregory Characklis, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at UNC who directing UNC Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems and is a co-investigator with Texas A&M Superfund Research Center. “Local resources are likely to be strained after the type of extreme event flooding that would lead to significant contaminant mobilization and deposition in populated areas,” said Weihsueh Chiu, Professor, Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at Texas A&M University, and co-investigator with the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center.  “The partnership between First Street and the academic Centers will drive research that should help local authorities deploy limited resources towards more effective remediation and reconstruction strategies.”

Texas A&M University Superfund Center Director testifies in Congress on the EPA’s chemical assessments

March 2019.  The Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee’s of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology held its first hearing of the 116th Congress on March 27, 2019.  The topic was “EPA’S IRIS PROGRAM: REVIEWING ITS PROGRESS AND ROADBLOCKS AHEAD”. This hearing was held jointly with the Environment Subcommittee and a panel of six governmental and non-governmental witnesses, including Dr. Ivan Rusyn, Professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, Texas A&M University, Chair of Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology and Director of Texas A&M Superfund Research Center. “In this first hearing, we are focusing on a subject that directly impacts the state of public health in this country. The EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS, is tasked with developing impartial, science-based assessments on the toxicity of chemicals. It is considered the “gold standard” for chemical toxicity assessments in the United States,” said Chairwoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. The impetus for the hearings were recent Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) Report “CHEMICAL ASSESSMENTS: Status of EPA’s Efforts to Produce Assessments and Implement the Toxic Substances Control Act” and the announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the list of the priority chemicals for evaluations under the Toxic Substance Control Act.   “Everyone here today recognizes the importance of ensuring Americans are protected from the dangers and hazards that IRIS aims to combat. It is for this reason that we must also ensure IRIS’ work is transparent, scientifically sound, and carried out in a timely and efficient manner,” noted Investigations & Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Ralph Norman (R-SC) in his opening remarks. In his testimony, Dr. Rusyn concluded that “the IRIS program has implemented the recommendations of the National Academies, in fact, it is a leader in the evolution of risk assessment practices. Therefore, IRIS should be supported with adequate financial resources and staff.” He went on to recommend that “while important improvements are being made to the IRIS process, it is important to complete IRIS assessments that are in draft, including formaldehyde assessment, and to increase the number of evaluations that IRIS generates. These changes will need an increase in resources as compared to the current budget. IRIS is vital to public health protection in the United States and abroad.”  

Superfund team assists Houston communities

March 2019.  Texas A&M Superfund Research Center Team is assisting Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) in Houston with the interpretation of analytical data from specific toxic clean-up sites, as well as providing assistance in areas which are in dire need of future design and planning for addressing public health issues.  Dr. Galen Newman, Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning, Director for the Center for Housing and Urban Development, and Principal Investigator of the Community Engagement Core of the Superfund Research Center, and his team will be seeking to work with some of these communities in the future to develop growth provisions. They are also discussing ways in which to incorporate information from the Superfund sampling database as well as from GIS-based mapping of current conditions in Houston.

Probablistic dose-response assessment webinar by Dr. Weihsueh Chiu

Dr. Weihsueh Chiu, Professor of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, Director of the Decision Sciences Core and Co-Director of the Research Translation Core at the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center, will be presenting a webinar on the probabilistic dose-response assessment (including low-dose extrapolation) using the Bayesian Benchmark Dose system on Thursday April 11, 2019 from 1PM to 2PM EDT.   Tickets have already been sold out. Check out the following two papers by Dr. Chiu which provides some background knowledge about the probabilistic dose-response assessment framework:  

Superfund Event to Encourage Aggies to ‘Plan Ahead, Be Prepared’

July 2018.  In honor of Disaster Preparedness Month in September, the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center will bring together members of the emergency response community to share with students, faculty, and staff valuable tips on planning ahead. “Plan Ahead Be Prepared” will be held on Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Rudder Plaza, during which members of the Texas A&M community can learn from at least 11 different area organizations tips on being prepared for a variety of hazards related to natural disasters. In addition to the Superfund Research Center, participating organizations include the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team, Environmental Health and Safety, Institute for Sustainable Communities, and School of Public Health; Texas A&M Emergency Preparedness and Brazos Valley CEOC.......Continue reading

Ivan Rusyn Selected to Lead Committee Examining EPA Program

July 2018.  Dr. Ivan Rusyn, a professor of toxicology in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS), will chair a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Workshop Committee that will support changes being implemented to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program ......Continue reading  


Workshop on New Framework for Dose-Response Assessment

December 11, 2017 - The Workshop provided training on the theory behind and application of a new framework for dose-response assessment that has been developed through the World Health Organization International Program on Chemical Safety. In particularly, this workshop first summarized the basic principles and general approach of this framework, which involves developing a predictive model for the human dose-response relationship, incorporating characterization of uncertainty and variability.

Jennifer Horney at the SRP Annual Meeting in Philadelphia

December 9, 2017 - Jennifer Horney took part in two panel presentations at the SRP Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. First, as part of the RTC-CEC program, Dr. Horney presented about the TAMU SRP work in Houston after Hurricane Harvey as part of Session 2: Disaster Preparedness and Public Health Challenges.  During the main program, Dr. Horney presented as part of Scientific Session 5: Emerging and Re-emerging Superfund Issues, in a panel moderated by TAMU SRP EAB member Elena Craft of the Environmental Defense Fund.

JAMA Interview Regarding the Institute for Sustainable Communities

  November 29, 2017 - Jennifer Horney PHD, MPH is interviewed by JAMA regarding research with the Institute for Sustainable Communities and the Manchester community. Link to article

Seminar on Probabilistic Dose-Response Assessment

November 9, 2017 - Seminar on Probabilistic Dose-Response Assessment to FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition provided an overview of a new framework for dose - response assessment that has been developed through the World Health Organization International Program on Chemical Safety.

Dr. Mancini Oxford Global 3rd Annual Conference

October 29, 2017 - Dr. Mancini also presented the latest developments in his single cell-oriented studies of steroid receptor function on October 23 at the 2017 Oxford Global 3 rd annual conference on Single Cell Analysis USA Congress (Boston, MA), on November 16 at the 2017 GTC Bio European Drug Discovery Summit in Berlin, Germany, and on November 20 in Genova, Italy, at the Italian Institute of Technology.

NPR Interview Field Sampling Team on the Houston Ship Channel

October 23, 2017 - Krisa Camargo and Dr. Timothy Dellapenna are interviewed by NPR during Field sampling within the Houston Ship Channel. Link to article

Dr. Jennifer Horney on the Usage of Social Media to help Disaster Victims

October 18, 2017 - Dr. Horney, in The Conversation, discusses the usage of social media to help under disaster victims. Link to article

Jennifer Horney Keynote Speaker at Houston-based Nonprofit

October 5, 2017 - Jennifer Horney, PI of the TAMU Superfund Research Center CEC, was the keynote speaker at a community breakfast sponsored by Charity Productions, a Houston-based nonprofit active in issues related to emergency preparedness and community education since 1984.

NIEHS on TAMU Superfund Data Collection from Workshop

October 2017: NIEHS online news, Environmental Factor, published article detailing TAMU Superfund data collection and community engagement news for other Superfund sites from September 6-8 workshop. Link to article

Buzz Feed Interview on Texas Superfund Sites

September 3, 2017 - Ivan Rusyn, PHD, MD and Jennifer Horney PHD, MPH are interviewed by BuzzFeed News regarding Texas Superfund Sites. Read More

NPR News During Sample Collection in Manchester Neighborhood

September 2, 2017 - Jennifer Horney PHD, MPH, Kahler Stone MPH, and Gaston Casillas are featured on NPR news during sample collection in Houston's Manchester Neighborhood. Read More

Jennifer Horney Interview discussing Community Eng. Core

September 1, 2017 - Jennifer Horney PHD, MPH was featured in Vital Record, the TAMU Health Science Center digital newsroom, discussing the Community Engagement Core. Read More.