Latest Notes

Notes – 10/30/2015


There’s so much news to share about our department on this Halloween, it’s almost scary! Read on if you dare and find out how our department continues to evolve.

As many of you know, Les Kobzik has been the Program Director in MIPS for nine years.  Recently he has begun spending an increasing amount of his time out of town, and we both feel that in fairness to the MIPS Program, now is an appropriate time to appoint a new MIPS Program Director.  I can only express my gratitude to Les for sharing his wisdom, leadership skills, and wit to the benefit of both the MIPS program and the EH Department as a whole.  He has helped me come up with creative solutions and suggestions more times than I can count, and he has always been reasonable, logical, and generous.  For all of his contributions, I am truly grateful.

I can think of no better person to take on the responsibilities of Program Director than Stephanie Shore. Stephanie needs no introduction to members of the MIPS community; she has been an integral member of it and the department for over 30 years.  Those that know her know that in addition to her research skills, she is creative, logical, and fair-minded. I look forward to working with Stephanie as the MIPS program continues to change and grow with new and exciting initiatives.  By the way, Stephanie also received a new NIEHS R01 entitled “Impact of Obesity on Airway Responses to Air Pollution.” Congratulations on this grant and thank you, Stephanie, for taking on this new leadership role as Molecular and Integrative Physiological Sciences Program Director!

I want to thank everyone who attended our Harvard NIEHS Center for Environmental Health retreat last week. Once again, attendees demonstrated the extraordinary breadth of the Center through various presentations and activities. In all, 35 people presented and everyone that was present at the end got to participate in the “So you think you’re smarter than a grad student” game show. Congratulations to Helen Cho for winning the $10,000 flash funding pilot award for her proposal entitled “Gender-related differences in microbiota contribute to obese asthma.” And a huge thank you goes out to Julie Goodman, who once again combined her creativity and organizational skills to create a fun, informative, and highly successful retreat.

Congratulations to Phil Demokritou, who was awarded an honorary Professorship at Shanghai University, China. Professor Wu, Vice President of Shanghai University, remarked on Dr. Demokritou’s contributions as a researcher, teacher and inventor in the fields of Environmental Health, Nanosafety and Nano-biology. Phil delivered a keynote address to the faculty and students of the University of Shanghai entitled “Tales from the Nano-scale: Nano-safety meets Sustainable Nanotechnology.”

Congratulations to Jeff Fredberg for getting a subcontract from Northwestern University on an NIH grant entitled “The Mechanical Basis of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma.”

Likewise, kudos to Andrea Baccarelli for receiving a subcontract from USC for a grant entitled “Mitochondrial epigenetics, traffic-related pollution and neonatal health.”

Joe Allen was first author on an Environmental Health Perspectives paper that linked green buildings with higher cognitive function. It was featured on the School’s website and in the Harvard GazetteJack Spengler was the last author, and EH co-authors included Piers MacNaughton and Jose Vallarino.  This project was done jointly with researchers at Syracuse University.

Similarly but separately, Meryl Colton (first author) and Gary Adamkiewicz (last author) published a paper in the American Journal of Public Health entitled “Health Benefits of Green Public Housing: Associations With Asthma Morbidity and Building-Related Symptoms” that was also featured on the School’s website. Other EH co-authors included Jose Guillermo Cedeno Laurent, Piers MacNaughton, and Jack Spengler.

The School put out a YouTube video featuring Donna Spiegelman from the departments of Epidemiology, Biostats and Nutrition. She discusses research done with Marianthe-Anna Kioumourtzoglou. Together with others they developed a methodology to get better estimates of the effects of air pollution on health. This is one of many examples of how our department works closely with other departments to achieve important findings.

Please visit the photographic exhibit on the 14th floor of Building I titled: BADGES: A Memorial Tribute to Asbestos Workers. This exhibit chronicles asbestos exposures from mining and manufacturing in the 20th century and what is termed the “third wave” of exposures current now as buildings with asbestos are being demolished or refurbished, thereby creating an environmental asbestos exposure that affects the general public as well as the workers.  This exhibit is sponsored by the Harvard Education and Research Center and the Harvard-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health through their respective outreach programs, headed by Ann Backus.

There was a nice write-up on Stephen Loring, who was an Associate Professor in MIPS, in the ATS News here.

I would like to put in a personal plug for our staff members to take the five or so minutes it takes to fill out the University’s engagement survey that they received by email. It is anonymous and will be helpful for our Department, School and University to know how staff feels.

Lastly, congratulations to administrators Jon Lavigne and Anny Maza for graduating from the School’s Boot Camp program.

I hope everyone enjoys their Halloween and gets more treats than tricks.