Department Notes Archive – 2017

Department Notes – 2017

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Notes December 2017

Notes June 2017

Notes May 2017

Notes April 2017

Notes 3/24/2017

As we move into Spring (at least based on the calendar rather than the weather), I hope everyone has been able to enjoy the longer days.  Hopefully the warm weather will soon follow.  There is much exciting news to report across the Department.

Many of our faculty and researchers have been featured in local and national news coverage recently. Emily Sparer enjoyed local press attention for her NIOSH ERC pilot research focusing on Boston firefighters’ cancer risks from exposures in fire stations. The developments were covered by both Dana Farber and The Boston Globe.

Joe Allen and colleagues nationwide have also been featured in the press with a collection of writings called The Environmentalist Papers. These papers are an effort to shift the conversation connecting environmental health and human health under the new administration. Drawing on the work of the Federalist Papers, the project will include 50 short papers written by leading Environmental Health Scientists and published by news outlets around the country. Environmentalist No. 1, No. 2, No.3 and No. 4 have already been published, and you can follow the entire conversation on the effort’s website or using #EnvironmentalistPapers on Twitter. Thanks to Joe for spearheading this important work.  Also, Joe has just accepted an invitation to be Associate Editor with the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.  Well done, Joe!

Congratulations are also in order for Zac Nagel, who was recently selected to receive a Taplin Equipment Fund Award! He will use the funds to purchase a live cell chamber and software upgrade for the existing cytometer in his lab.  Equipment purchased through a Taplin Award is meant to be shared with all researchers, so contact Zac if you are interested in finding out more about what this chamber can do.

In light of the current political landscape, the risks posed by climate change have been particularly highlighted by both scientists and journalists. At the CDC’s rescheduled Climate Change and Human Health conference, Sam Myers spoke about the effects of climate change on the food supply. He also discussed this topic in a recent Harvard Chan: This Week in Health podcast. Ari Bernstein shared his expertise on climate change and human health in Part 1 of the same podcast series.

A recent study conducted by Piers MacNaughton, Erika Eitland, Joel Schwartz, and Joe Allen showed that schools in areas with lower concentrations of air pollution and more green spaces have lower rates of chronic absenteeism amongst students. The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, looked at schools throughout Massachusetts. You can read key findings here or the full article here.

Students and researchers have also been busy disseminating the results of their work to both the scientific community and the public. Augusta Williams presented Air conditioning usage patterns among affordable housing senior residents during extreme heat events” at the American Meteorological Society’s 97th Annual Meeting and Diana Ceballos gave a public workshop on Potential Health and Safety Impacts of Chemicals in Nail Products. Courtney Carignan continued her work raising awareness about flame retardants in gymnastics training equipment with a feature in this month’s issue of Technique Magazine (begins on page 37). Her team, which includes Nick Dembsey (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and Robin Dodson (Silent Spring Institute), was also recognized with the ‘Community Champion’ award from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute for a flammability study of gymnastics pit foam cubes through their community grant program.

Courtney Carignan along with her team, Nick Dembsey (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and Robin Dodson (Silent Spring Institute), accept the ‘Community Champion’ award from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute.

If you are interested in a volunteer opportunity connecting science to the public, the Harvard Chan-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) will again participate in the Cambridge Science Festival which will take place at the Cambridge Public Library on Saturday, April 15, 2017. We are looking for students, faculty, or teen children of HSPH faculty to help us facilitate hands-on science based activities for attendees. For more details, visit the event page or contact Ann Backus.

I would also like to recognize Dr. Feiby Nassan, Dr. Erika Walker, and Dr. Ryan Calder, all of whom successfully defended their dissertations this past month, and Dr. Rachel Banay who successfully defended in January! Congratulations to all on a job well done! We have many other students defending in the coming weeks, including Linyan Li, Mohammad Rahman, Zhaozhong Zhu, and Yara Abu Awad.  All are welcome to attend; details can be found on the Department calendar and will also be sent via email.

Feiby Nassan celebrates a successful defense with her dissertation committee: Neils Skakkebæk, Russ Hauser, Brent Coull, and Michelle Williams.

Finally, many faculty and staff in the Department marked significant milestones with the university at February’s Celebration with the Stars event. Magda Bortoni-Rodriguez, Amra Dewsnap, Zhao Dong, Yohann Renald Grondin, Jae Hun Kim, Georgios Pyrgiotakis, Ramon Sanchez Pina, and Glenn Stern all celebrated 5 years. Marcy Franck and Starr Sumpter both celebrated 10 years. Steven Hanna, Francine Laden, Pat McGaffigan, Marc Weisskopf, and Zhiping Yang all celebrated 15 years. Akira Tsuda celebrated 20 years, Ramon Molina celebrated 25 years, David Christiani marked 30 years, and Les Kobzik celebrated 35 years, while Doug Dockery and Patrice Ayers both celebrated 40 years! I especially enjoyed getting to be a part of the event by recognizing Joe Brain, who celebrates 50 years this year.

Honorees Joe Brain (50 years), Patrice Ayers (40 years), Barbara Ann Heil (35 years), Steven Gortmaker (40 years), and Doug Dockery (40 years)

On behalf of the entire Department, thank you all! We are so appreciative of your dedicated service over the years in support of our continued success.

You may want to bookmark our Department calendar to stay up on our important Department events that are upcoming.  Contact Brittany Usiak if you want to post an event on there.

Take care, everyone!



Notes 2/15/2017

Many changes have occurred as we welcomed people back from the winter break.  The changes in the U.S. government have certainly already had an impact on the School and our Department.   It is heartening to see that our students, faculty, staff and Harvard Chan School administration have been outspoken in their support for students, research and environmental causes.  On Wednesday February 8th, at simultaneous meetings held by our students and at our monthly faculty meeting, we discussed the actions that we, as members of the Department and the Harvard Chan community, can take to promote the values that we hold so dearly, especially as they relate to environmental causes.  Many thanks to Anna Young, Annelise Mesler, Erika Eitland, and other students who stepped up to organize their meeting, and to Doug Dockery who has accepted the role of being point person for the Department to communicate to the Dean and Office of Communications the actions that our students, staff and faculty are contemplating.  Doug created a twitter handle #DefendEnvHlth .  Stay tuned to our EH twitter account to find out more, and I encourage everyone in our community to become involved.

While December/January tend to be quieter months, we still do have some news to report.  The Harvard Global Health Institute held a symposium entitled “Capturing the Carbon Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate Mitigation” at the Harvard Law School.  In addition to Dean Williams, Ari Bernstein and Francine Laden were among the featured speakers.

Congratulations to Glen Deloid, lead author of an article entitled “Preparation, characterization and in vitro dosimetry of dispersed, engineered nanomaterials” that was published Nature Protocols Joel Cohen, Georgios Pyrgiotakis and Phil Demokritou were co-authors of this important paper.

Joel Schwartz wrote an editorial on behalf of the ISEE entitled “Science, politics and health: the EPA at the threshold” in which he comments on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA.

Joe Allen wrote an editorial in the Washington Post warning about the dangers of “regrettable substitution”; the practice of replacing one banned chemical with a more harmful chemical that has not yet been banned.  This was also featured on the School’s website here.  Separately, Joe, Piers MacNaughton and Jack Spengler were quoted in a Harvard Gazette article entitled “Study opens door to better sleep, work and health, ” which discusses their research that quantifies the benefits of green buildings.  It was also covered in National Geographic’s Sustainability Spotlight.

I enjoyed sharing a panel with Tamarra James-Todd as part of a Forum panel discussion on the effect of hormone-altering chemicals on fertility and health.  Separately, congratulations to Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, lead author of a study that appeared in Occupational and Environmental Medicine that described the negative effects of lifting heavy loads at work on fertility in women, particularly overweight and older women.  She also found that working late shifts has a negative effect on biomarkers of fertility.  The manuscript received a lot of attention and was a featured story on CNN and Canadian TV.  Jennifer Ford and I co-authored the study along with Audrey Gaskins and Jorge Chavarro from the Department of Nutrition and Irene Souter from MGH, Harvard Medical School.

We had several celebrations in the past month.  John Godleski retired on January 31, and we had a celebration marking his storied career.  We also had our Department’s “Welcome Back” party on Friday, February 10, the day after the snow storm that closed the School.  Thanks to Brittany Usiak and Barbara Zuckerman for organizing it.

By the way, did you know there is a group of knitters, crocheters and practitioners of other fiber arts who meet every Thursday from 12:30-1:20, mostly in Kresge 204?  All skill levels are welcome and if you’d like to learn to knit, they’ll help you get started.  If you would like to receive the most up-to-date room notices, send an email to Patrice Ayers at

It’s great to have the Department back at full speed as the spring I semester begins.  Remember to keep abreast of all of the upcoming events on our Department calendar available through our EH Department website and by following us on Twitter.

All the best,