TAMU Celebrates Launch of Superfund Research Center
Posted October 25, 2017
The College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences (CVM) celebrated the scientists from
across the Texas A&M University campus, and the nation, who
will be working over the next five years to understand and mitigate
the health and environmental consequences of exposure to hazardous
chemical mixtures during a Superfund Launch Ceremony on Oct.
TAMU System Chancellor John Sharp, President Michael Young,
interim vice president for research Karen Butler-Purry, and former
vice president for research Glen Laine, as well as National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund
Research Program director William Suk, shared their thoughts on the
Texas A&M Superfund Research Center and the importance of the
four projects that will be conducted under the leadership of CVM
professor Ivan Rusyn.
The Texas A&M Superfund Research Center will examine
chemicals found within the sediment in Galveston Bay and the
Houston Ship Channel to understand the complexities of hazardous
chemical exposures and potential adverse health impacts.
As the leader of the Commission to Rebuild Texas, which is
working to restore communities in the aftermath Hurricane Harvey,
Sharp said he sees the merit of the work the researchers will be
doing in keeping people safe if and when another hurricane hits the
Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay.
“You folks looking at what those contaminants are, what the risk
of those contaminants are, and trying to save lives, particularly
the lives of the children of who live in the vicinity of where
those contaminants are, is what Texas A&M University is all
about—it’s all about public service and selfless service,” Sharp
said. “I’m constantly in awe of the investigators and researchers
at this university.”
Young emphasized the significance of bringing the Superfund
program back to Texas A&M, which had its first successful
program from 1989-2008, as “an important moment for our university”
in its ability to bring together researchers from across campus and
around the world to address the same problem.
“What I love about this team effort is that it allows us to look
at this challenge across a tremendous spectrum of disciplines that
will help us think through what we will do about the problem, how
we will identify it, how we will prevent it, how we will solve it,
and how we will prevent it in the future,” Young said.
“What’s so powerful about Texas A&M University and the
research that goes on here is that it makes a difference, that it
matters, that it is consequential because it is addressing great
challenges; it addresses the problems we face, large and small, and
it’s addressing solutions to those problems,” he said. “This is a
moment. This is an important day for the university because we’re
seeing the true paradigm of what a true research program looks
Butler-Purry also praised the group in its efforts
post-Hurricane Harvey and reiterated that the Superfund grant
represents Texas A&M research at its most impactful.
“Out of this tragedy comes opportunity; it is an opportunity for
Texas A&M university to show every Texan the true measure of
our faculty to the state and its residents,” she said. “All across
our campus and the A&M system we see examples of researchers
and their teams applying their expertise and resources to solve the
very real problems created by Hurricane Harvey. None is more
significant than the effort being formally launched today.
“There are 51 Superfund sites in the state of Texas. Galveston
Bay and the Houston Ship Channel, in particular, with hundreds of
years of spilled chemicals leached into the sediment, pose a
complex threat,” Butler-Purry continued. “Funding for the Texas
A&M Superfund Research program began on Sept. 1, and they
wasted no time; our researchers were out in the field the same day
collecting mud, soil, and water samples, because we all know there
is no time to waste on this issue.”
Rusyn thanked the Texas A&M administration at all levels for
its support of the project in bringing it to fruition; he also
recognized the investigators and other team members who will lead
the four individual projects and the cores that will facilitate and
accentuate the work being done.
“I’m truly humbled by the words of kindness to both me and to
the center, because, truly, as everyone said, this was a team
effort,” said Rusyn, a professor in the CVM’s Department of
Veterinary Integrative Biosciences. “I am very grateful for
Chancellor Sharp and President Young and vice presidents for
research Dr. Butler-Purry and Dr. Laine, and our gracious host,
Dean Green, for challenging us, as faculty, to do better, and not
just do better but to also have a vision.
“Vision 2020 is a big reason why I came here three years ago.
The vision challenged us to put additional emphasis on biomedical
research and team science, because grants like this are really the
magnets that attract additional funding,” he said. “Visionary
universities are not only able to attract additional talent and
faculty but they are willing to bring people who are team players,
who are able to put together projects that are much bigger than
The four Texas A&M Superfund Research Center projects will
stem from a case study of a major storm coming through the Houston
Ship Channel and Galveston Bay areas; major storms such as
hurricanes can dislodge and mobilize the legacy chemicals found in
the sediment and deposit it onto land, contaminating homes, parks,
and other areas where humans interact and potentially exposing
humans to those toxic chemicals.
The ultimate goal of the program is to create packages that will
serve as “how-tos” for affected areas during any form of
environmental emergency situation, from weather-related disasters,
to chemical spills, to industrial accidents.
The center is also led by Tony Knap, professor of oceanography
and director of the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group in
the College of Geosciences, and includes researchers representing
Texas A&M’s Colleges of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences, Medicine, Geoscience, Engineering, and Science; the
School of Public Health; and the Texas A&M Health Science
Center. Partners also include North Carolina State University, the
University Carolina—Chapel Hill, Baylor College of Medicine, and
the federal Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
“This NIEHS Superfund grant not only demonstrates a commitment
to one health by Texas A&M University and the CVM, but also
takes an innovative and timely approach to offer solutions to
potential environmental disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, to
mitigate the health and environmental consequences of exposure to
people and to animals,” the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary
Medicine at Texas A&M Eleanor Green said. “I am so excited to
witness the impact that the research achieved through this
Superfund grant will have on not only the state of Texas, but also
our nation for the health benefit of people and animals.”
Established in 1987, the NEIHS Superfund Research Program is a
highly competitive grant-based program that funds a network of 16
university-based multidisciplinary research teams that study human
health and environmental issues related to hazardous chemicals,
with a goal of understanding the link between exposure and
The launch ceremony was held in the Veterinary & Biomedical
Education Complex’s Mark Francis Room and was followed by a
reception in the VBEC Faculty Commons. To see more pictures of the
event, visit the CVM’s Flickr account.
For more information on Texas A&M’s Superfund Research
Center, visit superfund.tamu.edu.
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