Boston University Superfund Research Program

 
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Ask the Researcher

Welcome to the BU SRP's "Ask the Researcher" forum. In the profiles below you will find background information about our scientists, information on their current research, and their responses to questions posed by our readers. If you have a question for any of the scientists below, email it to ask@busbrp.org


Tom Webster

Tom Webster grew up in San Diego County, California, loving mountains, deserts, the ocean and Mexican food (he still does). As a kid, he wanted to be a marine biologist but was wooed away by physics and math as an undergraduate student at MIT. His interest in environmental science was also kindled in college and became a passion while working with Dr. Barry Commoner at the City University of New York. Tom got his doctoral degree in environmental health at Boston University and then joined the faculty. Tom thinks one of the exciting aspects about public health and the Superfund program is the interdisciplinary nature of the research. Maybe he’ll even get to do some marine biology some day!

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Jennifer Schlezinger

Jennifer Schlezinger

Science rarely follows a straight line, and so it’s not surprising that Jennifer Schlezinger’s path of scientific pursuit has been a meandering one. When she was an undergraduate and graduate student, her research interests ranged from the synthesis of organic catalysts to the use of mussels as sentinels (indicators) for exposure to heavy metals to the ecological effects of nutrient pollution in coastal ecosystems. Finally, Dr. Schlezinger settled on the toxicology of environmental pollutants, and she earned her PhD at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution studying the molecular mechanisms of PCB toxicity in a marine fish model. Following her PhD work, she began collaborating with Dr. David Sherr in 1998, studying the mechanisms by which environmental contaminants impair immune function. As an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health in BU’s School of Public Health, Dr. Schlezinger investigates how aromatic hydrocarbons (by-products of combustion) and phthalate esters (plasticizers used in manufacturing polyvinyl chloride) cause death in antibody-producing cells within the bone marrow microenvironment.

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Ann Aschengrau

Ann AschengrauEpidemiologist Ann Aschengrau admits to never having fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a "mad" scientist surrounded by beakers and test tubes in a big, bubbling laboratory. However, she derives great satisfaction from her career in academia, particularly from mentoring future epidemiologists and conducting research on the health effects of environmental pollution. Her work in environmental epidemiology began with a doctoral thesis on the risk of birth defects among Vietnam War veterans who may have been exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange. It has continued with investigations of the potential health effects of many other environmental exposures, including the risk of breast cancer among women exposed to pesticides and the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes among women exposed to drinking water contaminated with tetrachloroethylene.

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Mark Hahn

Mark Hahn Mark Hahn took a rather circuitous route to becoming a comparative toxicologist at an oceanographic institution. A music major for the first two years of college, he switched to biology and graduated with a bachelor's degree from Harpur College of the State University of New York at Binghamton. He then pursued doctoral research in mammalian toxicology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Having been fascinated by marine research as an eight year old during a visit to Woods Hole with his family in 1966, he was thrilled to return there 21 years later to pursue postdoctoral research in fish toxicology at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Appointed to the WHOI scientific staff in 1991, Hahn established a research program to use molecular and evolutionary methods to investigate how species and populations of animals differ in their sensitivity to ubiquitous and highly toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

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