Dr. Marjorie Aelion, Dean of the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, has received a Fulbright Global Scholar Award to conduct research in Australia, Greece, and Mexico over a two-year period. She will spend a minimum of two months in each country to pursue research collaborations on the potential associations of environmental contaminants and negative human health outcomes.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. The Global Scholar Award, introduced in 2016, allows U.S. academics and professionals to engage in multi-country, trans-regional projects. Scholars can propose research or combined teaching/research activity in two to three countries with flexible schedule options; trips can be conducted within one academic year or spread over two consecutive years.
“I look forward to working with excellent researchers across the globe on the impact of arsenic, chromium, mercury and lead in residential soils, household dust and drinking water, and negative human health outcomes,” Dean Aelion stated. “In addition to a love of research, I love traveling and working with people with different ways of doing things. What can be better than receiving a Fulbright award to support both these things and forge future educational and research collaborations?”
Dean Aelion will begin her Fulbright in January 2019 with a collaboration with Dr. Mark Taylor, professor of environmental science at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Taylor initiated an Australian-wide citizen-science SafeDust program to compare metal concentrations in outside soils and household dust. “This will allow me to participate in Dr. Taylor’s well-established citizen-science project and examine this exposure route in young children,” said Dean Aelion. “It provides the opportunity to continue and expand upon my research on the associations between neurotoxic metals in residential soils and intellectual disabilities in children, particularly those from vulnerable and underrepresented groups.”
Dean Aelion’s second trip will take her to the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens where she will work with Dr. Ariadne Argyraki, professor in economic geology and geochemistry. Dr. Argyraki’s research focuses on soil arsenic and chromium bioaccesibility and the economic and health indicators of the population in the study area. These indicators complement research Dean Aelion has carried out in the US related to socio-economic status and environmental exposure to metals.
The final trip will allow Dean Aelion to work with Dr. Flor Arcega Cabrera, Professor at the Facultad de Quimica at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Dr. Cabrera’s research evaluates the relation between chromium in blood, and breast cancer in women in the Yucatan. The karst geology makes ground water, which is used as the sole source of drinking water, susceptible to contamination from industrial discharges and agricultural runoff which increases exposure. “This collaboration will allow me to expand upon my past research which did not include biological indicators and cancer,” Dean Aelion says.
Dean Aelion’s research expertise is in the area of biodegradation of organic contaminants, including gasoline, jet fuel and chlorinated solvents, in groundwater and vadose zone soils. She has carried out extensive research assessing the impact of land use, including golf course development, on coastal environments, and pesticide removal and nutrient cycling. Her most recent research focuses on heavy metals in residential soils, primarily arsenic, lead and mercury, and their potential associations with negative health outcomes in children, including intellectual disabilities in susceptible populations. This research incorporates environmental justice and environmental health sciences research.
Dean Aelion has served as the dean of the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences and a faculty member in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences since January 2009.