PROTECT Researchers Meet in Boston for Progress and Planning Meeting
On March 9th and 10th, PROTECT investigators and staff gathered at Northeastern University to discuss the project’s progression, major research updates, and future goals. On the second day of discussions, the team was joined by NIEHS SRP Program Administrator Heather Henry.
The meeting began on Thursday the 9th with a presentation from PROTECT directors Akram Alshawabkeh and José Cordero, who summarized some of the major accomplishments from the last few years of the project, like high participant retention numbers and participation in major scientific conferences and events. They also discussed some of the challenges the center has faced, like Hurricane Maria and the COVID-19 pandemic, and how members of the Human Subjects and Sampling (HSSC) and Community Engagement (CEC) Cores have helped the center persist through issues and offered support to participants.
Leaders from each of PROTECT’s projects and cores took time to present some of their most exciting findings and accomplishments. Project 1 leader John Meeker highlighted the impact of major publications written by the lab’s researchers and trainees. Project 2 leader Sean Harris spotlighted the graduation of postdoc trainee Elana Elkin and her new position as an Associate Professor at San Diego State University. Kelsey Pieper, the new leader of the Training Core, allotted some of her presentation time to Project 4 trainee Stephanie Sarrouf, who talked to the team about her experiences during February’s Trainee Trip to San Juan. She talked about meeting students from across PROTECT, seeing how data is collected and stored, and attending a report back activity with participants and their families. The presentation highlighted the major value of seeing the moving parts of PROTECT up close and getting to meet people from the different project disciplines and institutions.
After discussions of progress and accomplishments, researchers took time to talk about continued collaboration and integration between projects and cores to address Superfund and environmental health challenges for moms and children in Puerto Rico. Project 3 leader Ingrid Padilla, who works on contaminant fate and transport, emphasized the value of the collaboration with the epidemiology work of Project 1 and the toxicology work on Project 2. CEC leader Carmen Vélez Vega talked about adding new features to the PROTECT report back mobile app that would make the platform more culturally relevant for participants. These discussions were great opportunities for researchers to bounce around ideas and brainstorm ways to expand upon their current research and findings.
This meeting also provided researchers the opportunity to connect with each other on a personal level. PROTECT’s multi-institution and multi-disciplinary nature means that any opportunity to connect in person is a valuable one. A group dinner held after the first day of meetings as well as breaks throughout the two days of discussions offered ample time for people to catch up with each other and share and celebrate personal milestones and accomplishments. The two-day event was an opportunity for bonding and connection as much as it was for scientific discussions and brainstorming.