About us

The UNC Superfund Research Program brings together a diverse group of more than 70 biomedical researchers, engineers, chemists, statisticians, environmental scientists, computer modelers, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate trainees. 

We aim to better understand the human and environmental health risks associated with several of the highest priority chemicals regulated under the Superfund program, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), halogenated hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents, and heavy metals.


Our goal is to improve how environmental and human health risks are calculated and communicated. We are also working to better understand what factors influence the movement of chemicals in the environment, identify ways to reduce potential exposures to toxic chemicals, and devise more effective cleanup strategies at contaminated sites.

Our research team is interested in:

  • Identifying sources of toxic chemicals in the environment and ways that these chemicals can affect human health;
  • Exploring how the body interacts and responds to toxic chemicals, including the ways in which a person’s genes can influence how their body responds;
  • Identifying biological signals that show a body has been exposed to a specific chemical (i.e., biomarkers of exposure);
  • Improving the precision of tools used to determine how much a contaminated area must be cleaned up to protect human and environmental health; and
  • Evaluating cleanup methods, including the use of bioremediation, to reduce human exposures to hazardous chemicals.

Our program is composed of five integrated research projects (three biomedical and two non-biomedical) and four support cores that together conduct research, train new scientists and engineers familiar with interdisciplinary research, and carry our results to a broad and diverse audience of scientists, regulators, decision-makers, and communities.

Research projects

Jim Swenberg
Ivan Rusyn
Rebecca Fry
Damian Shea
Mike Aitken

Research Translation Core

Kathleen Gray

Biostatistics Core

Fred Wright

Chemistry & Analytical Core

Avram Gold
Wanda Bodnar

Administrative Core

Pamela Matthews

External Advisory Committee

Gaylen Brubaker, PhD
Senior Consultant GEI Consultants, Inc.

Carl Cerniglia, PhD
Director, Division of Microbiology, US Food and Drug Administration National Center for Toxicology Research

William Farland, PhD
ATS Senior Advisor to Executive Vice President, Colorado State University

Trevor Penning, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Biophysics, and OB/GYN.  Director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Kathleen Raffaele, PhD
senior Science Advisor, US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response

Helmut Zarbl, PhD
ATS, Professor, Toxicology Division Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University

About the Superfund Research Program

SRP_srp_200x120The Superfund Research Program (SRP) is a network of university grants that are created for researchers, faculty, and students to seek solutions to the complex health and environmental issues associated with the nation’s hazardous waste sites.

The SRP is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a branch of the National Institutes of Health. The SRP was established in 1987 to support a multidisciplinary approach to research and decision-making at Superfund and other hazardous waste sites.  More information about the SRP.

 This program is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (#P42ES005948).