August 27, 2015

Dr. Rebecca Fry

Dr. Rebecca Fry

Rebecca Fry, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been named director of the UNC Superfund Research Program.

The program, based in the Gillings School and supported by a $14 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), brings together a diverse group of scientists, engineers, science communicators and trainees to study human health and environmental risks associated with exposure to toxic chemicals found at hazardous waste sites.

“Superfund” refers to a funding mechanism that was included in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) to support cleanup at the nation’s most contaminated sites. There are 39 such sites in North Carolina.

The UNC SRP is part of a national network of programs supported by NIEHS to identify solutions to the complex health and environmental issues associated with Superfund and other waste sites.

“In North Carolina and nationally, we are faced with serious environmental issues that need to be tackled with diverse interdisciplinary teams,” Fry said. “I am excited to lead our group, with a mission to employ advanced risk analysis to protect populations at risk from these environmental harms.”

Fry, a biomedical researcher, joined the Gillings School faculty in 2008. She is recognized internationally for her research in systems toxicology and environmental epigenetics that focuses on elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying environmentally-induced disease.She has extensive experience overseeing complex research programs and previously served as deputy director for the UNC Superfund Research Program.

Fry is also co-principal investigator for an NIEHS-funded T32 training grant that provides pre- and postdoctoral support for more than 25 graduate and postdoctoral trainees across three different departments within the Gillings School.

She serves on the committee for the National Academies of Science (NAS) National Research Council for the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) review of inorganic arsenic, as a reviewer for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and as committee member of the International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC).

Fry succeeds James Swenberg, DVM, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School, who led the Superfund Research Program from 1992 to 2015. Swenberg continues as the program’s deputy director.

“Dr. Fry is well-positioned to lead the UNC Superfund Research Program, continuing our longstanding emphasis on improving risk assessment and also leading us in new directions,” Swenberg said. “Her expertise in systems toxicology enables us to improve understanding of how the environment influences biological systems, with a focus on the totality of an individual’s environmental exposure and how that influences health promotion and disease prevention.”

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or
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