Trainee Success Story: Janae Csavina’s Australian Journey

Janae Csavina, a PhD Candidate and Superfund Research Program (SRP) Trainee in the University of Arizona’s (UA) Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, was recently awarded an Australian Government 2012 Endeavour Research Fellowship. She is mentored by UA SRP researchers Dr. Eduardo Sáez and Dr. Eric Betterton, who lead UA SRP Project #8, “Characterization of wind-blown dust from tailings and other mining operations in the southwest.”

The Endeavour Research Fellowship is an internationally competitive, merit-based scholarship program which aims to allow high-achieving international scholars to develop research knowledge and skills, while further developing the social and economic environments of Australia, and strengthening international ties. Ms. Csavina received funding to travel to and reside in Australia from January to May 2012, while working with Professor Mark Taylor at Macquarie University.  The scholarship enabled her to perform research in Australia in support of her PhD work at the University of Arizona.

Ms. Csavina explains, “The main objective of my project was to determine the environmental health risks associated with metal and metalloid contaminants (i.e. lead and arsenic) found in dust associated with mining operations at Mount Isa, Queensland, and Port Pirie, South Australia.” Her specific aims were to measure lead and arsenic in atmospheric dust as a function of particle size, and to develop better source apportionment tools to assist in improved remediation efforts. She hopes that her work will add critical information to a largely under-investigated problem of children exposed to the combined neurotoxins lead and arsenic. Ultimately, it is anticipated that this work will support more effective emissions management and practices that minimize health risks associated with metal extraction and processing.

While in Australia, Janae says she was exposed to “new environmental, social, legal and political aspects of my research, which are not present in Arizona.” For her, an important aspect of the trip was learning to work with various groups, from the media, to scientists in multiple disciplines, to external government/non-government organizations, in order to complete her data collection and project aims. She says, “these experiences strengthened me as a researcher and broadened my knowledge base in my field.  The experience was the most invaluable and gratifying experience I have had as a researcher to date; I saw the research that I envisioned realized, with a lot of support from my mentors.” Janae intends to finish her dissertation in August and, after this inspiring research experience, pursue a career in academia.

A noteworthy outcome of this experience is that it has led to an international collaboration between the University of Arizona and Macquarie University.  Prof. Mark Taylor will travel the University of Arizona next February for a joint workshop on dust emissions from mining wastes and mining operations with Ms. Csavina and her supervisors. Additionally, three joint manuscripts are currently in progress - one in revision (Science of the Total Environment) and two others in preparation.  In addition, Prof. Taylor hopes to send a Macquarie graduate to Arizona for part of her PhD study to build on the work carried out by Janae.

The UA SRP congratulates Janae on her outstanding accomplishments, including the Endeavour Research Fellowship, and her hard work and leadership in developing the beginning of an international collaboration to address an important exposure and health problem.