For the past two years, the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) Training Core has not only provided students with research opportunities in environmental science and health themes, but has also strived to expand their horizons. The UA SRP encourages their students to be well-rounded and multidisciplinary by offering them community outreach and science communication opportunities as part of their program. The Training Core (formerly led by SRP Director Dr. Raina Maier and now led by Associate Director Dr. Todd Camenisch) has been collaborating with the Community Engagement Core (Coordinator Denise Moreno Ramírez) to offer students short- and long-term experiences in these areas. A total of 14 students have participated in eye-opening encounters, which they usually do not receive in the laboratory or field setting.
Students participated in activities ranging from creating an informational pamphlet for lay audiences, to participating in a community health advocate (promotora) training, to attending a Superfund Site Community Advisory Board meeting. The UA SRP has had uniformly positive feedback from Training Core students who have participated in these opportunities. Student trainee Fei Zhao stated, “I thought this was so far the best experience I have had after getting into the toxicology field”. Participating in research translation and community engagement demonstrates to the students the importance of the applied side of science, and often provides a moment of truth about their work, beyond what is being produced at laboratory benches.