CURRENT OPENINGS

ROUTES has completed hiring for the July through December 2024 co-op period. Check back in during fall 2024 for information on hiring for January-June 2025.

CLOSED POSITIONS

The following positions have been offered previously. These positions may be offered again in a later co-op cycle.

NON-TARGETED DETECTION OF CHLORINATED DISINFECTION BYPRODUCTS

MENTOR: DR. ARON STUBBINS

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Marine and Environmental Sciences
Research Interests: Environmental chemistry; geochemistry; the carbon cycle; freshwater, coastal and ocean biogeochemistry; feedbacks between natural biogeochemical cycles and climate change; permafrost; black carbon; aquatic microplastics

 

Project Description:

Safe drinking water is a critical societal need that is imperiled by climate and other anthropogenic changes to the quality of the source waters entering drinking water systems. The project will test a novel non-targeted analytical method for the assessment of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) and how the presence of DBPs is impacted by the changing organic matter and plastic content of source waters. DBPs are formed when source waters are treated with chlorinated disinfectants. Chronic exposure to DBPs can increase the risk of cancer and high doses can damage the liver and nervous system. Standard methods for DBP detection measure a limited suite of known compounds. We have analyzed samples of drinking water and detected ~1000 chlorinated organics in preliminary studies. In this project, you will confirm that these byproducts are formed from river water organics through disinfection with chloramine, the disinfection chemical used by MWRA in Boston. You will then assess how both the type of disinfectant used (e.g., chloramine, hypochlorous) and the quality of organics in waters impact the chemistries of DBPs formed. In addition to assessing the formation of DBPs from natural river water organics, you will also assess the chemistries of DBPs formed from microplastics and microplastic byproducts. Plastics are novel, humanmade organic chemicals that are now prevalent in all natural waters and therefore, presumably a now potential source of DBPs. The project will be embedded within a new EPA funded project sampling waters from 8 drinking water utilities across the contiguous US (Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Portland (OR), Pompano Beach and Stuart (both FL), and Ann Arbor. These systems have a range of intake water chemistries and use a variety of disinfection methods. The co-op project will be an independent, additional module related to the larger project. The student will gain from exposure to the network of faculty, postdocs, graduate students, water utility professionals, and the Water Tower Institute staff working on the project. If student time and competency allow, the student will be supported in writing a 1st author paper. If impactful results emerge from the work, they will be incorporated into the later parts of the EPA project that will guide formulating an integrated and actionable risk assessment and management framework to mitigate DBP risks to optimize drinking water quality across the US.

Job Tasks:

  • Read papers about the relevant topics.
  • Run systematic tests of the analytical method.
  • Run disinfection byproduct formation studies (incubate water and plastics with different disinfection agents) and analyze resultant samples for DBPs.
  • Integrate data.
  • Summarize data and fortnightly meetings to NU team.
  • Present results to full EPA team at relevant meetings.
  • Prepare a report with the aim of developing this for scientific publication (likely to be submitted after the co-op ends – some students do this for capstone for instance).
  • Engage in general lab activities (shared cleaning, lab meetings)
  • Train other students / assist with other activities as time, interest and expertise allow (e.g. co-op students often become experts in some of the lab techniques as they are doing them daily and can help either train others).

Mentorship:

  • A PhD student would be the day-to-day mentor.
  • Stubbins to meet with student in project meetings fortnightly and ad hoc.
  • Stubbins to meet with student in one-on-one meetings fortnightly to build rapport and allow a safe space for the student to communicate any professional, personal, or other issues.

Job title: ROUTES: Disinfection Byproducts in Water Research Asst

Job ID: 102024

PER- AND POLYFLUOROALKYL SUBSTANCES (PFAS): CHEMICAL REGULATION AND POLICY, COMMUNITY ACTIVISM, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COSTS, AND DEMOGRAPHIC CORRELATES OF CONTAMINATION

MENTOR: DR. PHIL BROWN

Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences, Northeastern University; Director, Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
Research Interests: Chemical policy, PFAS, disputes over environmental causation of illness, community response to toxic waste-induced disease, bio monitoring and household exposure to toxics, environmental health research ethics, and health social movements.

 

Project Description:

The PFAS Project Lab is a lab group within the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI). The Lab studies chemical regulation and policy, community activism, economic and social costs, and demographic correlates of contamination related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Members of the Lab include faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students from Northeastern University and Whitman College, as well as researchers and students from other universities and organizations.

Main responsibilities of the co-op include:

  • Maintaining our widely-visited website: www.pfasproject.com
  • Assisting in developing and maintaining that website for international compilation of materials on PFAS, which includes adding new PFAS related articles daily
  • Coordinating our bi-monthly newsletter that incorporates material from a number of partner organizations
  • Drafting meaningful and well-researched responses to the Lab’s email inquiries
  • Updating the PFAS Contamination Site Tracker and PFAS Governance Database
  • Attending and taking notes at bi-weekly PFAS Project Lab meetings
  • Attending and taking notes for relevant PFAS-related webinars

The co-op will also become involved in one or more of the many projects the Lab is conducting.
Our current projects are:

  • PFAS-REACH with Silent Spring, Testing for Pease, Mass. Breast Cancer Coalition, Slingshot – a community-based participatory study of PFAS effects on children’s immune response
  • PFAS Exchange website and the PFAS Sites and Connecting Resources map with Silent Spring Institute
  • Understanding the development of PFAS research and regulation
  • Studying PFAS advocacy and activism
  • Multi-scalar, multi-stakeholder environmental governance, particularly related to the PFAS governance activities of different US states
  • Support for projects of community groups, large environmental nonprofits, state agencies, and independent panels
  • Environmental health literacy for health professionals, including developing resource documents, articles, and expanding use of a CME course we created
  • Analysis of how state websites present PFAS information
  • Unequal exposure to PFAS along race and class lines
  • PFAS advertising and industrial history
  • Social costs of PFAS contamination
  • PFAS on Indigenous Lands
  • PFAS in US territories and commonwealth nations
  • Proximity of carceral facilities to PFAS sites
  • Validation of suspected versus known contamination sites

Visit the PFAS Project website to learn more about current projects.

As a part of the Lab, past co-ops have conducted significant research for these projects. Tasks that students have done include:

  • Conducted qualitative interviews with scientists, affected residents, government regulatory officials, manufacturers, retailers, and advocates on history of PFAS use, voluntary phase-outs, state and federal regulation, clean-up, and chemical substitution
  • Compiled historical material and legal transcripts involving areas of PFAS contamination
  • Worked on Contamination Site Database of contamination episodes, and helped analyze data
  • Transcribed interviews, corrected transcripts, entered transcripts and other data into qualitative methods software, and conducted analysis
  • Developed information materials for health professionals to discuss PFAS contamination with patients and the public; disseminated our new CME course and analyzed responses

Job title: ROUTES|PFAS Project Environmental Health Research Assistant

Job ID: 102025

INVESTIGATE THE LINK BETWEEN ENVIRONMENTAL EXPOSURES AND NEURODEVELOPMENTAL OUTCOMES IN CHILDREN BORN IN PUERTO RICO

MENTOR: DR. EMILY ZIMMERMAN

Associate Professor, Department of communication Sciences and Disorders
Research Interests: Creating assessments and therapeutic interventions that enhance suck, swallow, respiration, and neuro developmental outcomes – multi sensory interventions that improve suck and oral feeding in preterm infants.

 

Project Description:

Puerto Rican children are exposed to an array of environmental exposures that place them at a heightened risk for neurodevelopmental delays. To assess infant brain development in our cohort in Puerto Rico, we use non-nutritive suck (NNS) measurements – a novel, yet well-validated measure that has been used in neonatal intensive care research but to date has not been applied to environmental epidemiology. Importantly, NNS measures are non-invasive and non-subjective. In our cohort, we measure NNS immediately after birth, thus having the potential to detect exposure related effects earlier than they are typically found in biomarkers and evaluations that take place later in childhood.

NNS may also provide a more nuanced understanding of dose-response relationships, increasing the study’s relevance to policy and regulatory limits in other exposure settings. In addition to NNS, we also assess the effects of environmental exposures on neurodevelopmental outcomes (speech, language, cognition, motor) through standardized tests and parental questionnaires in the same cohort of infants until age four.

Job title: ROUTES Environmental Health & Neurodevelopment Research Coop

Job ID: 101772

DNA DAMAGE STUDY USING BIOCHEMICAL ASSAYS, BIOPHYSICAL METHODS, AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY TECHNIQUES

MENTOR: DR. PENNY BEUNING

Professor, Chemistry and Chemical Biology 
Research Interests: Cellular responses to DNA damage, Y family DNA polymerases and mutagenic replication of DNA, and dynamics of proteins that regulate DNA damage responses.

 

Project Description:

This ROUTES scholar position will conduct work with Penny Beuning to develop an understanding of how cells respond to DNA damage. DNA damage is ubiquitous and can arise from many sources, including from ultraviolet light and other environmental sources such as pollution and foods. In all organisms there are overlapping pathways to identify and remove DNA damage. However, DNA damage can evade repair pathways and block or stall the process of copying DNA that is required for cell division, which is known as DNA replication. Disrupted DNA replication can lead to mutagenesis and can be lethal to a cell. A specialized family of DNA polymerases with the ability to copy damaged DNA contributes to DNA damage tolerance. Notably, these polymerases do not repair DNA, but rather allow DNA replication to continue in the presence of DNA damage. These specialized polymerases are characterized by their low fidelity on undamaged DNA and are therefore mutagenic. Individuals with defects in DNA pol eta, which copies DNA containing lesions that result from UV light, are predisposed to skin cancer.

For this project the scholar will research the specificity of DNA polymerases for different types of DNA damage, how dynamic interactions between “normal” DNA polymerases, specialized DNA polymerases, and other DNA replication proteins contribute to DNA damage tolerance, and which of the numerous cellular pathways contribute to tolerance to DNA damage. This will be accomplished using biochemical assays, biophysical methods, and molecular biology techniques. The exact project is flexible and will be based on discussion with the applicant. Through this work the Routes scholar will gain an understanding of modern problems and techniques in biochemistry and biotechnology research. The scholar will gain experience in experimental design including the use of appropriate controls. Research experiences include site-directed mutagenesis, molecular cloning, protein purification, biochemical assays, and characterization of cellular responses to DNA damaging agents and mutagens. Scholars are expected to have or be willing to develop excellent laboratory technique. They will be fully active members of the laboratory group, including attending group meetings, discussing research results, and reading and discussing the primary literature. The scholars will be expected to demonstrate creativity and critical thinking in designing experiments and analyzing results.

Job title: ROUTES DNA Damage Research Assistant

Job ID: 102903

DEVELOPMENT OF GROUNDWATER REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES TO TREAT CONTAMINATED WATER IN PUERTO RICO

MENTOR: DR. AKRAM ALSHAWABKEH

Founding Director, ROUTES; PI/Co-Director, PROTECT and CRECE; George A. Snell Professor of Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Research Interests: Geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering, soil and groundwater remediation, electrokinetic and electrochemical processes, contaminant fate and transport, water resources, environmental health.

 

Project Description:

The goal of this project is to develop and test a portable, low maintenance, and self cleaning water purification technology for both point of use and point of entry water treatment. A novel electro Fenton (EF) like Electrochemical Advanced Oxidation Process (EAOP) will be coupled with sorption using practical, cost effective, environmentally friendly carbon based porous cathodes. Two approaches will be implemented: 1) removal of organic mixtures from the water via adsorption by carbon based electrodes, then regeneration of the adsorbent via application of the EAOP on the carbon based porous cathode surfaces to locally generate reactive oxygen species (ROS); and 2) simultaneous application of adsorption and EAOP. The motivation for this work is the need to provide clean water to communities near Superfund sites in Puerto Rico that lack access to clean water after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, as well as the need for a water treatment technology that can be used in rural areas.

We are seeking a highly motivated Co op to assist in research on electrochemical treatment of contaminated groundwater. The ca ndidate will work closely with a senior researcher to test and analyze water samples using a flow through electrochemical reac tor. Additionally, they will also support in wet chemistry operations during the fabrication of electrodes, analysis for their characterization as well as documenting and reporting results to the senior researcher.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Test and analyze water samples using a flow-through electrochemical reactor.
  • Prepare solutions and assist in analysis using analytical instruments.
  • Record and report experimental results to senior researcher.
  • Participate in group meetings and discussions.
  • Maintain a safe and clean laboratory environment.

Job Title: ROUTES: Water Treatment & Electrochemical Research Assistant

Job ID: 102906

BUILDING THE PFAS-TOX DATABASE 

MENTOR: DR. JULIA VARSHAVSKY

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Sciences
Research Interests: Endocrine disrupting chemicals, maternal-child health, reproduction and development, vulnerable populations

 

Project Description:

Are you interested in learning about how per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in food packaging, drinking water, and everyday household products can impact our health? Do you need practice reading scientific journal articles or want to learn about systematic review? We are looking for highly motivated, detail-oriented, and efficient students to join our interdisciplinary team of environmental health researchers to help extract data from animal and in vitro studies for the PFAS-Tox Database.

The PFAS-Tox Database is an interactive and publicly available systematic evidence map of in vitro, animal, and human studies that are characterized by PFAS and health outcomes. Ideal candidates will be precise and accurate in identifying and extracting specific study details (e.g., number of animals, dose ranges) from papers and entering them into a database. The student will also assist with research leveraging the database to support systematic reviews on PFAS and various health outcomes that inform decision-making.

This project will be led by Julia Varshavsky, Assistant Professor in Northeastern’s Department of Health Sciences and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and will provide opportunities for students to work with the PFAS Project Lab, the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, and other partners across the field, including collaborators from non-profits like the former The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) and the Natural Resources Defense Council. This work will support further research on PFAS and health outcomes and may include future opportunities to learn how to conduct systematic reviews using the existing scientific literature.

Job title: ROUTES | PFAS-Tox Database Research Assistant

Job ID: 95599

UNDERSTANDING THE CANCER ASSOCIATION OF MUTATIONS TO ERK2

MENTORS: DR. MARY JO ONDRECHEN

Research Interests: Enzyme catalysis; functional genomics; modeling of enzyme substrate interactions; drug discovery; bioinformatics; protein design

 

Project Description:

Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2 (ERK2) is encoded by the MAPK1 gene and is a mitogen-activated protein kinase. ERK2 is involved in cellular signaling and is key player in the control of cell proliferation. Mutations in ERK2, which may result from environmental mutagens, are known to be associated with multiple types of cancer. ERK2 is activated by double phosphorylation, specifically at threonine-183 and tyrosine-185. When not phosphorylated, the wild-type ERK2 is inactive. However, some cancer-associated variants of ERK2 are known to be active even when not phosphorylated. In this project the student will study the computed properties of the active amino acids in cancer-linked mutations of ERK2: How are the computed chemical properties of the variants different from those of the wild type? What is the mechanism of activation of the unphosphorylated forms of cancer-associated ERK2 variants? The student will learn computer modeling techniques of biomolecules.

Job title: ROUTES Chemical Biology Research Assistant

Job ID: 92167

INVESTIGATING ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES ON ADVERSE BIRTH OUTCOMES

MENTOR: DR. DAVID CANTONWINE

Perinatal Environmental Epidemiologist, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Research Interests: Environmental epidemiology, maternal health, pregnancy complications, birth outcomes

 

Project Description:

The overall goal of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital hosting a ROUTES scholar is to provide an in-depth, on-site, experience in clinical epidemiology with a focus on reproductive environmental epidemiology.

Since 2006, the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine has run a biorepository, named LIFECODES, that recruits and follows pregnant women seeking care at the BWH, collecting data and biological samples, longitudinally throughout pregnancy. In parallel with PROTECT, our biorepository also focuses on environmental influences on common adverse obstetrical outcomes.

A ROUTES scholar would be trained in all aspects of running a large scale clinical epidemiologic study including recruiting subjects, tracking, and following up patients in a clinical environment; collecting and processing biological specimens for research purposes and for long-term storage; accessing and navigating a contemporary large electronic medical record system to collect, verify, and input clinical information about the patients. The scholar will also receive exposure to database management with an emphasis on data validation and optimization as well as bio-sample curation. Commensurately with the scholar’s background and skills they will be guided through an independent research project focusing on environmental influences on women’s health both during and after pregnancy.

This research co-op occurs off campus at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Job title: ROUTES Reproductive Environmental Epidemiology Research Asst

Job ID: 92181

ARE WE DRINKING NANOPLASTICS?

MENTOR: DR. ARON STUBBINS

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Marine and Environmental Sciences
Research Interests: Environmental chemistry; geochemistry; the carbon cycle; freshwater, coastal and ocean biogeochemistry; feedbacks between natural biogeochemical cycles and climate change; permafrost; black carbon; aquatic microplastics

 

Project Description:

Plastics are everywhere. They are in the air we breathe and food we eat. We also drink them in. Most studies of plastic ingestion measure microplastics, which are typically defined as being between 1 micron and 5 mm in size. Most studies of plastics can only see plastics down to about 20 microns in size, which is about the size detection limit of Raman and Fourier Transform Infrared microscopes that are generally used to identify plastics. For NSF funded ocean work , we have developed a new method to determine the concentration of plastics that are 100 times smaller than are commonly measured – i.e. we can quantify nanoplastics in ocean water. As plastics become smaller, they move around the environment more readily, including through our water systems and our bodies. As such, nanoplastics are potentially more of a threat than microplastics. Thus, you will use our new method to quantify nanoplastics in tap water and bottled drinks on the Boston campus. Conventional measurements of microplastics will also be conducted.

Job Tasks:

Read papers about the relevant topics.
Run systematic tests of the analytical method to determine procedural blanks and detection limits when used for drinking water.
Measure nano- and micro-plastics in tap water and bottled drinks.
Integrate data.
Summarize data and fortnightly meetings to NU team.
Prepare a report with the aim of developing this for scientific publication (likely to be submitted after the co-op ends – some students do this for capstone for instance).
Engage in general lab activities (shared cleaning, lab meetings)
Train other students / assist with other activities as time, interest and expertise allow (e.g. co-op students often become experts in some of the lab techniques as they are doing them daily and can help either train others).

Priority skills: environmental science/engineering interest; analytical chemistry laboratory experience (including those related to CCB, MES and CEE courses, research experiences, prior co-ops)

Mentorship:
A PhD student would be the day-to-day mentor.
Stubbins to meet with student in project meetings fortnightly and ad hoc.
Stubbins to meet with student in one-on-one meetings fortnightly to build rapport and allow a safe space for the student to communicate any professional, personal, or other issues.

Job title: ROUTES: Nanoplastics in Drinking Water Research Assistant

Job ID: 86725

EXPANDING THE SHARING OF PERSONAL EXPOSURE RESULTS WITH ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COMMUNITIES

MENTORS: DR. PHIL BROWN & DR. JENNIE OHAYON (SILENT SPRING INSTITUTE)

Research Interests: Environmental health, environmental justice, health literacy, research ethics, community engagement

 

Project Description:

We’re seeking a co-op student to take on a leadership role for National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) grant on improving environmental health literacy and research ethics. The research investigates how to effectively integrate reporting back of biomonitoring and environmental exposure results into clinical settings to improve clinical outcomes, clinician and patient environmental health literacy, and individual and collective action to reduce toxic exposures.

This work is part of the NIH-funded Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) Program, the Superfund Research Program center which studies exposure to environmental contamination in Puerto Rico and its contribution to adverse pregnancy outcomes. The successful applicant would also work with Silent Spring Institute, a major environmental health research non-profit, and have the opportunity to participate in events and trainings offered by the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI), a community of environmental health scholars, and PROTECT.

Likely roles and responsibilities include:

  • Building and managing surveys and databases in applications such as REDCap.
  • Helping distribute individual-level exposure results to study participants.
  • Scheduling and conducting pre-and post-tests with study participants, and analyzing resulting data.
  • Preparing presentations for community meetings and academic conferences.
  • Drafting manuscripts for publication.

Preferred qualifications:

  • Some previous research experience, such as administering surveys and analyzing data.
  • Excellent writing and communication skills.
  • Dedicated to environmental justice and social justice work.
  • Coursework and/or training in environmental health, epidemiology, environmental science, or related fields would also facilitate their success.
  • Fluency in Spanish.

Job title: ROUTES/PROTECT Environmental Justice Research Co-op

Job ID: 79352

MONITORING LEGACY TOXIC CHEMICALS AT THE NATION’S DEEPEST SUPERFUND SITE

MENTOR: DR. LORETTA FERNANDEZ

Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Research Interests: Environmental organic chemistry; passive sampling methods for organic contaminants in water and sediments; transport, transformation, and biological exchange of organic contaminants in the environment.

 

Project Description:

The Palos Verdes Shelf, an area along the coast of Los Angeles County, California was contaminated with pesticides (DDT and its breakdown products), and industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)) over many decades in the last century and is now the nations deepest superfund site. Monitoring these toxic chemicals in the water column, sediments, and seafood is critical for environmental managers who determine which actions must be taken to protect human and environmental health.

The current opportunity for an undergraduate research assistant includes measuring DDT and PCB concentrations in porewater and sediments collected along the shelf using passive sampling, Soxhlet extraction, and gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. ROUTES scholars will also contribute to the development of mathematical models to describe transport phenomenon. Work will also include passive sampler preparation and analysis for other ongoing projects.

Job title: ROUTES Toxic Chemical Monitoring Research Co-op

Job ID: 67664

DEVELOPING A NEW NANOTECHNOLOGY-BASED GROUNDWATER REMEDIATION METHOD

MENTOR: DR. PHIL LARESE-CASANOVA

Professor, Chemistry and Chemical Biology 
Research Interests: Physical, chemical, and electrochemical transformation processes of metallic, inorganic, and organic water pollutants, with applications to groundwater environments and unit operations

 

Project Description:

Thousands of contaminated groundwater sites across the US contain chemicals known as chlorinated solvents, a group of organic compounds used in industrial and cleaning applications that unfortunately have leaked into the environment over decades of use. Cleaning up these toxic compounds from groundwater resources is essential to prevent exposure to humans. Despite decades of research on clean-up strategies, a few of these compounds still persist at many sites.

This project tests a method to target these persistent compounds and degrade them using a new nanosized catalyst and a common chemical oxidant, hydrogen peroxide. The student will investigate how the catalyst and compounds interact and will optimize the system for fast contaminant degradation. This project provides an opportunity for the student to team up with graduate students and conduct test reactions, measure contaminants and water quality, create new nanomaterial catalyst variants, and test nanomaterial delivery into model ground environments. The ultimate goal of this work is to demonstrate our groundwater resources can be recovered to a natural state.

Job title: ROUTES Groundwater Remediation Research Assistant

Job ID: 92187

APPLY TO BECOME A SCHOLAR

What are you waiting for? Begin your application to join ROUTES today!
BEGIN APPLICATION PROCESS
This website was supported by Award Number R25ES025496 from the National Institute Of Environmental Health Sciences. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute Of Environmental Health Sciences or the National Institutes of Health.