Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants

The Team

Phil Brownphil_brown
Director of Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences

Phil Brown is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute that includes a National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Training Grant to educate and train people in such collaborations. He is the author of No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action, and Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement, and co-editor of Social Movements in Health, and Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements. He studies biomonitoring and household exposure, social policy and regulation concerning flame retardants and PFASs, reporting back data to participants, and health social movements. He is PI of the NSF grant “Perfluorinated Chemicals: The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants.” He is co-director of the Community Engagement Core and director of the Research Translation Core for Northeastern’s Superfund Research Program PROTECT (Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats), and co-director of the Community Outreach and Translation Core of Northeastern’s Children’s Environmental Health Center CRECE (Center for Research on Early Childhood Exposure and Development in Puerto Rico). He received the 2015 Environmental Sociology Practice and Outreach Award from the Environmental Sociology and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.

Alissa Cordner650614

Assistant Professor of Sociology
Whitman College

Alissa Cordner is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Whitman College, where she teaches Sociology and Environmental Studies courses. Her research interests include environmental sociology, environmental health and justice, risk and disasters, science and knowledge, social movements, and policy and participation. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from Brown University.

Her 2016 book, Toxic Safety: Flame Retardants, Scientific Controversies, and Environmental Health (Columbia University Press), examines the sociological aspects of risk assessment in industry, regulation, research, and activism. Her work has been published in leading sociology, environmental studies, and science and technology studies journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, Environmental Sociology, Science, Technology & Human Values, the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Social Science & Medicine, Environmental Science & Technology, and Sociological Forum.

Dr. Cordner has conducted extensive research on the regulation, research, and activism related to industrial chemicals, and is currently studying the sociological aspects of wildfire risk management in the Northwest. She is also a Fellow in the NSF-funded Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers Program.

Lauren Richter

LaurenR_SwitzerSociology Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Northeastern University

Lauren Richter joined the doctoral program in Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern University in 2013. She is a member of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D. she worked at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, and completed an M.A. in Sociology from Washington State University in 2008. She is on the board of directors of the environmental justice organization Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE). She currently works as a research assistant on Dr. Phil Brown and Dr. Alissa Cordner’s NSF grant “Perflourinated Chemicals: The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants.” Her research interests include environmental health, environmental justice, and identity. In 2015 she received the graduate department’s “Outstanding Public and Applied Research Award.”

Chelsea Canedy chelsea-canedy-photo
Biology and Political Science
Northeastern University

Chelsea Canedy is a Northeastern University student pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Political Science. Her interest in environmental health began while studying the social determinants, specifically found in preconception health, and their impacts on health disparities in the United States. She completed a co-op with Dr, Phil Brown through researching perfluorinated compounds and pre-term birth in Puerto Rico in 2016. Chelsea worked as the director of preconception peer education through the Health Disparities Student Collabroative in Northeastern University. Chelsea is also the directer of Students Against Institutional Discrimination (SAID) an on campus racial and social justice group on campus. Chelsea also is a Resident Assistant for Northeastern University.

Elicia-Cousins-photo-768x850Elicia Cousins
Sociology PhD Student
Northeastern University

Elicia Cousins is a doctoral student in sociology and a research assistant in SSEHRI. She is from Tokyo, Japan and received her BA in Environmental Studies from Carleton College in Minnesota. Her previous research addressed nuclear power and environmental justice in the US and Japan, and she continues to be involved in relief work for children still living in contaminated areas of Fukushima. Based on this work, she is interested in the potential for nature immersion to promote physical and psychological health for children exposed to toxins and traumatic events. Elicia is currently researching retailer and consumer-based campaigns to reduce emerging chemical exposure, as well as the ethical barriers to reporting individual biomonitoring and personal exposure results to study participants. She is also interested in pursuing research on food justice and activism, and knowledge production surrounding nutrition and illness.

Tibrine Da Fonsecaunnamed
Sociology PhD Student
Northeastern University

Tibrine is a first year PhD student in the department of Sociology and Anthropology, and supports both the work of SSEHRI and the Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice (IUHRP) at Northeastern University.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Spanish from Simmons College.  Prior to coming to Northeastern University Tibrine worked as Lead Paralegal with the Medical-Legal Partnership Boston, working to address the social determinants of health by bringing health care and legal professionals together to address the needs of low-income and medically vulnerable patients.  Her area of focus was the impact of substandard housing conditions and utility access on childhood asthma.  She also spent two years operating a welcome center for urban refugees from the Colombian conflict as well as other parts of the world in Quito, Ecuador.  Tibrine’s research interests include the social determinants of health, community-based participatory research, and the intersection of immigrant rights and environmental justice.

Jennifer Liss Ohayon
Postdoctoral Research FellowJennie_Ohayon_001-200x300
Silent Spring Institute
Affiliate Research Associate
Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
Northeastern University

Jennie Liss Ohayon is a joint-postdoctoral research fellow at the Silent Spring Institute, a non-profit environmental health research institute, and Northeastern University’s SSEHRI. She is currently working on projects to report back to study participants and community partners in the U.S. and Chile their exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals. She also researches the emergence of scientific and activist concerns around industrial chemicals with Northeastern’s PFAS lab, and, in collaboration with co-investigators at the University of California, Berkeley, is evaluating the effectiveness of California-based legislation that aims to reduce or eliminate exposures to toxic substances. With the support of the Massachusetts Toxic Use Reduction Institute, she partners with high schools across the state to translate environmental health research into hands-on curriculum that help students reduce toxic exposures. She’s a member of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a network formed to address threats to federal environmental policy and data.

Jennie completed her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz researching the remediation of toxic waste in military Superfund sites. With research support from the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results fellowship and the National Science Foundation, she did fieldwork to evaluate how policy around public participation and environmental justice is translated into cleanup programs. She also used data from all military Superfund sites for quantitative and spatial analyses of how factors such as the race and class demographics of surrounding neighborhoods contribute to how quickly sites are remediated. During this time, she created an interactive curriculum in environmental sciences for high school students that are disproportionately affected by environmental problems and who come from communities that are underrepresented in the field of environmental science.

Marina Atlas
MPH Student
Northeastern University

Marina Goreau is a second-year MPH student at Northeastern. She is a graduate of Brandeis University, where she received highest honors for her thesis on regulatory barriers to effective personal care product ingredient regulation under the FDA’s Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Prior to her studies at Northeastern, Marina worked for 5 years with the US EPA, Region 1 on toxics regulation while also providing free community assistance and outreach to over 70 communities in New England by reducing risk of toxic chemical exposure in schools. Marina seeks to gain a deeper understanding of epidemiological methods and biostatistical tools for identifying environmental contaminants in communities. She is interested in studying issues of environmental health and justice, especially with regard to reproductive and urban health.

Cole Aldercole-alder-photo
Research Co-op
Northeastern University

Cole Alder is a 2nd year undergraduate student at Northeastern University. He is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with minors in Environmental Studies and Ethics. He is a research assistant on the PFAS team, and previously served as a research associate at the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative. Cole became focused on issues of environmental and racial justice while volunteering for political campaigns in his home town, Richmond, VA. He conducted previous research on philanthropy and its impacts on public health with NEU professor Patricia Illingworth, and his studies in philosophy have pushed him towards issues of justice. Upon graduating from Northeastern, Cole will likely pursue non-profit work, and potentially a Ph.D. in sociology with a concentration social/environmental justice.

Yvette Niwa Yvette Niwa photo
Research Co-op
Northeastern University

Yvette Niwa is a Northeastern University student pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and International Affairs. She first became interested in environmental health while working on a sustainability campaign in the Japanese American community of Los Angeles. She is currently completing a co-op with Dr. Phil Brown, which involves research on perfluorinated compounds and pre-term birth in Puerto Rico. In her spare time, Yvette develops climate science curriculum for elementary school students and serves on the executive board of Northeastern University’s environmental organization.


Nick Chaves nick-chaves-photo
BA Student
Environmental Studies and International Affairs
Northeastern University

Nicholas is a student at Northeastern University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and International Affairs. Nicholas was the first co-op student to work with Dr. Phil Brown which involved research on the social discovery of perfluorinated chemicals. Other interests include international and domestic environmental policy and law. Nicholas is also involved with Delta Tau Delta Fraternity on campus.

Elizabeth BoxerElizabeth_Boxer_001
Research Co-op
Northeastern University

Elizabeth Boxer is a 4th year undergraduate at Northeastern University, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in Biology. She is a research assistant on the PFAS team.  She is also a research associate at the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative. Elizabeth’s research interests include environmental health, urban policy, and the social determinants of health.  Upon graduating from Northeastern, Elizabeth plans on continuing her education with a MPH in Environmental or Urban Health.  Previously, Elizabeth completed a co-op at MIT’s Energy Initiative and studied Environmental Science abroad at Swinburne Institute of Technology in Australia.

Sokona Diallo
Research Co-op
Northeastern University

Sokona Diallo is a 4th year Human Services and Communications student from Mali, West Africa. She was first exposed to environmental justice and public health through witnessing the devastating effects of toxic waste on her community. Sokona firmly believes research is crucial to understanding how environmental factors can lead to health disparities when the communities where people live, work, learn and play are toxic, burdened by chemicals, and social inequities. Her previous work at Northeastern and in the community has given her a strong background in community organizing, advocacy, and social entrepreneurship. At ROUTES, working on the PFAS project, she hopes to connect her work on chemical policy reform to how strategic prevention, intervention, and treatment can be implemented to minimize social determinants of health. Her special area of interest is how we bridge research and community engagement to ensure that all communities have an equitable and meaningful voice in the health, sustainability, and future of their neighborhoods.

Stephanie Knutson SK-Photo-300x300
Administrative Assistant
Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
Northeastern University

Stephanie Knutson joined SSEHRI in March 2015. She handles event planning and grants management and attempts to keep things running smoothly on a day-to-day basis. Stephanie is a Northeastern alumna who previously worked at the university’s Snell Library. Her interest in environmental issues and epic organizational skills led her to this position.

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