Executive Director and Senior Scientist, Julia Brody

Dr. Julia Brody, executive director and senior scientist, is a leader in research on breast cancer and the environment and in community-based research and public engagement in science. Brody’s current research focuses on methods for reporting to people on their own exposures to hormone disruptors and other emerging contaminants when the health effects are uncertain.

She also recently led a project connecting breast cancer advocacy and environmental justice in a study of household exposures to endocrine disruptors and air pollutants through a collaboration of Silent Spring Institute, Communities for a Better Environment (a California-based environmental justice organization), and researchers at Brown University and the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1996, Brody has been the principal investigator of the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study, a case-control study of 2,100 women that includes testing for 89 endocrine disruptors in homes and historical exposure mapping. The study was the first to measure estrogenic activity in groundwater and drinking water. Results have been published in Environmental Health Perspectives and elsewhere.

Dr. Brody led a two-year review of scientific review of evidence on animal mammary gland carcinogens and epidemiologic studies of breast cancer and environmental pollutants, diet, body size, and physical activity, which was published in a special supplement to the American Cancer Society peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.

Brody’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the New York Community Trust, and the Avon Foundation, among others. Her research collaborators include investigators at Harvard and Brown universities, the University of California, Berkeley, and elsewhere. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized her research with an Environmental Merit Award in 2000, and she has been honored by the Heroes Tribute of the Breast Cancer Fund. She presented one of the Distinguished Lectures at the National Cancer Institute in 2002 and the Keystone Science Lecture at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in 2009. She serves on the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council, appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and she is as an advisor to the California Breast Cancer Research Program and breast cancer activist organizations.

Dr. Brody is an adjunct assistant professor at the Brown University School of Medicine. She earned her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin and her AB at Harvard University.

Dr. Vincent Bessonneau is a research scientist with expertise in environmental health and metabolomics. His research centers on the use of the exposome concept (i.e. the totality of environmental exposures that an individual experiences in a lifetime) to identify adverse health outcomes risk biomarkers, and provide new insights into the etiology and biological mechanisms involved and associated with environmental exposures.

Prior to joining Silent Spring Institute in September 2016, Dr. Bessonneau worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Waterloo in Canada, where he developed untargeted metabolomics methods to measure entire classes of small molecules in biological specimens. His work focused on the development of in vivo sampling techniques for non-lethal metabolomics analysis of fish tissue. He also investigated the use of saliva for non-invasive and repeated monitoring of the exposome to reduce exposure-measurement errors in exposome-wide association studies.

Dr. Bessonneau earned his PhD in Biology and Health Sciences at the École des Hautes Études en Santé Publique (EHESP School of Public Health) in France, where he developed new analytical methods and statistical approaches for better characterization of human exposure to volatile organic compounds.

Katie Boronow joined Silent Spring Institute in the fall of 2015. Her projects include developing content for DERBI, an online portal for communicating personal exposure results to participants in biomonitoring studies; characterizing the distribution of extreme exposure results in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; and quantifying tradeoffs between privacy risk and research utility in environmental health data.

Katie holds a master’s degree from Harvard University in organismic and evolutionary biology and a bachelor’s from Yale University in biology. Her academic interests centered on the physiological and behavioral responses of lizards to environmental stressors, such as novel predators and climatic gradients, which she pursued through extensive fieldwork. Prior to graduate school, Katie worked at Eastern Research Group as an environmental scientist where she researched worker exposure to silica and diacetyl and assisted with community health investigations into potential exposure to toxic chemicals.

Katie’s training as an ecologist gave her a great appreciation for the importance of environmental context, and she is looking forward to applying this perspective to the study of exposure prevention. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time knitting and learning crafts, and she is the companion of a charming crested gecko.

Laura joined Silent Spring as administrative assistant in August 2016. She provides general administrative support to the staff and assists with various staff projects.

Laura graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2014 with a B.A. in Communication. She focused on digital and media studies with the goal of using that knowledge to help educate more people about environmental issues. During her time at UMass Amherst, she volunteered with student groups working on social justice issues and she organized with the UMass Amherst Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign to encourage the university to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. Laura also interned for Sustainable UMass, where she helped raise awareness about environmental initiatives on campus, such as their campaign to install solar-powered picnic tables.

Laura loves working at Silent Spring because the mission of the organization strongly aligns with her own values. She admires the important work the institute does to help people and to create good in the world. In her free time, Laura enjoys volunteering for social justice organizations and travelling.

Since joining Silent Spring Institute in 2000, Anna Claeys has supported its administrative and scientific staff. Currently she provides support in human resources, manages the Institute's website and donor database, and serves as the office’s information technology coordinator.

Claeys joined Silent Spring Institute because of her belief in the link between environmental pollutants and human health and her hope that knowledge about this link will lead to a cleaner environment. She graduated magna cum laude from Humboldt State University with a BA in religious studies and also earned a BFA in ceramics from MassArt where she graduated with distinction and departmental honors.

Diane Czwakiel joined Silent Spring Institute as the administrative manager in 1998. Czwakiel oversees the financial management of the Institute. She manages human resources and oversees facilities.

Czwakiel graduated from Adelphi University with a BA in accounting, worked at Arthur Anderson CPAs for five years, and earned her Certified Public Accounting certification. After a variety of positions in New York, she moved to Massachusetts in 1994.

Vanessa joined Silent Spring Institute in the summer of 2016 as a postdoctoral research fellow. The fellowship was part of a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) training program co-directed by Silent Spring Institute and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI) at Northeastern University.

Dr. De La Rosa has expertise in genomics and alternative models for studying toxicity.  Her projects include employing new genomic technologies to develop cell culture models that can be used to study breast carcinogens and mammary gland development. As a SSEHRI fellow, she is also interested in bridging her background in toxicology with community participatory based research to facilitate change in chemicals policy and public health.

Prior to Silent Spring, Dr. De La Rosa was a fellow through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) program at the University of New Mexico, where she worked on projects related to heavy metal exposure during pregnancy in Navajo communities. As a fellow, she also developed and taught courses in introductory biology at New Mexico State University. Vanessa is actively involved in STEM diversity initiatives through local and national organizations to engage and support underrepresented students in the sciences.

Vanessa’s experience growing up in a border city and working with tribal communities cultivated her passion to study the relationship between chemicals in our environment and health disparities in marginalized communities. Dr. De La Rosa earned a PhD in Molecular Toxicology from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a native Texan and earned her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Robin Dodson is a research scientist with expertise in exposure assessment, particularly in the indoor environment. Her research focuses on three main areas: development of novel exposure measurements for epidemiological and community-based studies, analysis of environmental exposure data with a particular emphasis on semi-volatile organic compounds such as phthalates and flame retardant chemicals, and intervention studies aimed at reducing chemical exposures. Dr. Dodson oversees the Institute’s consumer product exposure research. She was the lead author on a landmark peer-reviewed study on endocrine disrupting and asthma-associated chemicals in more than 200 consumer products. As part of the Centers for Disease Control’s Green Housing study, she is currently investigating exposure in children with asthma to chemicals in consumer products and building materials. She leads Silent Spring’s Healthy Green Campus project, a research effort aimed at making health an integral part of sustainability practices on college campuses.

Dr. Dodson completed her doctorate in environmental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. For her graduate work, she designed and conducted an exposure study in the Boston area focusing on residential and personal exposures to volatile organic compounds. She developed models to evaluate the transport of pollutants in the indoor environment and determine the contribution of various microenvironments to personal exposures. In addition, she evaluated methods for using existing residential exposure data to model residential exposures in the general population. As a graduate student, she contributed to two studies focusing on asthma in lower-socioeconomic-status urban residences in the Boston area.

Dr. Dodson is an adjunct assistant professor of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health and also holds an appointment as a visiting scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She previously taught biostatistics at Brandeis University for eight years. Prior to her graduate work, Dr. Dodson worked at Menzie-Cura and Associates, where she contributed to both human and ecological risk assessments. In addition to her doctorate, Dr. Dodson holds a bachelor’s in environmental studies from Bates College, where she was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society, and a master’s in environmental science and risk management from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Dodson’s interest in studying air pollution began in sixth grade when she first learned about the depleting effects of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer. Today, she has dedicated her career to improving public health through her applied research, and hopes to inspire a new generation of young girls to become “future scientists.” 

Alexandra Goho joined Silent Spring in September 2015 to oversee the organization’s communications program, including developing a strategic plan to expand Silent Spring’s audience and influence and to help communicate the Institute’s impact on environmental health and prevention science.

Trained as a science journalist, Alexandra has 15 years of experience writing about science and technology for the public. She has written for a variety of magazines, including MIT’s Technology Review, Science News, and New Scientist. Prior to joining Silent Spring, she was a contributing writer for Cancer Today, a magazine aimed at cancer patients and advocates, and published by the American Association for Cancer Research. Among her favorite features was a story about Sally Ride and her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, as well as an interview with health economist and breast cancer survivor Felicia Knaul about global inequities in cancer care.

Alexandra has always had a passion for communicating science to the public, to translate complex scientific concepts in a way that is engaging and informative, and ultimately empowers audiences to participate in a broader discussion about how science impacts our lives. She is excited to share her passion with Silent Spring to help advance the organization’s mission.

Alexandra holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from McGill University and a master’s in science journalism from Boston University. She is the mother of three daughters, and enjoys movies, music, and long road trips with her family.

Erik Haugsjaa has been developing web applications since the web's first graphical browser (NCSA Mosaic) arrived in 1993. He is a "full-stack" software engineer and loves working on projects from requirements gathering and system architecture, all the way to release and ongoing maintenance. He has created secure and mobile-friendly websites and databases for a wide-range of businesses and nonprofits to help them manage their unique business workflows and their user-friendly public websites.

In a former life, Haugsjaa studied electrical and computer engineering (B.S. 1992, M.S. 1994) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and once worked on a programming project simulating Rocky Mountain forest fires for the U.S. Forest Service. He also studied artificial intelligence in a computer science Ph.D. program before realizing that his true love is software engineering, and helping people use the World Wide Web to enhance learning and self-education.

Dr. Jessica Helm joined Silent Spring Institute in 2014 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. She spearheaded the development of Detox Me—Silent Spring’s free mobile app to help people reduce their exposure to endocrine disruptors and other chemicals of concern. In addition to overseeing the app, her research is focused on identifying sources of ethnic disparities in exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and on understanding the biological mechanisms of breast cancer through the development of an adverse outcome pathway (AOP). She is also invovled in tracking the development and implementation of toxics regulations under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Dr. Helm received her PhD in Neuroscience from Stony Brook University. For her doctoral research, she studied cellular contributions to network function. She applied cluster analysis and electrophysiology to discover novel cortical interneuron subtypes. Prior to that, she earned a BS in biology (cum laude) at Washington and Lee University and studied neuronal calcium channels and synaptic mitochondria as a research assistant at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Dr. Helm has held multiple leadership positions with the Sierra Club, where she led a team addressing hydraulic fracturing, created a citizen science watershed monitoring program, and served on the Sierra Club Board of Directors.

Amanda Hernandez joined Silent Spring as a research assistant in the summer of 2018. Her work currently focuses on researching disparities in drinking water quality in relation to the socioeconomic status of communities across the United States. She also serves as the Health/Science Node coordinator for the Cancer Free Economy Network.

Hernandez earned her Bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College, majoring in environmental studies and geosciences. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she explored the applications of a systems level approach to bridge the knowledge gaps between environmental processes and human health. As an intern with The Nature Conservancy’s Melanesia program, Hernandez worked on projects that empower and engage local women in conservation and climate adaptation. At Wellesley, she worked in an environmental geochemistry lab studying lead and other heavy metal exposure in urban ecosystems. She also spent time in an ecosystem ecology lab studying the impact of climate change on soil microbial communities in the Northeast U.S. Her individual research focused on herbicides and women’s health, specifically the fate, transport, and exposure pathways of glyphosate.

Hernandez is excited to contribute to meaningful, collaborative, and interdisciplinary environmental research at Silent Spring. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, listening to podcasts, and going on hikes with friends.

Andrea R. Hindman joined Silent Spring Institute in 2018 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. The fellowship is co-directed by Silent Spring and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI) at Northeastern University.

Dr. Hindman’s research at Silent Spring focuses on understanding and prioritizing the biological events driving mammary gland development and later-life disease using a weight-of-evidence approach. As chemical safety testing moves towards automated screening, Dr. Hindman plans to use the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ToxCast to identify chemicals previously unlinked to mammary carcinogenesis. This work aims to demonstrate the mammary gland to be a cogent endpoint for toxicity testing and a benchmark for regulatory decisions. Many chemicals in our everyday environment mimic hormone action in animals and humans, thus she hopes to underscore the health impact of these chemicals, also known as endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), on breast cancer risk and development.  Through SSHERI, she will supplement her training in molecular biology with methods in community-based participatory research and environmental justice.

Dr. Hindman completed her PhD in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at The Ohio State University. Her thesis investigated the molecular mechanisms of EDCs and their impact on estrogen signaling and breast cancer susceptibility following in utero exposures. She complimented her research interests in environment and human health through her dedication to university government and sustainability, as well as graduate student advocacy. Prior to her doctoral work, Dr. Hindman earned bachelor degrees in Biological Sciences and Chemistry from the State University of New York, at Buffalo.

A native of Niagara Falls, NY, she is keenly aware of the impact of environmental contamination on human health, having grown up mere blocks from Love Canal. She also developed an early appreciation of the environment as a venture crew member in a chapter of Boy Scouts of America, navigating the remote wild and white waters of Ontario, Canada by canoe. She lost her mother, Grace to lung cancer at a young age and very much values the emphasis Silent Spring places on cancer prevention and women’s health. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her son and husband exploring the City of Boston. She loves sending snail mail and getting rid of everything she can live without because life is too short to carry around a bunch of stuff—and she has moved a lot!

Janet Kern joined Silent Spring Institute as the Annual Fund and Events Manager in May, 2017. She works with staff and volunteers to plan and coordinate events and engage with the many donors who generously support the work of the Institute.

Janet started her career as a software quality engineer testing database and communications software for Xerox, Lotus Development, and then IBM.  She later shifted her professional priorities, leaving the software industry to instead provide technical consulting to community-based organizations.

In 2009, she led a community effort to preserve a small working farm purchased by the Town of Lexington, and founded the nonprofit Lexington Community Farm Coalition (LexFarm).  She served as its Executive Director through its first year of operation as a community farm in 2014, thereby making the official transition to nonprofit development work.

Janet has a B.A. in Cognitive Science from Vassar College and is passionate about the environment, healthy food, and healthy communities. She finds great satisfaction in working with others to make a difference for the future, and is thrilled to have that opportunity at Silent Spring.

Dr. Jennie Liss Ohayon joined Silent Spring’s team in the fall of 2015 as a postdoctoral research fellow. She is currently working on a project to report back to study participants and community partners their exposures to hormone disruptors and other emerging contaminants. She also works with Silent Spring’s sister organization, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, to support their program development.

Dr. Ohayon 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.

Prior to beginning her PhD, Dr. Ohayon worked in two conservation biology laboratories and led education and recreation programs for children in low-income housing. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, with majors in biology and political science. In her free time, she enjoys traveling (she's explored six continents) and various food-related pursuits—gardening, canning, and of course eating!

As Cape coordinator, Cheryl Osimo organizes Silent Spring Institute’s education and outreach efforts, including conducting information sessions for Cape residents and organizations, convening public advisory committee meetings and other public forums, serving as liaison to media and local officials, and organizing programs and activities that support the Institute’s research agenda.

Osimo is an active member of several community-based health advocacy organizations, including the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, for which she serves as the coordinator of events and community outreach, and the Breast Cancer Advisory Committee for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Osimo’s community outreach to Cape residents has been honored by a number of civic and community groups and institutions, including Boston University, the Massachusetts Federation of Business and Professional Women, the National Women’s Health Network, and the State Senate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She has received the Arthur H. Wilde Award for Distinguished Service to Community, an Official Citation in Recognition for being named Woman of the Year and for Commitment to Women’s Health, and the Community Service Award–Local Community. In 2009 she was appointed to a two-year term on the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, an independent state agency to advance women's equality statewide. In addition, Osimo was selected to participate as a presenter and mentor for first-time advocate reviewers participating in the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Boston University.

Lauren Richter joined Silent Spring Institute in the summer of 2018 as a research fellow. The fellowship is funded by a Leadership Grant from the Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation. Lauren is also affiliated with the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI) at Northeastern University.

Dr. Richter has expertise in environmental sociology, social movements, and inequality. Her research examines scientific controversies surrounding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). She recently published the article, “Non-Stick Science: Sixty Years of Research and (In)action on Fluorinated Chemicals,” in the journal Social Studies of Science, with environmental sociologists Phil Brown at Northeastern and Alissa Cordner at Whitman College. She is collaborating with Silent Spring’s Dr. Laurel Schaider on PFAS drinking water monitoring, report back, and community engagement in contaminated communities on Cape Cod and near the Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire.

Prior to pursuing her PhD, Dr. Richter worked at a grassroots environmental justice organization, the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment in California. While working in California, she developed and taught courses on environmental justice at the University of San Francisco. From 2013 to 2017, she served on the Board of Directors of the Roxbury-based environmental justice organization, Alternatives for Community and Environment. Dr. Richter earned a PhD in Sociology from Northeastern University in Boston, and an MA in Sociology from Washington State University. She recently completed a Certification in Mindful Facilitation from StirFry Seminars & Consulting in Berkeley, CA.

Kathryn Rodgers is a staff scientist with expertise in toxicology and risk assessment for public health. She is currently working on a comprehensive and critical review of primary epidemiological research articles to update Silent Spring Institute’s database of scientific research on environmental factors that may increase breast cancer risk. Additionally, she is examining uses, production, and health effects of a broad range of compounds as part of a flame retardant study.

Rodgers graduated from Boston University School of Public Health with a Masters in Public Health in environmental health as a merit scholar. She most recently worked with scientists at Boston University on an EPA-funded study to assess cumulative effects of interactions between chemical and non-chemical stressors in an environmental justice community. As her culminating experience at Boston University, she conducted a critical review of exposure, epidemiological, and toxicological data on an alternative phthalate, DINP, within the context of current regulations. She also worked with the Chelsea Board of Health on a noise sampling plan to inform development of a proposed noise ordinance from a public health standpoint. Working with Massachusetts General Hospital, she developed spatial representations of food availability using GIS for an intervention project to bring more healthy foods into an environmental justice neighborhood.

Rodgers’ previous research experience includes research on antioxidant mediation of MPTP-induced Parkinsonism as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholar. She also developed and taught a science curriculum for young children. Kathryn received her BS in Neuroscience with a minor in Marine Studies from Trinity College in Hartford, CT.

Ruthann Rudel leads Silent Spring Institute’s exposure and toxicology research programs focusing on endocrine active chemicals and on mechanisms by which chemicals may influence breast cancer risk. Her work in toxicology includes a review of early life exposure to chemicals that alter mammary gland development and implications for testing protocols and risk assessment, published in Environmental Health Perspectives. She also directed a major review of animal mammary gland carcinogens—published in Cancer in 2007—that compiled existing research on these carcinogens, reviewed key issues in study design and animal models, and synthesized information on exposure opportunities. Building on these findings, her 2014 review in Environmental Health Perspectives identifies methods for detecting metabolites of 100 prevalent mammary carcinogens, for use in biomonitoring and in breast cancer cohort studies.  She has published on toxicology and risk assessment for metals, indoor air pollutants, and endocrine disruptors. Her current research includes a project funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program to identify biological pathways that are relevant to breast cancer etiology and develop methods to test chemicals for those activities.  This work involves analyzing existing data, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ToxCast data, and developing novel in vitro methods for chemical testing.

Rudel has made major contributions to understanding exposures to semivolatile indoor pollutants, especially endocrine active chemicals. She directs Silent Spring’s Household Exposure Study, which was described by Environmental Science & Technology as the “most comprehensive analysis to date” of exposures in homes and is widely cited. Rudel has expanded the initial study to include indoor and outdoor air, house dust, urine, blood, and self-reported exposure data from 250 participants in California, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Louisiana, leading to at least 20 peer-reviewed, exposure-related papers with more than 1000 citations to date. Major contributions include the identification of previously unrecognized sources of ongoing PCB exposures in homes and the discovery that PBDE exposures are higher in California due to the state’s unique furniture flammability standards. EPA is using these data to validate high-throughput exposure models for consumer product chemicals. Her current research seeks to identify biological and environmental measures of chemical exposure suitable for integration into existing breast cancer cohort studies, with target chemicals selected based on cancer bioassays and other experimental data.

Rudel’s research has been conducted in collaboration with co-investigators at Harvard University, Brown University, Tufts University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Florida, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. She has an appointment as a Research Associate in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Brown and is currently serving on the National Academy of Sciences panel Unraveling Low Dose Toxicity: Case Studies of Systematic Review of Evidence. Rudel also has served on the U.S. National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors and the Toxic Substances Control Act and Regulatory Affairs and Legislative Assistance Committees of the Society of Toxicology. She is active in the area of environmental toxicology and has participated in numerous environmental regulatory reviews for EPA, Health Canada, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, and others, and serves as an ad hoc manuscript reviewer for such journals as Environmental Science & Technology and Environmental Health Perspectives. Rudel earned her B.A. in chemistry and neuroscience from Oberlin College, and an M.S. in environmental management and policy from Tufts. Rudel has been co-leading Silent Spring’s research program, in collaboration with the Institute's executive director, for the past 21 years. Before joining Silent Spring, she worked as a consultant at Gradient Corporation.

Rachel d’Oronzio Sarvey joined Silent Spring Institute in June 2018 as the Director of Development. Her role is to establish and manage Silent Spring’s major gift program, working with the Leadership Team, Board of Directors, Leadership Council and the many incredible behind-the-scenes staff and champions of Silent Spring. She is also responsible for all other development efforts including establishing annual goals and strategies, managing events and building the Innovation Fund to realize Silent Spring Institute’s highest priorities over the next several years.

Rachel has over 20 years of experience in development from both the nonprofit and foundation perspectives, most recently managing foundation relations for a sports-based youth development program working with at-risk Boston Public School students. Prior to that, Rachel was a development consultant working with a large variety of nonprofits, helping them to frame their development and fundraising strategies and to write grant proposals to large and small foundations and to state programs. She thrives on connecting with people and organizations and helping them to reach their fundraising goals.

Rachel’s out-of-work passions include supporting her two great kids as they form into amazing human beings, creating ceramics, cooking healthy meals topped off by decadent desserts and taking time to do the things that light her up such as spending time with her wife and friends, taking walks and smelling lilacs.

Dr. Laurel Schaider is a Research Scientist at Silent Spring Institute, where she leads the Institute’s water quality research on highly fluorinated chemicals (PFASs) and other contaminants of emerging concern.  Her research focuses on characterizing PFAS exposures from drinking water, understanding health effects associated with PFASs, identifying other sources of PFAS exposure such as food packaging, investigating socioeconomic disparities in exposures to drinking water contaminants, and working with communities to develop research studies and resources to address their concerns.

Dr. Schaider is the principal investigator for the PFAS-REACH (PFAS Research, Education, and Action for Community Health) study, a researcher-community partnership that is evaluating PFAS exposures and immune system effects in children in communities with PFAS water contamination and developing an online resource center for PFAS-affected communities.  As co-leader of the Community Engagement Core for the STEEP (Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFASs) Superfund Research Program at the University of Rhode Island, she is leading a study to evaluate PFAS levels in private wells on Cape Cod and identify contamination sources.  She was the lead author of two papers documenting septic systems as sources of PFASs and other emerging contaminants to public and private drinking water wells, and led a critical review of removal and discharges of emerging contaminants from septic systems, which treat the wastewater of nearly one in four Americans.         

Prior to joining Silent Spring, she was a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where she studied heavy metal contamination and exposures in affected communities.  She led an NIEHS-funded community-based research study in northeastern Oklahoma that found consumption of local fish to be a major source of mercury exposure among anglers and their families, including members of local Native American tribes.  As a research fellow in the Center for Children’s Environmental Health project at the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma, she was lead author on two papers that linked metal speciation—how metals are distributed among various chemical forms—to mobility in the environment and likelihood of exposure, notably in mine waste particles small enough to be inhaled.  In addition, Dr. Schaider co-authored two papers that evaluated impacts from nutrient pollution and physical disturbance on mercury methylation in the “Dead Zone” of the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Schaider has gained nationwide recognition as an expert on PFAS contamination and water quality and has been interviewed by National Public Radio, The Washington Post, The Dr. Oz Show, Chemical & Engineering News, Environmental Health News, and many local news outlets.  She is a technical advisor to ATSDR’s Community Assistance Panel at the Pease Tradeport and is vice-chair of the Contaminants of Emerging Concern committee for the New England Water Environment Association.  Dr. Schaider earned her MS and PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and an SB in Environmental Engineering Science from MIT.  She has taught ecology and environmental engineering courses at MIT and Northeastern University.  She currently holds an appointment as a visiting scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In what marked a return to his hometown of Newton, Lucien Swetschinski joined the Silent Spring team in the summer of 2015 as a research assistant. He is currently applying his expertise in data analysis and data management to analyze the efficacy of fire safety methods that don’t rely on flame retardants chemicals—such as smoke detectors—in preventing fire casualties in Massachusetts. He is also investigating exposures to chemicals from consumer products and building materials on college campuses and in public housing.  

Lucien graduated from Oberlin College as a Phi Beta Kappa inductee with bachelor degrees in both neuroscience and economics. As part of his work in neuroscience, Lucien used animal models to investigate the relationship between dysfunction in the brain’s GABA neurotransmitter system and symptoms of social withdrawal, a classic example of a negative symptom of schizophrenia. For his thesis in economics, Lucien designed a panel dataset to assess the influence of the private prison industry’s political expenditures on state incarceration rates. Studying these divergent subjects satisfied Lucien’s curiosity to learn both about the hard sciences and the methodologies used to evaluate the social impact of legislative and commercial activity.

Lucien was drawn to Silent Spring by the organization’s commitment to reducing the incidence of breast cancer. As someone striving to achieve environmental justice, Lucien is eager to use the skills he honed as an undergraduate to identify opportunities to improve environmental public health. In his free time, Lucien, an avid learner who probably spends too much time on Wikipedia, enjoys practicing percussion, hiking with his friends, and doing his best to follow American politics.

Julia Udesky is a staff scientist with a background in epidemiology. She is currently working on a study of asthma and indoor environmental air quality in public housing, as well as a project addressing issues related to the balance between privacy protection and data utility when data are shared online in studies of environmental exposures.

Julia graduated from the Harvard School of Public Health with a Masters in Epidemiology. She concentrated her studies in cancer epidemiology and completed a master’s thesis examining the immunomodulatory actions of vitamin D in prostate cancer. Julia’s passion for cancer epidemiology and prevention grew out of the five years she spent volunteering at a cancer hospital in New York. While at HSPH, she volunteered as a math tutor at a local elementary school.

Julia previously worked as a research coordinator in the Endocrinology Division at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. She received a BA in Psychology from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.