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EPA Bladder Cancer and Drinking Water Contaminants Internship

*Applications may be reviewed on a rolling-basis and this posting could close before the deadline. Click here for information about the selection process.

EPA Office/Lab and LocationA research opportunity is available at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development (ORD), Center for Computational Toxicology and Exposure (CCTE), Chemical Characterization & Exposure Division (CCED) located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The EPA Center for Computational Toxicology & Exposure (CCTE) provides scientific leadership for New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) and innovative in vivo models to evaluate human health and ecological hazards as well as computational and advanced analytical chemistry approaches for characterizing exposure. The Center's research integrates advances in biology, biotechnology, chemistry, statistics, and computer modeling to advance chemical safety.

Research Project: Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) occur in chemically disinfected drinking water as a result of reactions between natural components in source waters (organic matter, bromine, iodine) and water disinfectants (e.g., chlorine, chloramine). Trihalomethanes or THMs are among the most prevalent DBPs in chlorinated drinking water. Epidemiology studies have consistently found a link between exposure to chlorinated waters containing THMs and other DBPs and an increased risk for bladder cancer, and some associations have also been reported for colorectal cancer. A genetically susceptible subpopulation comprising 25% of the U.S. population appears to have a 6-fold increased bladder cancer risk when exposed to higher levels of THMs in their drinking water. Due to their volatility and skin penetration capability, the THMs (bromodichloromethane, BDCM; dibromochloromethane, DBCM; tribromomethane, TBM; chloroform; CHCl3) pose potential risks via multiple routes of exposure. Human exposure to DBPs is common during various household water and recreational use activities including drinking, food preparation, bathing/showering, cooking, hand washing, dish and clothes washing, and swimming. Evaluation of the relationship between household exposures and the concentration of BDCM in blood has demonstrated that much higher levels of THMs can be attained in blood following activities that involve dermal and inhalation exposure (showering, bathing) compared to oral exposure.

A primary goal of this research is to establish a better understanding of the biological basis of the association between DBP/THM exposure and human bladder cancer. Because bladder cancer begins in the urothelium, we are using cultured human urothelial cells to study the effects of DBPs on processes that may lead to cancer. These processes include the enzymatic biotransformation of DBPs to reactive intermediates that can cause genotoxic damage. Specific aims of this research are: (1) identification of metabolic and molecular pathways critical to the development of DBP-induced bladder cancer; (2) provide data for target tissue-specific toxicokinetic modeling; (3) develop data sets that facilitate prioritization of DBPs individually and in complex mixtures for further study; and (4) targeted dose-response testing for quantitative risk assessment. 

The participant's research activities may include: assessing in vitro metabolism of DBPs and key enzyme activities in appropriate cells; measuring in vitro dosimetry of DBPs in test systems by use of analytical methods such as gas chromatography; and evaluating cytotoxicity and DNA damage in cells exposed to DBPs.

Learning Objectives: In the course of this project, the participant will gain opportunities to contribute to an important research effort that has the potential to significantly impact drinking water quality and associated public health outcomes in the United States and the world; conduct laboratory research experience with state-of-the-art techniques and instrumentation; contribute to potential co-authorship of peer-reviewed publications; present research findings at meetings or seminars; and other continual opportunities to learn about environmental health effects research in the U.S. EPA and other leading environmental health institutions in the area via interactions with mentors, seminars, and formal training sessions.

Mentor(s): The mentor for this opportunity is Dr. Rex Pegram ( If you have questions about the nature of the research please contact the mentor(s).

Anticipated Appointment Start Date: October 2020. All start dates are flexible and vary depending on numerous factors. Click here for detailed information about start dates.

Appointment Length: The appointment will initially be for one year and may be renewed three to four additional years upon EPA recommendation and subject to availability of funding.

Level of Participation: The appointment is full-time.

Participant Stipend: The participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience. Click here for detailed information about full-time stipends.

EPA Security Clearance: Completion of a successful background investigation by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is required for an applicant to be on-boarded at EPA.

ORISE Information: This program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and EPA. Participants do not become employees of EPA, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. Health insurance can be obtained through ORISE.

Questions: Please see the FAQ section of our website. After reading, if you have additional questions about the application process please email and include the reference code for this opportunity.