Kelly Pennell, Gill Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, has been named director of the University of Kentucky Superfund Research Center (UK-SRC). She has been serving as assistant director. Pennell will assume her responsibilities on July 1.
“Multidisciplinary, collaborative research, like the research we conduct within UKSRC, is my sincere passion,” Pennell said. “The opportunity to lead UK-SRC is uniquely aligned with my experience and career goals, but with this new responsibility comes a deep sense of obligation and duty, given UKSRC’s long and very successful history. We have an exceptional group of faculty and trainees within our center and I am excited for us to continue addressing complex environmental health challenges using integrated lenses and intervention-prevention strategies.”
As assistant director, Pennell has been a member of the UK-SRC’s Administrative Core and Administrative Executive Committee, served in leadership roles and guided research directions. Pennell’s contributions led to UK-SRC’s recent $8.7 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to conduct research aimed at better understanding and minimizing the negative health and environmental impacts of halogenated organic compounds found at Superfund sites across the Commonwealth and the U.S. Additionally, she serves as PI for two components of the grant.
Pennell will replace Bernhard Hennig, who has served as director since 2003.
“Dr. Pennell has already demonstrated excellent leadership skills,” said Hennig. “She will be a great and successful leader because she respects a team spirit, has a clear vision and focus, is courageous and a hard worker with high integrity, and she has a wonderful sense of humor. I look forward to observing Dr. Pennell as she leads our Center to a new level of excellence under her leadership.”
Pennell earned her Ph.D. in civil engineering from Purdue University, followed by post-doctoral training at Brown University within an NIEHS-funded Superfund Research Program. She joined the faculty of the UK Department of Civil Engineering in 2013. In 2015, Pennell received a National Science Foundation CAREER award, which is NSF's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health's NIEHS Superfund Research Program since 1997, the UK-SRC integrates multidisciplinary research, training and community engagement around a common theme: reducing risks posed by environmental contaminants in vulnerable communities.
Kentucky is home to hundreds of contaminated sites, of which 20 (13 active) Superfund sites are listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priority List (NPL). Contaminated sites in Kentucky that are not listed on the NPL, and do not have viable parties to fund cleanup costs, are referred to as “state-led” Superfund sites. There are currently over 200 of these sites in Kentucky, with more than 400 additional sites pending review. These NPL Superfund sites and “state-led” Superfund sites include former manufacturing facilities, processing plants and abandoned landfills where hazardous waste has been improperly managed and pose risks to public health.