Marietta College to continue working on CARES project

Mary Barnas sitting in her office

Officials at Marietta College are eager to continue working with the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on a study of manganese exposure in youth as it relates to brain development.

The partnership began in 2008 and will continue now that UC has been awarded a $3.18 million grant renewal for a five-year period from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to continue the study.

“The partnership with Marietta College and other local organizations, such as the health department, is absolutely essential for the success of the research and the meaningful translation of the findings for the community,” said Dr. Erin Haynes, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati. “I am grateful for their continued collaboration on the study. Dr. Barnas’ students have been excellent to work with.”

The study that has been monitoring children for potential exposure to manganese in Marietta, is now tracking the same cohort into adolescence, and has expanded to a new community — East Liverpool, Ohio. The Communities Actively Researching Exposure Study (CARES) was initiated in 2008 based on community concern about exposure to manganese from a metallurgical manufacturing company near Marietta.

“We have more than 300 local children who participated in the CARES research study, and are now hoping they are able to come back for this round of the study,” said Dr. Mary Barnas, McCoy Professor of Psychology at Marietta College. “The data collection takes place at Marietta College and we’re excited to also be able to provide two graduate assistantships.”

Barnas said longitudinal research is exciting, but expensive so the extension of the grant to continue this project was important.

“This is important research, and also valuable experience for our students,” she said.

Philip LeMaster ’08 worked on the project as a graduate student at Marietta and he found CARES to be an enriching opportunity.

“Personally, it was fulfilling to get acquainted with people in my community and see how this research was valuable for parents and their developing children,” he said. “Professionally, CARES prepared me to execute my own research in graduate school and initiated my interest in developmental psychology.”

LeMaster earned a Ph.D. in life-span developmental psychology from West Virginia University, and is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

“Even in my teaching today, I still draw on my CARES experiences to illustrate concepts relevant to child development,” he said.