Elicia Cousins ’13

Elicia Cousins '13 is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sociology at Northeastern University

I’m part of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern, which my advisor Phil Brown leads, so every week we have visitors/speakers and various training sessions. Many of my classmates are also interested in environmental justice issues, so it’s always so inspiring and eye-opening to learn from them too. A big topic so far has been toxic chemicals and their health impacts, lack of regulation, and community responses to contamination episodes. A research group I’m in is closely following the social and scientific discovery of perfluorinated chemicals (aka PFOS, PFOA, PFAS). 

I’m funded through a T32 training grant program through NIEHS, which means that part of my training needs to be in a non-academic setting. So, I also get to work a bit with Silent Spring Institute, which is a non-profit dedicated to researching environmental causes of women’s health issues, particularly breast cancer. I’m working closely with the post-doctoral researcher there, who has a PhD in environmental studies– we just recently got a co-authored paper published in Environmental Research! 

Since I’m in a sociology department, I have to pick two areas of specialization, so aside from environmental sociology, I think I’m going to pursue gender studies. I’m finding that the two intertwine quite a bit, particularly in the context of women leading toxic waste activism. 

I have also been continuing my work with children and mothers from Fukushima, and will be presenting on this topic at the American Association of Geographers annual meeting this April. I was also able to publish an article about this online through Toxic News, which is a great news site run by UK sociologists focused on environmental justice and toxic contamination issues worldwide. The article is online, if you’d like to take a glance.