Award recognizes collaborative efforts to enhance the quality of life in Southern California

Yoram Cohen, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, was named a 2008 recipient of the Ann C. Rosenfield Distinguished Community Partnership Prize. The program honors outstanding examples of engaged scholarship in which UCLA faculty or staff have collaborated with Los Angeles non-profit organizations to address issues of community concern.

Cohen was recognized for his efforts in spearheading a four-year long scientific effort and in assisting the community in the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) located in Simi Valley (also known as the Boeing Rocket Testing Facility). Cohen’s work helped frame the issues surrounding the SSFL as a contamination site and a contamination source.

Cohen, in partnership with the Committee to Bridge the Gap (CBG), educated the public about the adverse environmental and health impacts associated with the release of chemical contaminants and radionuclides from various operations at the SSFL. His study and its recommendations contributed to the formulation and successful passage of California State Senate bill (SB 990), authored by State Senator Sheila Keuhl, that ensures the cleanup of the field laboratory area and its designation as a state park when Boeing vacates the location. Cohen’s efforts also included assistance to Rep. Jane Harman in dealing with contamination of the pesticide DDT in the congresswoman’s district. Cohen’s efforts with the Water Technology Center, an engineering center which works on advance technologies of water production, were also recognized.

“It is essential that we develop an understanding of the fate and effects of chemicals in our environment and their impact on human health and environment, especially as new chemicals and advanced nanomaterials are being developed,” Cohen said. “Environmental protection must consider not only the scientific issues associated with environmental pollution but we should strive for greater transparency of the regulatory process and work to address community concerns in a timely manner. I hope that the SSFL story will serve as an example of how academia and the community can work together to have a positive impact on environmental protection and help to improve community life.”

The Rosenfield Distinguished Community Partnership Prize program is designed to publicly recognize ongoing or one-time collaborations between UCLA faculty, or staff and with community residents or non-profit organizations that have already enhanced the quality of life in Southern California communities in meaningful and measurable ways. The award, which includes a cash prize of $25,000 (made possible through the Ann C. Rosenfield Fund), is made jointly to the principal UCLA participant and the community partner, thereby publicly recognizing and uniting the two halves of the UCLA in LA partnership.