UC Berkeley graduate student Lucia Calderon receives Switzer Fellowship

Lucie Calderon/Courtesy
As a graduate student researcher at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, Lucia Calderon focuses on community-aided research that fuses environmental science, public health and social justice.

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UC Berkeley graduate student Lucia Calderon has been named a 2020 Switzer Fellow, and she is one of 20 individuals across New England and California who were selected for the honor.

The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation extends its one-year fellowships to graduate students whose work centers on environmental improvement and leadership. The fellowship consists of a $15,000 cash award as well as professional training and access to a “vibrant network” of almost 700 Switzer Fellowship alumni, according to the foundation’s website.

“Lucia has an exceptional record of advocacy, rigorous research, and leadership, and it is no surprise that she was recognized with this prestigious fellowship,” said Justin Remais, head of the environmental health sciences division at the campus School of Public Health, in an email.

As a graduate student researcher at the School of Public Health, Calderon focuses on community-aided research that fuses environmental science, public health and social justice. Last summer, she coordinated a study that strove to identify the chemicals in household cleaning products and estimate the volume of exposure to these toxins during normal cleaning tasks, an exposure largely experienced by Latinx women.

The project is a collaboration with high school students from Salinas, California, where the study was based. The young researchers hope that publicizing the results of the study will encourage the public to purchase greener products as well as take steps to limit their exposure.

“(Calderon’s) work has impressive scope, spanning pesticide safety near schools, regulatory approaches for limiting the adverse effects of pesticides and toxic air contaminants on farmworkers and children, strategies for reducing exposures to household chemicals among Latina women, community health needs assessment, and food security,” Remais said in the email.

Remais added that Calderon’s work at the “intersection of environmental health and community empowerment” will serve to benefit the professional network of Switzer Fellows, a group that includes several alumni from UC Berkeley’s environmental health sciences graduate program.

Before her time at UC Berkeley, Calderon worked in Salinas as an organizer for policy change regarding cleaner agricultural practices.  

Calderon’s work with the Californians for Pesticide Reform coalition contributed to a statewide ban on pesticide spray within a quarter-mile of schools and day cares on school days, in addition to helping put an end to California’s use of chlorpyrifos — a pesticide shown to cause developmental delays in children — by the close of this year.

Currently, Calderon is working on a community health needs assessment in several San Francisco neighborhoods.

According to Calderon, relief was her first reaction upon learning that she had been selected for the fellowship.

“The fellowship funds have helped me make ends meet this academic year,” Calderon said in an email. “My second emotion was excitement to be part of a network of people who are doing amazing work across all sectors and continually redefining what it means to be an environmental leader.”

Contact Annika Rao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @annikyr.