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BSCD Summer Public Health Research Fellowship

BSCD Undergraduate Summer Fellowship in Public Health Research

The University of Chicago Department of Public Health Sciences seeks to engage college students in mentored research projects in public health.  The Department of Public Health Sciences is the home in the Biological Sciences Division for the core quantitative research fields in public health: biostatistics, epidemiology and health services research. Our faculty both lead research projects in these fields and participate in interdisciplinary teams with faculty in other departments to address complex problems in health and healthcare, in our communities and around the globe.

A primary objective of the fellowship is to provide undergraduate students an immersive research experience through close interactions with faculty, research teams and research projects. Projects will focus on interdisciplinary topics that bring biostatistical and quantitative methods to improve understanding of complex problems in population health and develop new solutions.

The Fellowship covers a $4000 stipend, plus the $350 Student Life fee for the summer research period.

Duties and Responsibilities  

Fellowships will be 10 weeks in duration and based in Chicago. Fellows will work with their faculty mentors on research projects. Project descriptions are provided below and applicants need to identify interest in working on one or more of the projects in their application. Projects typically involve data analysis using a computer except where noted.


Requirements vary based on project. Please see project descriptions.

Class Level Eligibility

Eligibility varies based on project. Please see project descriptions.

Required Materials

Applications should include the following:

·         Statement of Interest or Cover Letter: Approx. 250 words. Please state here the project (or projects), to which you are applying (see Project Descriptions below for full list).

·         Resume or CV

·         Unofficial Transcript

Expiration Date

April 4th 2018


Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed by a faculty panel.

Please Note: If you are applying to multiple BSCD Fellowship Grants, please fill out the following BSCD Preference Form -


Project Descriptions

SOCIAL NETWORKS AND HIV: Much of the scholarly work surrounding health behavior and prevention of disease has focused on characteristics of the individual. This focus may be adept at answering questions fundamental to biologic phenomena, such as genetic processes of disease and targeted therapies; however, analysis of individual characteristics or behaviors is inadequate to address the social environment that individuals are embedded within – social networks.  Social network structures drive behaviors at the individual and group level and can be critical to our development of effective prevention interventions. In the disease I focus on – HIV infection – it is especially important to focus on networks, given that the contagion is largely spread through sexual activity. Risk and prevention in turn are driven by the people that surround a given individual.  While this may seem intuitive, the field of HIV transmission has been dominated by individual level interventions that have attempted to affect cognition and behavior change over the past 30 years.  Only recently has scholarship on the structural factors that impact HIV transmission been a focus, and one that is critical as we focus on most at risk community members, such as sexual and gender minorities and move towards HIV elimination.  Strong programming, analytic or other quantitative skills are preferred.  Writing is important as well.

·         Requirements: Quantitative majors: math, computer science or equivalent experience.  Or Social science majors.

·         Class-level Eligibility: 3rd Year or higher

·         Faculty Sponsor: John Schneider,

SLEEP QUALITY AND AGING: In surveys, older adults express dissatisfaction with their sleep and often complain about insomnia. However, studies we have carried out comparing objective sleep measures with self-reported sleep characteristics suggest that the people are not very accurate reporters of their sleep characteristics, and complaints of sleep are likely influenced by overall feeling of well-being and vitality. We have collected two waves of objective (actigraphy) and survey sleep information in the context of a national epidemiologic cohort of older adults, five years apart. Undergraduate researchers can help with this research by participating in the following types of activities under faculty supervision:

-Carry out descriptive statistics and regression analyses of the consistency and change in measures of sleep duration, timing and quality over the five years, and also investigate predictors of changes.

-Conduct literature review of age-related change in sleep among older adults

·         Requirements: A strong foundation in statistics including regression analysis, such as Statistics 224 Applied Regression. Programming experience in Stata preferred, but R is also acceptable.

·         Eligibility: Any class level with the statistics prerequisite

·         Faculty Sponsor: Diane Lauderdale,

ROLE OF GENETICS IN HOW ENVIRONMENT AFFECTS CANCER RISK: Risk for cancer and other complex diseases is influenced by inherited genetic risk factors as well as lifestyle and environmental exposures.  Ongoing research in the Department of Public Health Sciences is focused on understanding how genetic variation influences or alters the effects of environmental exposures and biomarkers on human health and biology.  Areas of ongoing research include (1) telomere length as a biomarker of aging and cancer risk, (2) methods for assessing causal relationships among risk factors, biomarkers, and disease, (3) genome-wide association studies, and (4) susceptibility to the effects of environmental exposure to arsenic, a known carcinogen.  Long term goals are to reveal biological mechanisms of disease susceptibility, identify potential targets for pharmacological intervention, and provide strategies for identifying high risk individuals. Undergraduate students having taken statistical coursework can participate in conducting statistical analyses of genetic and environmental data to understand the determinants of health outcomes in the context of large epidemiological datasets.

·         Requirements: Prior coursework in statistics or epidemiology and some experience using statistical software are required. Prior coursework in genetics is preferred, but not essential.

·         Class-level Eligibility: Undergraduate students at all levels are eligible.

·         Faculty Sponsor: Brandon Pierce,

REDUCING TRAFFIC INJURIES: Road traffic injuries are the 8th leading cause of death and disability globally. Public Health Sciences has an on ongoing program aimed at improving estimates of the public health burden of traffic injuries in low- and middle- income countries, understanding the key risk factors, and developing and evaluating safety interventions. Undergraduate researchers can help with this research by participating in the following types of activities under faculty supervision:

-Acquiring and extracting information from public data sources (household surveys, emergency room surveillance, police records) on the incidence and burden of road traffic injuries.

-Conducting systematic reviews of the literature on the effectiveness of safety interventions

-Developing tools for estimating the prevalence of risk factors (such as speeding behaviors, helmet use, unsafe infrastructure) from resources like Google Earth and Street View.

·         Requirements: Experience manipulating datasets using a statistical package (e.g. R, Stata, SAS) is required.  A solid command of a programming language like Python will be preferred.  

·         Class-level Eligibility: UChicago Undergraduate students at all levels are eligible.

·         Faculty Sponsor: Kavi Bhalla,

HEALTH EFFECTS OF FRACKING: Over the past decade, there has been rapid unconventional (or hydraulically fractured) natural gas development in the United States. However, the use of hydraulic fracturing is contentious because of environmental and health concerns, with some parts of the country entirely banning the practice. Existing research on air and water pollution and health outcomes that may be affected by hydraulic fracturing is limited and has serious methodological limitations. Nonetheless, recent studies have documented cardiovascular, respiratory, dermatological, and neurological problems, and an increase in hospital admissions near gas wells. This research project aims to tremendously improve upon the existing literature by combining multiple large, high-quality datasets, including medical claims and drilling data, and rigorous statistical methods. The student researcher will be involved in all aspects of this project and tasks will include reviewing the academic literature, government websites (federal and state environmental protection agencies), and industry self-reporting, generating hypotheses, collecting and linking datasets, and performing statistical analyses. This project requires at least one advanced statistics/econometrics course and experience working in Stata or R. Prior research experience is preferred but not necessary.

·         Requirements: Experience manipulating datasets using a statistical package (e.g. R, Stata, SAS) is required.  A solid command of a programming language like Python will be preferred.  

·         Class-level Eligibility: Undergraduate students at all levels are eligible.

·         Faculty Sponsor: Prachi Sanghavi,