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BSCD Summer Public Health Research Fellowship - 2022

BSCD Undergraduate Summer Fellowship in Public Health Research

Please bear in mind that while BSCD Summer Fellowships are currently scheduled to proceed these opportunities may have to be modified or cancelled if the situation warrants. 

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 BSCD Undergraduate Summer 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 $5000 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. 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 the project. Please see the project descriptions. 
Class Level Eligibility 
Eligibility varies based on the project. Please see the project descriptions. 
Required Materials
Applications should include the following: 
·      Statement of Interest or Cover Letter: Approx. 250 words. Please state here the project (or multiple projects), to which you are applying (see Project Descriptions below for full list).
·      Resume or CV
·      Unofficial Transcript
Expiration Date
April 8th, 2022
Please Note: If you are applying to multiple BSCD Fellowship Grants, please fill out the following BSCD Preference Form -
Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed by a faculty panel.
TOPIC #1: 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.
TOPIC 2: Reducing Traffic Injuries in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
Road traffic injuries are the 8th leading cause of death and disability globally. Public Health Sciences has an 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.
Topic 3: The interaction between immigration enforcement & incarceration on birth outcomes among Black and Latinx women
The carceral state in the United States is expansive. The US has the highest per-capita incarceration rate globally and operates the largest immigration detention system in the world. In prior literature, community-level incarceration and immigration enforcement have both been separately linked to adverse birth outcomes (ABOs), a population health indicator that is sensitive to environmental stressors. However, empirical links between incarceration and immigration enforcement together on birth outcomes have been largely unexplored in the literature. Furthermore, few analyses have studied the contours of incarceration at the county level. To address these gaps, this study will assess the main association between county-level incarceration rates and immigration arrest rates to ABOs across racial/ethnic groups (Aims 1 & 2) and the interactive association between county-level incarceration rates and immigration apprehension rates on adverse birth outcomes across racial/ethnic groups (Aim 3). These aims will be executed in a data set constructed by merging national birth records (National Center of Vital Statistics) with county-level incarceration records (Vera Institute of Justice) and county-level immigration enforcement records (TRAC-Immigration) across 10 years. 
Undergraduate researchers under faculty will assist with this research project in the following ways:
1. Compile area-level immigration enforcement data from the Department of Homeland Security, incarceration data from the Department of Justice data, and racial/ethnic demographic rates from the ACS/Census
2. Link area-level incarceration rates to nationally representative health data with Black, Latinx, and non-Hispanic White groups (BRFSS, NHANES, PSID, etc) 
3. Conduct literature reviews on incarceration, criminal-justice system, policing and health and multilevel modeling approaches
4. Assist with statistical analysis to determine the relationship between area-level immigration detention rates and state/federal incarceration rates residence to health outcomes among Black, Latinx, and non-Hispanic White groups
REQUIREMENTS: Students who are passionate about addressing racial/ethnic health inequities, experience in quantitative data analysis in R or STATA, some familiarity with public health, and previous coursework or experience in research methods
CLASS LEVEL ELIGIBILITY: Undergraduate students at all levels are eligible-- sophomore and juniors preferred
FACULTY SPONSOR: Aresha Martinez-Cardoso (

Topic 4: Developing Health Intervention Trainings for Community Health Workers
(1) Tobacco Cessation Curriculum Development Project
Although individuals with low-income have a high prevalence of smoking, this population is less likely to receive assistance with quitting. Community health workers (CHW), who work directly with tobacco-related disparity populations, have an increasing role in tobacco cessation programs. However, existing tobacco cessation trainings are costly and time-consuming. Our research group is conducting a needs assessment to understand tobacco cessation practices in CHW, and we aim to develop a tailored training and curriculum for CHW when interacting with members in the community at high risk for tobacco use.
(2) Training CHW to Increase Advance Care Planning among Black Women with Breast Cancer Project
Although breast cancer mortality rates have declined significantly in recent decades, black women, who have a lower incidence of the disease, still die from breast cancer at disproportionate rates compared to white women. Because of the increased likelihood of morbidity and mortality after a breast cancer diagnosis, engaging in advanced care planning (ACP) is critical for black women to plan for future medical treatment and end-of-life care. For our study, we will examine current practices of discussing ACP with black women with breast cancer and examine strategies to facilitate the integration of CHW in ACP with black women with breast cancer.
Undergraduate researchers can help with these research projects by participating in the following types of activities under faculty supervision:
- Assisting in the creation and editing of curriculum based on data collected from focus groups
-Assisting in organizing and conducting focus groups with CHW in local community health organizations
-Transcribing data from CHW focus groups
-Conducting systematic reviews of the literature on the health disparities related to above projects
-Conducting descriptive data analyses
REQUIREMENTS: Experience with database management (e.g., REDCap) is required, and experience manipulating datasets using a statistical package (e.g. SAS) is preferred. 
CLASS LEVEL ELIGIBILITY:  Undergraduate students at all levels are eligible.

Topic 5: Breast Cancer Health Disparity

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy affecting women in the U.S. and the world. There is a gap in breast cancer mortality between African Americans and European Americans. We have an on ongoing program aimed at understanding the socioeconomic, biological, genomic, and health care delivery factors affecting racial disparity, and developing intervention to eliminate disparity and improve health outcomes of all breast cancer patients. We have conducted surveys to inquiry quality of life among breast cancer patients during Covid-19 pandemic and will conduct another yearly survey on quality of life after the peak of another contagious variant. Undergraduate researchers can help with this research by participating in the following types of activities under faculty supervision:
  • Epidemiological questionnaire development, interview, and data entry;
  • Conducting systematic reviews of the literature; and
  • Data clean and analysis.

REQUIREMENTS: Experience manipulating datasets using a statistical package or programming language (e.g. R, Stata, SAS, Python) is preferred. 
CLASS LEVEL ELIGIBILITY: UChicago Undergraduate students at all levels are eligible.