our alumni

Mark L. Glasgow

While many people consider their smartphones to be lifesavers because they help organize and consolidate daily activities, Mark L. Glasgow is exploring ways to use smartphones to literally help save lives.

Every day, people are exposed to varying levels of air pollutants. When studying air pollutants and their health effects, a challenge is to accurately quantify exposures. Glasgow, a student in UB’s cancer epidemiology PhD program, is involved with a research study which aims to improve ambient air pollution exposure estimates by using GPS-enabled smartphones to account for an individual’s change in location over time — leading to more accurate data. “We have successfully enrolled over 60 Western New York residents as participants of the study to use our custom smartphone app, powered by Skyhook, for collecting time-location data,” he said.

The study is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and has been a significant collaboration between UB’s departments of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, Computer Science and Engineering, and Geography.

“This study has opened my mind to the emerging crossroads between mobile computing technologies and epidemiological methods,” he said. “I believe there is likely a bright future in exploiting the feasibility of everyday technologies to improve researchers’ abilities to detect associations between intermittent exposures and health outcomes.”

Exploring New Interests and Skills

Glasgow first developed an awareness of environmental health as an undergraduate in UB’s biotechnology program. “Much of the coursework was in laboratory settings requiring detailed attention to biological and chemical safety procedures,” he explained. “Although I was gaining a sense of awareness for personal protection, my thoughts began to extend toward a consciousness for exposures to environmental hazards while outside of a lab’s controlled settings. This led to my interest in day-to-day environmental exposure experiences on a larger scale, involving the general population and specific communities.”

At the same time, he was developing new skills in statistical analysis. “This led me to become more aware of how the statistical methods used in some biomolecular diagnostics are often key to understanding the characteristics of people who get certain diseases,” he said. “Soon after graduating, my interest in epidemiology was solidified while studying prostate cancer in a summer internship in CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities.”

He then enrolled in UB’s MPH program to begin more advanced study.

“UB’s MPH program offered a comprehensive and challenging, yet highly supportive, learning experience that helped to develop my critical-thinking skills,” he said. “Having completed the program’s concentration in environmental health, I have gained essential knowledge of proper scientific methodologies to observe connections between health and the complicated world we live in.

“The close interaction I experienced in the program has helped me reach important academic and professional competencies while shaping my personal interests within the field,” he said. “One of the greatest aspects of the program was that it pushed me to integrate my skills in the applied sciences with relevant economic, political, cultural and social issues on local, regional and global levels.”

Integrating Academic, Research and Career Interests

He decided to remain at UB to pursue a PhD and continue merging his academic, research, and career interests. “A major reason why I chose to attend UB for my post-graduate studies was that I knew I would continue to have opportunities for personal growth and diversified learning experiences. UB students and faculty members share a drive for building strong academic and professional relationships.”

Choosing to specialize in cancer epidemiology, Glasgow is studying under UB’s multidisciplinary training in cancer epidemiology program funded by the National Cancer Institute. “The program is comprehensive for its curriculum and, quite notably, its financial support,” he said. “In addition to covering my tuition, books and memberships, the program funds my attendance at scientific conferences. As any student would agree, it’s great to have the opportunity to learn about new research while sharing your own.”

In addition to his air pollution exposure research, Glasgow is investigating other significant health concerns. “I’m using data from the Women’s Circle of Health Study to investigate whether relationships exist between early life factors, such as pre-natal exposure to maternal smoking, and female breast cancer, and how such relationships may differ between African-Americans and European-Americans,” he said. “This is important because there have been few large-scale studies that have comparatively evaluated early life factors for breast cancer in both African-American and European-American women.”