Gauri Desai is a current Epidemiology PhD student.
My undergraduate training in microbiology helped me understand the public health implications of microbiology and stimulated my interest in public health, particularly epidemiology. I furthered my education in public health with an MPH degree with epidemiology as my concentration. The structured didactics in epidemiology and biostatistics strengthened my methodological skills and further drove me toward learning about environmental epidemiology, advanced epidemiological methods and their application to the greater public health.
I have always been interested in studying the impact of environmental exposures on public health. The Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health (EEH) at the University at Buffalo (UB) offered a wide range of research and training opportunities in epidemiological methods and environmental health science. I felt that the diverse areas of research carried out in EEH, from hand washing and sanitation to nutrition and cancer, will challenge me at every step to better understand the applications of epidemiologic methods.
Since arriving at UB, I have been involved in several projects. I have worked on a project to develop a research and practice framework for sanitation for people with disabilities in low-and-middle-income countries as well as a project to understand the mechanisms underlying the associations between air pollution exposure and adverse birth outcomes. Through these projects, my course work and reading of literature, I developed a strong interest in understanding the impact of environmental toxicants on children’s growth. For my dissertation project, I am studying the associations between arsenic exposure and child development, and the potential role of nutrition in this. I had the opportunity to travel to Montevideo, Uruguay, where our research project is based, for collecting data. This experience helped me understand various aspects of field work in epidemiological studies.
The individual attention given to the training of PhD students, along with the opportunities to work with different professors with expertise in environmental health, right from the beginning of the PhD program have been useful experiences. Furthermore, the edification opportunities through weekly seminars and journal clubs have been additional learning prospects.
The coursework and research opportunities at UB have played a crucial role in honing my skills in epidemiological methods. In addition, my dissertation project is an intersection of environmental and nutritional epidemiology, which will provide me with a diverse set of skills necessary to become an independent researcher in this area.