The connections between diseases and illnesses and how they spread and transferred is why I became interested in the realm of medical geography. My overall curiosity of health and spatial interactions grew to include concentrations on disease ecology and epidemiology. Along with attending numerous speeches and discussions about specific diseases such as influenza, malaria, and dengue fever, I have had numerous discussions about medical geography and epidemiology faculty. My time as a Masters student, in the UF Department of Geography, has developed my research and professional development capabilities in becoming an independent researcher. My thesis topic focused on environmental and demographic factors which affect changes in West Nile Virus infection rates in mosquito populations. The use of multivariate logistic regression and spatial Bayesian rate smoothing, lead to a spatial risk model, within the study area. By conducting research on the spread of vector borne infectious diseases, associated factors can be recognized and preventative measures and programs can be taken by using concentrated and economical efforts in countries that cannot afford expensive countermeasures against said diseases. My primary research goal is to develop and/or improve the accuracy of spatial public health databases in semi-developing and/or developed countries, through the integration of other large heterogenous datasets. This will be done by creating health modeling programs and subroutines that will collect, compile and integrate useful health data to 1) determine and predict spread and distribution of vector borne infectious diseases and; 2) Allow easier access to more accurate and realistic ecological data. I have 7+ years of experience of using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and programming abilities (R, VB, C++, and Python) to develop my future research work. Additionally, I’ve focused on developing tailored ‘Big data’ approaches that can facilitate the analysis of multi-dimensional heterogenous data such as metagenomic, expression and phylogenetic data combined with clinical metadata to explore system biology approaches investigating various comorbidities associated with zoonoses. While the emphasis of my research is on developing approaches to better mine the large amounts of heterologous data generated in large population based studies, my secondary goal is to show utility of the methods on a problem with significant public health relevance. I have significant experience in bioinformatics, primarily the processing of RNA sequencing and methylation data, equipping me with an ability to parse large heterogenous datasets.
My goal in receiving a PhD in Epidemiology will be becoming a public health licensed professional, with a specialty and understanding on the spread of infectious diseases using bioinformatics. This will enable me to diagnose potential factors of diseases using a combination of spatial analysis, ‘Big Data’ analysis, and public health knowledge. The PhD will also qualify me to research, develop and execute possible solutions, innovations and interventions (in the form of public health programs and/or distribution and use of modeling software) to potential factors of infectious diseases.