Gaining Research Experience While in M.P.H. Program
One of the reasons I joined the UND Master of Public Health program was its offering of the Population Health Analytics specialization so I could build technical skills in the field I was always interested in. A large part of my research experience in the M.P.H. Program comes from the work I have done as a Graduate Research Assistant with Dr. Arielle Selya, M.P.H. faculty member, and my academic advisor. The M.P.H. courses and research projects have greatly guided and stimulated me to develop analytical and research skills. More precisely, the coursework gave me a basis for public health research and the projects have aided substantially to sharpen the knowledge I gained from the courses to conduct epidemiological research, master the skill on statistical software ‘R’, and understand the concepts with practical work.
One of my biggest achievements in my journey with public health is publication of the paper “Time to First Cigarette, a proxy of Nicotine Dependence, Increases the Risk of Pulmonary Impairment, Independently of Current and Lifetime Smoking Behavior” with Dr. Selya and Dr. Cristina Oancea, published January 2016 in Nicotine and Tobacco Research. This was my first research project, which gave me a foundation for public health research and data analysis. After this, I got involved with two research projects in collaboration with Dr. Selya, and another M.P.H. student, Gaurav Mehta. One project titled “Is Nicotine Dependence Independently Associated with Asthma?” and the other “The Association of Cotinine and Asthma among Former and Current smokers”. We are presenting both of these research findings at the Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health in May 2016.
I also have been able to get involved with research projects outside the program. I have worked with Kimberly Ruliffson, of UND Work Well, to analyze UND faculty/staff Qualtrics survey data. Consequently, this project led to generation of research titled “Differences in Various Health Issues Among Faculty and Staff: Two Distinct Types of Employees in Most Academic Settings”, which has been accepted for poster presentation at the American Psychological Association in June 2016.
Other experiences include working with Drs. Raymond and Karen Goldsteen on updating the book ‘Jonas' Introduction to the U.S. Health Care System’ for the latest edition publication and producing research from classes such as System Dynamics, Research Methods and Social and Behavioral Health. Course projects increased my ability to problem solve, use system thinking, and design and evaluate public health programs based on evidence-based theories.
Although I have only spoken about my research experiences, every activity, course, and work opportunity have significantly helped me to develop professional skills, increase my network, and most importantly give me confidence for my future career in public health.
- Submitted by Sunita Thapa, program graduate