The George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health held its annual Research Day last week, convening nearly 100 undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral researchers to present work from every part of the public health spectrum.
“Supporting our students’ applied learning experiences is central to our mission as it develops creative thinking skills and the ability to communicate effectively, analyze information, share stories and connect with people from diverse cultures, disciplines and ideologies,” Milken Institute SPH Dean Lynn Goldman said. “These are the skills our students will take forward as future public health leaders.”
Projects showcased the vast geographic and intellectual territory over which public health research can range. Researchers analyzed factors underlying vaccine hesitancy in Africa; examined the social support networks of Latina immigrant trans women in the Washington, D.C., area; and studied the effects of displacement, economic distress and violence against adolescents among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Subjects covered life and death, from the intergenerational transmission of low-calorie sweeteners in breast milk to analysis of the end-of-life values and needs reported by teenagers with cancer.
From 80 posters on display, a panel of faculty judges from the Milken Institute SPH, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library and GW’s Libraries and Academic Innovation (LAI) chose eight winning presentations in four categories: undergraduate students, master’s students, doctoral students and post-docs, staff and alumni. Winners received cash prizes between $100 and $400.
The winning undergraduate project, Maddie Galerston’s “GRAPE: A Fungal Study,” addressed the increasingly urgent problem of antimicrobial treatment resistance. Galerston’s team focused on the efficacy of three triazole treatments against Aspergillus, an environmental fungus that can cause infections and even death. By analyzing soil samples from around vineyards in southern California, they examined the possible connection between the use of agricultural antifungals and Aspergillus colonies’ resistance to medical drugs.
Master’s student Nikita Vivekanandan’s winning presentation, “The Impact of a University Dining Hall on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among First-Year Undergraduate Students,” examined the impact of Thurston Dining Hall, which opened last fall. By interviewing first-year GW students after dinner, the team found that students who ate at the dining hall consumed on average one additional full serving of fruits and vegetables compared to those did not eat at the dining hall—suggesting that “an all-you-care-to-eat style dining hall as part of the university food environment can support improved diet quality among college students.”
“The 2023 GWSPH Research Day outdid our expectations with the quality and quantity of amazing research displayed by our students, showcasing the full range of public health topics,” said Adnan A. Hyder, senior associate dean of research and professor of global health. “We are so proud of all those who submitted abstracts and participated in this key event for our community.”
A full list of winners is below.
- First place: Maddie Galerston, “GRAPE: A Fungal Study”
- Second place: Catherine E. Alvaro, “The Fitness, Rest and Exercise for Strength and Health (FRESH) Study: Impact of COVID-19 on cardiorespiratory fitness of college students”
- First place: Nikita Vivekanandan, “The Impact of a University Dining Hall on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among First-Year Undergraduate Students”
- Second place: Janja Kovacic, “Increased levels of plasma TNFα in transgender women on long-term gender-affirming hormone therapy”
- First place: Mahdi Baghbanzadeh, “deepBreaks: a machine learning tool for identifying and prioritizing genotype-phenotype associations”
- Second place: Yashan Wang, “Estimating the contribution of food-animal Escherichia coli among bloodstream infections globally”
Staff, alumni and postdoctoral research
- First place: Yi Cao, “Developing a small animal model to evaluate and optimize vaccine targeting transmission of human malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax”
- Second place: Eleanor Capozzi, “Acute sexual violence exposure dysregulates HIV associated cervical immune biomarkers in women”