This Week @ Gillings: The Abstract

July 11, 2022

Whether you’re local or global, student or alumni, the Abstract’s weekly news digest will help you stay in the loop with our amazing Gillings School community.

Daza innovates to make statistics personal

Dr. Eric Daza

Dr. Eric Daza

Eric J. Daza, DrPH ’15 (biostatistics), sat down with Aline Holzwarth, MBA, head of behavioral science at Pattern Health, for an interview that was featured in Forbes’ 16 Healthcare Innovators That You Should Know.

Daza works at Evidation, a digital health company on a mission “to create new ways to measure and improve health in everyday life” with research using individual health data, and he has bold plans for the future of health and wellness. He is a data scientist and biostatistician who is passionate about empowering people to live healthy lives by providing useful insights based on information unique to them. His personal project, a blog called Stats-of-1, explores ways to improve personalized health using statistical methods that analyze an individual’s recurring trends – an approach made increasingly feasible by the popularity of wearable devices that collect health data. He credits a strong grounding in traditional statistical methods with helping prepare him to innovate in his field, along with conversations with his advisor, Michael Hudgens, PhD, professor and associate chair of biostatistics at UNC Gillings, and co-advisor, Amy Herring, PhD (then a UNC professor of biostatistics).

He has a suggestion for other aspiring health care innovators:

“Take time to habitually meditate on key statistical science concepts,” said Daza. “Try to think about them when you read an article or report, or do an analysis. Pay attention to where your mind wants to go, and if your intuition agrees.”

Gorelick joins board of directors of local water utility

Dr. David Gorelick

Dr. David Gorelick

Recent graduate and postdoctoral researcher David Gorelick, PhD ’21 (Dept of Environmental Sciences and Engineering), is putting his public health training to use as the newest member of the Orange Water & Sewer Authority (OWASA) Board of Directors. He was sworn in on Thursday, July 7, at OWASA headquarters in Carrboro, North Carolina.

Gorelick is sworn in to the OWASA Board of Directors

Gorelick is sworn in to the OWASA Board of Directors.

As a postdoc within the UNC Gillings Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems (CoFiRES), he has already worked on research, recently published in Water Resources Research, that used super computing to predict the benefits water utilities can realize from water-management strategies that rely on cooperative agreements and shared infrastructure with other local utilities. CoFiRES Director, Greg Characklis, PhD, W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor, commented, “Dr. Gorelick’s expertise in both the water supply planning and the financial management aspects of the water utility business will be invaluable as OWASA seeks to make the difficult decisions that will guide it into the future.”

Mindful that the essence of public health is rooted in practice that benefits the public, Gorelick will have a hand in managing vital water resources and wastewater services. As a board member, he’ll be responsible for a wide range of issues related to the utility’s budget and bond/capital projects, policy decisions, and rates and fees for local residents. According to OWASA, “Our Board of Directors addresses a wide variety of issues including infrastructure investment, employee compensation and benefits, finance and rate setting, customer service and affordability, environmental protection, forestry, public health, and community engagement, among others.”

$900,000 grant advances study of Southeast Asia

Dr. Noah Kittner

Dr. Noah Kittner

Noah Kittner, PhD, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at UNC Gillings, is part of a team that recently secured $900,000 in funding from the Henry Luce Foundation through its Luce Initiative on Southeast Asia. The interdisciplinary project, called “Bringing Southeast Asia Home,” positions UNC to serve as a hub for studies in the region, which has been identified as a strategic priority under the University’s Carolina Next strategic plan, and will begin in Fall 2022. Under this project, Kittner and co-investigators will expand UNC’s environmental and energy research in Southeast Asia.

One element of success in the grant application was UNC’s Vietnamese language program – which is the only one in the state despite Vietnamese being N.C.’s sixth most-spoken language. The grant will provide for undergraduate summer research internships, graduate student dissertation awards and a student working group. Additionally, it will bring in postdoctoral researchers focused on Southeast Asian topics and support faculty members to explore possible connections between their research and the region. The University will also launch an interdisciplinary minor in Southeast Asian studies.

“Reviewers from the Luce Foundation found Carolina’s proposal especially innovative in the way it bridges the study of Southeast Asia and engagement with Southeast Asian diaspora communities in the Southeastern United States,” said Becky Butler, PhD, adjunct assistant professor of Linguistics and co-author of the grant proposal.

Read more in the article from UNC Global.

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