Mentor Name:
James VanDerslice

Mentor Position:

Family & Preventative Medicine



Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2022 begins on May 25 and ends on August 4. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2022 application.**

** This project is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (PIs: Sara Grineski and Tim Collins). In addition to being part of SPUR, it is also part of the HAPPIEST programApplicants must be University of Utah students who identify in one or more of the following ways (defined by the National Institutes of Health): Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinxs, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders. Two students will be selected to work on this project together.**

Exposure to ambient and indoor air pollution, particularly PM2.5, has been associated with multiple adverse birth outcomes including pre-term birth (PTB), defined as birth with a gestational age of less than 37 weeks, (Ghosh,et al., 2021; Stieb et al., 2012) and these effects may depend on the timing of exposure during gestation (Chen et al., 2021). Personal, home and community factors may change the relationship between ambient PM2.5 exposure and the risk of pre-term birth (Lu, et al., 2021; do Nascimento et al., 2022). However, it is difficult to disentangle the household and parental factors from intrinsic genetic factors that affect fetal growth. Further, impacting policy often requires arguments based on cost and the cost of pre-tem birth is significant (Waitzman, Jalali, & Grosse, 2021). While better estimates of the associations of exposure specific risks and timing is critical, so is information on the costs resulting from the adverse health effects caused by exposure to air pollution. The Specific Aims for this project are:

  1. Estimate the association between trimester-specific exposure to PM2.5 and near-road exposures and the risk of PTB in Utah.
  2. Estimate the healthcare-related costs associated with the excess number of PTB in Utah.

Daily air quality predictions at a 1km2 resolution will be linked to pregnant women throughout pregnancy and used to assess the relationship between trimester specific exposures and the risk of PTB.

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

We will design this research experience so that each student has the opportunity to gain skills and execute a variety of research methods, primarily analyses of air quality and health outcome data using GIS and statistical software, under the supervision and guidance of both the Graduate and Faculty mentors. The students will gain skills and experience using GIS, analyzing air quality data, assessing the relationship between exposure and pre-term birth using an ecological study design, and creating publication-quality graphs and tables. Students with GIS knowledge will learn more advanced techniques while those with little or no experience will gain beginning skills. This project will include the following: Examine and map predicted air quality levels using the Harvard Ensemble model results. Estimate near-road exposures using major roads and traffic density estimates. Generate PM2.5 exposure estimates by linking air quality measures to each study subjects’ residential location. Identify and review current literature on this topic. Conduct an ecologic epidemiologic study linking the prevalence of pre-term birth with air quality exposures during various time periods during pregnancy. Summarize the methods and results in tables and figures; produce a scientific poster for the OUR Summer Symposium.

Student Benefits:

By the end of this research experience each student will be able to a) conduct a literature search and retrieve published manuscripts, b) examine and visualize using graphs and maps air quality data, c) develop exposure measures using direct estimates as well as using proximity models from point and line sources, d) calculate the association between pre-term birth prevalence and exposure to air pollutants, and e) create a publication-quality research poster. GIS and analysis skills will help students in the advanced classes and give them useful skills to help them with their research and in obtaining employment as a data analyst.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 25, 2022, and ends August 4, 2022

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2022 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2022 and not graduating before December 2022; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. U Dreamers with DACA will be hired and paid through U payroll. U Dreamers without DACA who graduated from a Utah high school will be compensated via a different mechanism. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate and will be hired and paid though U payroll. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but we do not currently have a mechanism that allows us to compensate you. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of Utah, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 25-August 4, 2022). 4) at least 18 years old by May 23, 2022 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing).