SPUR 2019: Exploring Molecular Aspects of the Exposome

Background

About 50 – 70% of health and well-being is determined by the environment an individual lives in and their behaviors within these environments. The sum total of all the environmental exposures an individual encounters in their life-time is called the exposome. The exposome includes molecular constituents involved in direct biological pathway alterations as well as mutagenic and epigenetic mechanisms of environmental influences on the phenome. Exposures to different chemicals have been shown to play a role in different conditions including asthma, obesity, as well as other respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, and metabolic conditions and cancers. Understanding the effects of these chemical exposures requires representing these molecules in research studies that involve generating and utilizing exposomes. The Utah PRISMS (Pediatric Research using Integrated Sensor Monitoring Systems) Informatics Ecosystem (UPIE) is developing systematic informatics methods for generating and utilizing such exposomes for performing translational research.

This SPUR project is funded by a supplement to the National Library of Medicine Training grant T15LM007124-22; Wendy Chapman (PI), Julio Facelli (co-I).

Student Role

The student will play a key role in performing interdisciplinary research combining informatics methods with their chemistry backgrounds. Under the guidance of informatics faculty, the student will have an opportunity to collaborate with faculty, students and staff in multiple domains including various engineering departments, chemistry, atmospheric sciences, informatics and various clinical departments at Utah and elsewhere. Depending on the student’s interests and background, she/he will have opportunities to work on the semantic and metadata representations of molecules measured by various novel sensors developed by the PRISMS and other groups; computational modeling methods in generating spatio-temporal profiles of exposure utilizing these sensor measurements; and utilizing these measurements and modeled exposures profiles in health studies. The student will be exposed to various informatics methods and tools developed by UPIE and elsewhere to perform their research.

Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits

The student will have a learning experience in performing interdisciplinary health research. She/he will have opportunities to improve writing and presentation skills, and work in a collaborative teams. We will work with student in presenting their work at various local, national and international avenues, as well as authoring abstracts and journal manuscripts. Current under-graduate student researchers working with us have presented their work at various under-graduate, national and international conferences including the Utah Conference of Undergraduate Research, the National Conference of Undergraduate Research, the Annual Symposiums of the International Symposium of Exposure Science and the American Medical Informatics Association, as well as at the Utah State Capitol.

Ram Gouripeddi
research Assistant Professor

Biomedical Informatics
School of Medicine

We will have regular meetings individually and with teams to guide the student through the project in addition to communicating via email as required. We will develop clear expectations for the student keeping in mind their background, career goals and future directions. Our first priority will be to engage the student in scientific process of translational exposomic research by having the student participate in generating hypotheses, developing methods, their evaluation and application. Next we encourage and develop the student’s ability to communicate science effectively both to scientific and lay audiences. Finally, we foster critical thinking skills in the student by encouraging them to develop their project work in constructive manner and by enabling them to understand limitations and uncertainties associated as she/he works exposomic data.