SPUR 2019: Environmental Informatics – Pediatric Research using Integrated Sensor Monitoring Systems


Many pediatric and adult diseases are affected by environmental exposures; the environment is now known to have a bigger influence on health than health care services or genetics. The Utah Pediatric Research using Integrated Sensor Monitoring Systems (PRISMS) collaborators are developing a research infrastructure and biomedical informatics platform that will facilitate use of air quality sensors and other sensors as an integrated part of pediatric research studies. National programs such as the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) project and the All of Us (Precision Medicine Initiative) are intended to examine the influence of the environment on health, and utilize sensors as part of their data collection strategy.

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

Students will have opportunities to participate in real life research activities which may include sensor testing in lab and/or in the field, data analysis, workflow evaluations, and documentation. Activities support the NIH funded PRISMS Informatics Center U54EB021973 (PIs are Sward and Dr. Julio Facelli from Biomedical Informatics) and/or the NIH funded ECHO UG3OD023249 (PI is Dr. Stanford from Pediatrics) projects. In general, the roles of students in this project include: Data collection, entry and analysis; Providing or assisting in sensor tests that are parts of the research project; Manuscript preparation for peer-reviewed publications or conference presentations. The SPUR student will work on some or all of the roles depending on the student's interests and experiences.

Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits

Our primary goal is to expose the student to interdisciplinary research in data science, computer science, human factors, and biomedical informatics. Sensors produce high-resolution data (large files with very frequent time intervals) that need to be integrated with clinical and research data collected at varying time intervals (daily, weekly, one time, sporadic). Research activities will help students gain skills applicable to potential future employment, which can include data wrangling, statistics and data analysis, programming, and software documentation, all in the context of clinical and translational research about the effects of the environment on health. The student would also have the opportunity to improve writing skills, presentation skills, and work in a collaborative research team.

Kathy Sward
Associate Professor

College of Nursing

I provide students with collaborative, accessible and supportive learning. The research projects are team-based, so students work not only with me but also with other students and project collaborators. My students meet with me regularly; they are assured open communication and are treated as important team members. Through the teamwork as well as individual supervision and course work, students are likely to increase the understanding of the content and skills of the field, learn the broader culture of biomedical research, and are in an environment that promotes successful completion of their degree programs.