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Quantifying the Exposome for Health Research

Summer 2024

Project 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 Center for Exposure Health Informatics Ecosystem (CEEHI) is developing systematic informatics methods for generating and utilizing such exposomes for performing translational research.

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, with novel sensors developed by the CEEHI 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 CEEHI and work specific health problems such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, sleep apnea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This will be a collaborative project where the student will work the informatics faculty primarily, but also with experts in sleep medicine, pulmonology and diabetes.

Student Learning Outcomes and 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 and to the University of Utah Research Deans.

Ram Gouripeddi

Assistant Professor
Biomedical Informatics

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics, and a Senior Biomedical Informatics Scientist, Center for Clinical and Translational Science, University of Utah. I lead the research and development of diverse health informatics projects including data integration, metadata discovery, recruitment, streamlining research data and statistical analytics, and machine learning. I have led and participate in multiple data federation and integration projects for clinical and population health research. I am the R&D lead for OpenFurther project, an open source informatics solution for biomedical data integration and federation. I am currently extending its capabilities as a Big Data integration platform including exposomic and sensor data in order to perform environmental biomedical research fpr performing sensor-based epidemiological research. As the Principal Investigator of a bioCADDIE pilot project, I led work in automation of metadata discovery for different biomedical data and using the same within data integration platforms. In previous work, as the informatics principal investigator for the PHIS+, I lead the development of a multi-site data integration project using the OpenFurther technology for performing pediatric clinical and comparative effectiveness research. I am also currently the Utah site informatics lead for the PaTH PCORnet Clinical Data Research Network and the CTSA Accrual to Clinical Trials network. I lead the development of novel approaches for recruitment of participants for clinical trials, and streamlining analytics and provisioning of biomedical data and metadata needed for different biomedical studies undertaken at the University of Utah. I have extensive experience with clinical machine learning including using medical knowledge and temporal modeling. I practiced as a medical doctor managing patients with various conditions. My experience and training as a biomedical informaticist and physician and my lead involvement with multi-site large data projects as well as supporting the needs of clinical and translational research make me uniquely qualified to contribute as co-principal investigator for this CDC project. I will work with Dr. Julio Facelli (Principal Investigator) and other key personnel and staff in advancing the science of data integration for supporting public health surveillance and public health research.

Mentoring Philosophy

We will have regular meetings individually and with teams to guide the student through the project in addition to communicating via email as required. I 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 I will encourage and develop the student’s ability to communicate science effectively both to scientific and lay audiences. Finally, our group fosters 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.