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Alumna Fellowship Spotlight: Dr. Clara Sears

Name: Clara Sears, PhD, MS

Degrees: MS in Epidemiology (2014); PhD in Public Health Sciences - Epidemiology (2017)

Mentor: Dr. Kristina Zierold

Position: State Agencies Liaison Postdoctoral Research Associate

Location: Brown University Superfund Research Program, Institute at Brown for Environment and Society: Providence, Rhode Island

About the fellowship: After an extensive application process, Clara was selected and began her fellowship with the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society in July 2017. Her fellowship will last one year with the option to extend for up to two years.

One of her primary responsibilities is to work with community partners and organizations to better understand and respond to environmental health and justice concerns across Rhode Island. She works on building and maintaining bi-directional partnerships to promote environmental health education and regulation across a variety of disciplines and professions.

She said, “I found this position appealing because it allowed me to work with an interdisciplinary team of researchers, as well as community and state partners to develop innovative solutions to complex public health concerns. As an environmental epidemiologist, I aim to conduct policy-relevant research that benefits vulnerable populations.”

In addition, she conducts research in maternal and child environmental epidemiology with a focus on exposure to environmental pollutants and the relationship with blood pressure, sleep, mental health, and behavior.

Reflection on earning a public health degree from SPHIS

Her undergraduate advisor introduced her to epidemiology, and she realized shortly after it was the perfect fit. She became interested in environmental epidemiology when she started working with Dr. Zierold on the Coal Ash Study.

Experiences working as a research assistant with the Coal Ash Study and the American Heart Association Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center (A-TRAC) prepared her for her current role. With Dr. Zierold's guidance on the Coal Ash Study, she applied methods in community-based research, study design, and data analysis. Conducting research outside of a classroom setting helped her develop confidence in her knowledge and abilities. Working with A-TRAC, Drs. Joy Hart and Kandi Walker helped develop her communication skills, taught her how to effectively work on a transdisciplinary research team, and provided helpful feedback/instruction on how to improve her scientific writing.

Clara’s professional experience

Prior to pursuing her degrees at UofL, she has worked at several organizations including: University of Notre Dame, Kentucky Hospital Association, Hospital Engagement Network, and UofL.

Advice to students

"Explore interdisciplinary opportunities and reach out to experienced professionals to collaborate and ask questions."

Connect with Clara




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