Student Spotlight October 2015

    Abby Burns




    Abby received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Centre College in 2010.   She then attended Wright State University where she earned a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Emergency Preparedness.  After taking a year off, she enrolled at the UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences to work towards a PhD in Epidemiology.  Abby recently passed her candidacy exams and is beginning her third year in the program.






    1. What brought you to the University of Louisville?

    Louisville is a wonderful city and not terribly far from my family.  These were considerations in my decision - but ultimately the School of Public Health was able to offer me an opportunity to fulfill my dream of earning a PhD in Epidemiology.

    2.Specific areas of research (how you chose this research, why it interested you):

    Epidemiology is the study of the distribution of disease and injury in a given population.  There are many sub-fields of epidemiology, but I am interested in infectious disease epidemiology and cancer epidemiology.  Infectious diseases interest me because they were largely responsible for much morbidity and morality in the first half of the 19th century.  Public health interventions such as clean water, emphasis on sanitization, and vaccine development helped keep many infectious diseases at bay in the latter half of the century.  Many scientists believed we had won the war against infectious diseases – some were even eradicated.  However, in recent years we have seen a striking come back as many infectious diseases fight to once again become a prominent cause of illness and death in both developing and developed countries.

    3. How would you describe your area of study/ specific research to your grandmother?

    An epidemiologist is like a disease detective.  They are largely interested in the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a certain disease in a specific population.

    4. What made you go into this field of study?

    I learned about the field of epidemiology when I was researching careers in 7th grade and have been on the path to becoming an epidemiologist ever since.

    5. Awards, honors, publications:

    a. 2015 EIS David J. Sencer Scholarship Recipient
    b. Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
    c. Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health – Student Inductee

    6. Long term goals/ aspirations:

    After graduation, I hope to become an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  This two year fellowship offers hands on field epidemiology experience and the opportunity to collaborate with various public health agencies in the United States and abroad.  It is unlike any other program offered in our field and is my dream job.

    7. What has been your favorite part of the graduate school experience at UofL?

    The opportunity to collaborate on research projects with professors and peers alike.  The hands on experience helps build professional skills that will compliment what I have been taught in the classroom. 

    8. What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?

    For me, the biggest challenge of graduate school has been juggling coursework, family, and whatever else life throws my way.  I learned very quickly how to manage my time effectively and prioritize tasks on a daily basis.

    9. Family life:

    I am from Germantown, Ohio and that is where my immediate and extended family live.  I try to make time to visit one weekend a month – as my family was very close growing up and I miss that time with them.  My fiancé, Nick, lives here in Louisville with me.  We have a Great Dane named Rupert and a cat named Edie. Together they help keep me sane when the stresses of school become too real.

    Fun Facts
    A talent you have always wanted: To play the piano well, or really to play any musical instrument.
    Favorite book: I don’t know that I could pick one – possibly a mystery of some sort.
    Favorite quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead
    Role Model: My parents.  Throughout my life, they have been exemplary models of hard work and unconditional support while always pushing me to do my best at everything I take on.
    Favorite Vacation Destination: New Zealand – I have had the opportunity to travel both the North and South Islands and would highly recommend a trip to both!
    If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? I would likely be working in public health, saving money to buy a house and start a family (or rescue Great Danes!)