2012 College of Public Health Summer Undergraduate Research Program Projects

Students will choose one (1) area from the following three (3) thematic areas and will be assigned a project based on their interests and abilities. Please indicate your chosen thematic area on your SURP application/essay.

I. Biostatistics/Epidemiology

Project Title:  The Effect of Low-Dose Estrogen, Alendronate and their Interaction on Osteoporosis in Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Project Description:  The prospective intern will work under the guidance of Dr. Haynatzki and Dr. Meza from Biostatistics and Dr. Lina Lander from Epidemiology, on a major research project as well as on up to three (3) secondary research projects, depending on the learning progress of the intern. Before starting his/her work on the major project, the intern will go through preparation for approximately five (5) weeks that will include: (i) 8 hours per week on assigned reading and discussion on biostatistical methods and designs, with Drs Meza and Haynatzki; (ii) 8 hours per week on SAS programming, with Drs Meza and Haynatzki; and (iii) 24 hours per week on work on conducting literature searches and reviews, summarizing data, interviewing study participants, and writing, with Dr Lander. During the second five (5) weeks, the intern will spend at least 30 hours per week on the major research project and up to 10 hours per week on the secondary research projects. This work will culminate with poster preparation and presentation and, possibly, writing of a manuscript for publication, under the guidance of Drs Haynatzki, Lander, and Meza. The secondary projects are (i) collecting and analyzing data on injuries in meatpacking plants, and (ii) collecting and summarizing data on vision screenings among children and adults with a local non-profit organization. The major project itself will focus on a large dataset generated by an NIH-funded randomized clinical trial, and will be finished in the final, approximately four (4), weeks of the internship. The research question will be to what extent (if at all) the combination of low-dose estrogen and the drug alendronate affect the bone mineral density and bone fracture (including hip fracture) in postmenopausal women. The intern will develop linear and nonlinear (e.g. nonparametric) statistical models that will include the main effects of low-dose estrogen, alendronate and their interaction, while adjusting for age, time since menopause, calcium intake, compliance, and other putative predictors. Two major skeletal sites, spine and hip, will be modeled. The intern will start with data cleaning before approaching the actual model building. The statistical package SAS (SAS Inst, Cary, NC) will be used for importing datasets, data management, invoking statistical procedures and/or writing code, as well as producing tables and graphs. The results from data analysis will be interpreted and reported using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The intern will generate a final product, a poster, which will be presented before an appropriate audience, with the possibility of publishing the obtained results in a peer-reviewed journal. The poster will include introduction, methods and results, and discussion sections. Last but not least, the intern will get a glimpse into the professional life of biostatisticians and epidemiologists.

Contact Person:  Gleb Haynatzki, PhD, Jane Meza, PhD, Lina Lander, ScD


II. Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health

Project Title:  Investigating how human body maintains postural stability in a virtual environment

Project Description:  This project is to understand how human body maintains stability in a virtual environment. It explores the potential use of simulation technology as a rehabilitation tool to provide custom environment for patients to regain their functional independence. (Location: UNO)

Contact Person:  Joseph Siu, PhD

III. Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health

Project Title:  Improving Hospital Resource Utilization for Public Health Crisis

Project Description:  The purpose of this project is developing a framework to assist hospitals improve their resource utilization and quality of care while responding to major public health crisis. In specifics, the framework involves mapping various demand scenarios for health services that is caused by a public health emergency, e.g. pandemic influenza or bioterrorist attack, in regional healthcare facilities and developing a simulation-optimization model that can optimize utilization of limited resources to increase the response level. Dr. Ozgur Araz, has developed a forecasting tool for the NIH MIDAS project to forecast influenza hospitalizations, using Bayesian Modeling; and an optimization model in which the forecasting outcomes can be used assisting hospital managers for adaptive decision making. Same tool will be used for the state of Nebraska and forecasting results will be embedded into a simulation-optimization model to determine optimal allocation of critical hospital resources, such as beds, personnel, medications, or other surge capacity resources. The research outcomes can be useful for any operational and logistical decision making for regional hospitals and other health services providing agencies and as a result, these organizations can manage their resources effectively and develop robust plans for better quality of care.
Student’s Role in the Project Role 1: Student will assist in developing a similar forecasting tool for the state of Nebraska and/or city of Omaha; Role2: Student will help analyzing the patient flow in UNMC hospital ER department to develop a computer simulation model (model will be developed by Dr. Araz); Role3: Student will help in data analysis for mapping influenza forecasts to UNMC Hospital ER and analyzing output from the simulation model for improving operational effectiveness at the ER.
Develop an understanding of research  During this research, student will have the opportunity to work closely with a faculty who develops simulation models for healthcare decision making problems. In addition to developing computational and analytic skills, student will experience how research outcomes e.g. forecasting influenza, can be used in healthcare delivery business.

Contact Person: 
Ozgur Araz, PhD


Project Title:  Sexual Health Research with the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative (MSHRC)

Project Description:  The Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative (MSHRC) is a new joint collaborative between faculty at UNMC and University of Nebraska at Omaha. The mission of the MSHRC is to provide a vibrant and robust research enterprise focused on sexual health and wellbeing that provides the opportunity for students and faculty to broaden their horizons in sexual health scholarship and take advantage of the research opportunities in the Midlands. Over the Summer of 2012, the MSHRC would like to host a Summer Undergraduate Research Program student to gain a robust experience in sexual health research. The three main tasks for the summer undergraduate research assistant include 1) working with core faculty to develop and conduct a pilot research project of interest to the student - potential topics include LGBT youth and health, sex education, health economics of sex-seeking behaviors, energy expenditure of sexual behaviors, STIs including HIV, and sexual health intervention development; 2) working with the core faculty to develop research papers based on a number of data sets - potential topics included LGBT health, HIV prevention program evaluation, and community-engaged scholarship in the domain of sexual health and wellness; and 3) assist in utilizing principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR) and community engagement to help organize a sexual health summit for the region.
The ideal candidate will have a background in basic research practices, strong verbal and writing skills, strong organizational skills, proven abilities to work with a diverse set of people and interest in sexual health and CBPR.

Contact Person:  Christopher Fisher, PhD


Project Title: Service Learning Academy (SLA): developing e-learning for International Service Learning

Project Description:  The mission of the Service Learning Academy (SLA) at the college of public health is to facilitate inter-professional and interdisciplinary public health learning experiences in local, regional, national and international communities.  Activities developed through the Academy strive to address community-identified needs, advance community health, enhance learning, and foster social justice awareness and civic engagement among community members, students, staff and faculty.

This experience offered this summer will consist mostly in working with the SLA to develop evidence based e-learning module that is part of a national project with the international organization - Global Health Education Consortium The module titled: “working in a cross cultural context” will be designed to serve students, faculty, and administrators heading to global experiences. The selected student will be exposed to our various large legacy projects in underserved communities in Omaha (homeless shelter, jail, domestic violence, and refugee populations), and assist including developing programs, written materials, and manuscripts. Finally, the student is expected to assist in strengthening the infrastructure for our MPH service learning/capstone experience by reviewing data and compiling recommendations from the various community partners that our students engaged with, over the past year.

Contact Person:  Ruth Margalit, MD