Creating New Professional Pathways

August 22, 2023
PQAR Students watching presentation

Pictured: PQAR students watching a presentation.


The Department of Biostatistics at GPH stayed quite busy this summer as it welcomed its third cohort of students to the Pathways into Quantitative Aging Research (PQAR) program. The updating of its name last year from “Pipelines” to “Pathways” reflected the idea that, in addition to gaining quantitative skills, students ultimately benefit from resources for their overall academic and professional growth as public health practitioners.

The PQAR program is distinguished by support for cohorts to attend MSTEM-focused conferences, giving them an opportunity to network with academics, participate in professional development training and, in some instances, present their research. Recent trips include to conferences in San Juan, PR, Minneapolis, MN and Scottsdale, AZ, where students presented posters or worked, for example, on a project that examined associations among the “Southern diet” and obesity in Alabama.

In June the PQAR program welcomed 12 undergraduate students to embark on an intense summer of coding, data clean-up and analysis. Students from California, Puerto Rico (again!) and many states in between represented diverse academic majors such as computer science, health sciences, neuroscience and psychology. GPH faculty mentors, including Virginia Chang, Siyu Heng, Jonathan Odumegwu and Shu Xu, oversaw the creation of group research projects in obesity and dementia, maternal age in birth outcomes, estrogen levels and a longitudinal analysis on tobacco use amongst older adults. (Program personnel for summer 2023 can be found here.)

PQAR 2023 Cohort and faculty mentors

Pictured: PQAR 2023 cohort, mentors and presenters.

In addition to coursework, training and research, the program does allow students some down time to experience the Big Apple! This summer PQAR students met their cross-school counterparts in Columbia University’s STARU program, gathering for an Escape Room activity, as well as meeting with Dr. Cerise Elliott, an official at the National Institute on Aging, which funds the creation of similar programs across the U.S.

The program culminated with the third annual PQAR symposium, attended by past and current PQAR students and personnel, GPH faculty, and families and friends of the students. They welcomed Dr. Alisa Stephens-Shields from the University of Pennsylvania, who delivered the keynote speech.

Everyone at the PQAR program looks forward to continued programming with the three current cohorts, and is energized in the effort to increase underrepresented students in the field of quantitative public health and aging research. For more information on the program, visit their website, or watch the “I AM GPH '' podcast episode featuring the program’s principal investigator and chair of the department, Dr. Rebecca Betensky, and its program coordinator, Vardia Duterville, who discuss GPH’s PQAR summer program.

PQAR Student presenters

Pictured: PQAR students presenters.

Dr. Betensky speaking at PQAR symposium

Pictured: Dr. Rebecca Betensky speaking at the symposium.

PQAR students discussing at the symposium

Pictured: Students discussing at the symposium.