Research for Good

Abigail Bryer ’23

"A lot of my research focus has been analyzing the data collected about COVID-19 within Native American communities...Researching and working in ways that help people is something that I have always wanted to be a part of and this research opportunity has been a stepping stone to do so."

Q: How has Lehigh prepared you to take on tomorrow’s challenges?

A: Through the classes and opportunities I have experienced at Lehigh I have a new found confidence in my academic and professional abilities which I think will allow me to be successful in the future. Through faculty guidance I feel I have found the field I am best suited for and have been given a strong foundation for anything I may experience going forward. I also think that Lehigh has provided me with an unimaginable amount of connections and support systems that I know I can turn to for help if needed.

Q: You switched into the recently opened College of Health as a junior. Can you tell us about your experience in COH so far?

A: My freshman year at Lehigh I was in the College of Arts and Sciences with an undeclared major, but thinking of studying cognitive science. However, the COVID-19 pandemic was still prevalent during the fall of my sophomore year when the College of Health conveniently opened. This prompted me to enroll in some of the introductory courses in population health which led me to transfer from the College of Arts and Sciences to the COH. My experience so far has been great even with solely zoom classes for the entirety of my sophomore year. I was able to learn a lot within that first year and I have learned even more with being back in-person. One of my favorite aspects of the college is the small class size because I can better engage in class discussions and material as well as being able to form closer connections with peers and CoH faculty.

Q: You are doing research with the Dalys. Can you please tell us more about that, and why you’re interested in research that can impact humanity?

A: In the spring of 2021 I applied to a new research internship program Lehigh was offering called STEM-SI. Through this I was paired with the Daleys and their research team at the Institute for Indigenous Studies (IIS) for a summer internship. I worked alongside them on various projects they had running including the effects of COVID-19 among American Indian populations, smoking-cessation programs, and social media data collection. Throughout the fall 2021 semester I have been able to continue this research. A lot of my focus throughout this experience has been analyzing the data collected about COVID-19 within Native American communities. Specifically, I was given the opportunity to explore qualitative data by transcribing and analyzing interviews along with working alongside others to produce a research paper. This experience along with the classes I have taken have made me realize how much I enjoy learning about different communities and/or populations and the ways health impacts everyone differently. Communities and individuals whose health is impacted by the disadvantages they face is research that needs to be projected into the greater population. Awareness regarding environmental, social, political, and commercial determinants of health needs to be more prevalent in daily news outlets and media; it should be a major topic of conversation along with what we can do to combat it. Researching and working in ways that help people is something that I have always wanted to be a part of and this research opportunity has been a stepping stone to do so.

Q: What is a classroom or extracurricular activity at Lehigh that helped you determine what you want to pursue in the future?

A: I have been able to take a wide variety of classes that have covered many different topics in population health even in the short time I have been enrolled in the College of Health. From courses covering global environment and human welfare, the biological basis of disease, maternal and child health, epidemiology of cancer, and more, I have been exposed to so many different aspects of health. I have discovered my strong interest in the incidence and distribution of disease as well as determining factors that influence that spread. I also have found a strong passion for learning about maternal and child health and the disadvantages women and children face in healthcare. While I am not certain on what I want to pursue in the future, I can very much see myself going into a field that focuses on either womens’ and or childrens’ health or epidemiology, if not a combination of the two!

Q: What is your favorite thing about Lehigh?

A: There are a lot of things I love about Lehigh, but my favorite thing is probably its size. When I was looking at colleges I knew I did not want a super big school, I was looking for a closer knit community. At Lehigh I rarely walk to class without seeing a familiar face and am always running into friends. I feel like Lehigh is a big enough university that I am always meeting new people, but I don’t feel like a small fish in a big pond. Another thing about the size, is, while I am constantly being introduced to new peers, I am almost always able to find a mutual connection with them. Lehigh really has given me a sense of community that I was looking forward to when looking at colleges.

Q: Where is your study spot of choice on campus?

A: My all-time favorite study spot on campus is at the tables in the courtyard outside of FML. If the weather is nice, I can almost always be found sitting there doing homework, listening to music, having lunch with my friends, or just hanging out before my next class. I find doing homework in that area outside significantly decreases my stress and also allows me to enjoy myself while studying.

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Learning to Lead

Majors: Biology & Health, Medicine & Society
Hometown: Bronx, NY

Malika Kumbella