Field Experience

Lauren Reid

Most MPH students are required to complete a field experience in the summer between their first and second year of graduate school.  Many students use  this opportunity as a way to network and potentially work for a company or organization that will hire them after they graduate.

I hoped to find a field experience that really related to something that I was interested in.  I applied to many positions in the DC area as I eventually see myself working with regulatory or legal matters, however I think I was a little late to the game.  Although I started applying in mid-February, the deadline for many of the internship opportunities had already passed.  My advice?  If you want to find a position in DC, start looking EARLY.  Maybe even before the end of fall semester.

The other unfortunate thing about some of the governmental internships, was that the notification period was not until April, or even early May.  I even received some emails gently turning me down in June!

Luckily, it all worked out in my favor.  While exploring the University of Michigan Clinical Studies website, which compiles all of the clinical research going on at the university, I came across this studyVasantha Padmanabhan, a professor in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and molecular and integrative physiology, is examining the effects of endocrine disruptors, such as the common industrial chemical Bisphenol A (of nalgene and baby bottle fame), on pregnancy.  This includes examining potential complications such as preterm birth and birth defects.

After speaking with Dana Dolinoy, SPH’s resident expert on Bisphenol A (BPA), I was put in contact with Vansantha, and began working with the data and sample collection aspect of the study.   As part of the study, blood and tissue are collected from the mother.  These samples are then used to evaluate the level of bisphenol A, and the DNA and RNA makeup of the sample.  The DNA and RNA analysis is done by Dana, and it is an important part of the study because BPA has been shown to create epigenetic changes.  Epigenetic changes are changes to how DNA is expressed, without changing the actual sequence and make-up of the DNA.

This study meshed perfectly with my interests, and although it does not exactly fall under the regulatory area that I am also interested in, I think that seeing how a clinical study is done will help me to better understand these studies when using them to make regulatory decisions.

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