Student Profiles

Wenjie Bao

Wenjie Bao

Masters student, SM1

Initially studied how to use microorganisms to brew the world’s best beers and wines, Wenjie decided to dig deeper into the science behind all the fascinating metabolism of microbes. Therefore, he came to the United States to study Biochemistry at George Washington University. Along the way to get his master degree in Biochemistry, he came across another category of microbes but much more vicious than those help to make our favorite liquid bread – Virus. He studied how Hepatitis C Virus infection would prime the liver for fibrosis and liver cancer, and how to manipulate the virus to render it harmless. Despite the great satisfaction from doing basic research, Wenjie wants to apply his knowledge to the field and touch people’s life in a more direct way. Epidemiology was exactly the combination of exciting research and real-life field practice. The results of epidemiological studies can directly impact how policies are made and how resources are allocated. At Harvard School of Public Health, Wenjie started to explore infectious disease epidemiology, asking questions like how infectious diseases emerge and outbreak in the population. He is also working in Boston Children’s Hospital with a group of young people developing tools to monitor recent outbreaks around the world. The one-year Master of Science program is transforming him from a researcher to a detective tracking the world’s deadly viruses in the field.

Elizabeth Cespedes

Elizabeth Cespedes

Doctoral student

Elizabeth cemented her interest in chronic disease research as a volunteer health educator in Guatemala: “I was struck by the dual burden of obesity and malnutrition, sometimes within the same family.” As a result of prior work with Latino communities in the U.S. as a medical interpreter, clinical researcher and program evaluator, it was already clear to her that intervening on chronic disease requires an understanding of how biology interplays with social and economic factors like acculturation, poverty and migration. These experiences motivate her interest in obesity, a topic that links a number of outcomes often studied separately but for which related prevention strategies might be developed.  After completing her Master’s at HSPH, Elizabeth decided to stay on as a dual degree candidate in the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology because of the opportunity to combine Public Health Nutrition with rigorous training in epidemiologic methods. Currently she helps coordinate a clinic-based childhood obesity intervention trial in Mexico City, and has become interested in sleep as a novel risk factor for obesity and diabetes in children and adults.

Fan Mu

Doctoral studentFan Mu

Fan Mu’s passion in reproductive health originated from her experiences during medical school of Peking University, ranging from volunteering to improve reproductive health of long distance truck drivers to leading the investigation of the reasons for not using contraception among women who requested for induced abortion in Beijing, China. She came to the States to pursue her master’s degree in Epidemiology at HSPH. “One of the best choices I made in my life was to came here and learn all the methodologies and quantitative skills to address the questions I wanted to”, she remarks. Here at HSPH, Fan was fascinated by Dr. Stacey Missmer’s research on endometriosis-a gynecological disorder-and joined Dr. Missmer’s research team as a doctoral student in Epidemiology at HSPH. “I was astonished by how little we know about endometriosis given the substantial impact the disease has on women’s health and lives”. She has worked on relations between plasma biomarkers and endometriosis risk using the invaluable Nurses Health Study data to reveal disease mechanisms. Now she is working on the long-term heart disease risks of endometrosis patients to help predict and prevent women from cardiovascular diseases. The results of those studies are intriguing and are leading to future investigations. With a medical background, comprehensive methodologically training and strong quantitative capacity she gained here at HSPH, she aspires to address the countless unanswered questions in reproductive medicine, with the ultimate goal to improve human reproductive health.

Corey Peak

Masters student, SM2Corey Peak

The goal of reducing suffering in vulnerable populations has been a consistent theme in Corey Peak’s career while the approach towards this goal has continued to develop. He began exploring the intersections of health sciences and the humanities as an undergraduate majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Religious Studies. Corey entered the field of malaria research first on an academic project to develop a low-resource diagnostic then in the pharmaceutical industry on development of a transmission-blocking drug. “I came to Harvard School of Public Health hoping to find a field where my interests in biomedical and social sciences are not just more balanced, but where they need to work together seamlessly,” he said. Experiences with HSPH’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative have opened his eyes to such challenges and opportunities for applied epidemiology. To explore these research interests more deeply and develop skills needed to become an independent investigator, Corey plans to apply to continue his studies as a doctoral student in Epidemiology.

Ryan Seals

Ryan Seals

Doctoral student

“We live our lives immersed in our environments, whether natural or artificial,” says Ryan Seals. Pursuing his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, Ryan developed a strong belief in the ability of science to better people’s lives. But understanding the effects of a rapidly changing and complex environment is equally important, because the burdens of progress are often heaped on the most marginalized members of society. “Environmental epidemiology appeals to me in that it studies those causes of disease that we don’t get to choose ourselves, at least not knowingly. And applying new methods of causal inference to these complex issues may allow us to answer the most difficult questions about who is most vulnerable, and why.” It was the idea of studying populations that turned Ryan towards epidemiology: “I was required to take a biostatistics course near the end of my undergraduate program, and I was hooked. There is elegance to epidemiologic theory, and fun in epidemiologic practice. Working on new ways to test theories and, hopefully, impact public health makes every day interesting.”