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Christina Fennell

Incoming PhD student in Population Health Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Founder, Mathematical Applications Shine to Encourage Rising Scholars (MASTERS)

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I wake up looking forward to further developing into a scientist and a public health leader.

What do you do?

I use statistical and biological concepts to study the distribution of diseases within communities. My research interests include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among historically marginalized populations and youth populations. One of my research projects involves analyzing birth outcomes among young mothers living with HIV in Botswana. Another HIV-related project consists of determining areas of opportunity to improve current pre-exposure prophylaxis distribution and uptake efforts among young men who have sex with men in Baltimore City, Maryland.

Why did you choose this field?

I chose a career in epidemiology because I was always interested in community health. I had an aptitude for mathematics and science, and I knew that I wanted to pursue a career other than medicine. I completed several public health courses while at Spelman College through Morehouse College’s Public Health Sciences Institute. Some of my professors were epidemiologists who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they would share their experiences. I became inspired by their work, and I later pursued this interest during an internship at Johns Hopkins University. After graduating from college, I was confident that epidemiology was the right career for me.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

My acceptance into a PhD program at Harvard University is my greatest accomplishment. Before Spelman College, I created limitations for my career, but because of my college experiences, I would tell my younger self to never limit my dreams to fit other people’s expectations, because growing up I did not believe I could have accomplished this goal.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working in STEM because I know that I am learning quantitative skills that can help advocate for health equity for members of historically marginalized communities. I wake up looking forward to further developing into a scientist and a public health leader.

Best advice for next generation?

I would encourage girls interested in STEM to 1) fearlessly explore all aspects of STEM because the opportunities are endless! 2) consider attending women’s colleges as they were specifically created for women to succeed in any field they choose to pursue, and the experience is unique and empowering 3) if they are one of the only girls or person of color in their STEM classes, do not be intimidated because their presence is a privilege for others, and they will have much to contribute.

Inspo quote / fun fact

I founded a non-profit organization, Mathematical Applications Shine to Encourage Rising Scholars (MASTERS). Pursuing a career in STEM can be difficult, so as I move forward in my career I strive to encourage youth to appreciate STEM through completing fun activities. I want to ultimately encourage youth to persevere through any academic challenge they may experience. The Instagram page is: https://www.instagram.com/masters_spelman/?hl=en