Dr Laura Ellen Birks, MPH PhD

Epidemiologist, ISGlobal

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Meet STEM professionals outside of your daily environment.

What do you do?

I have spent the last five years at ISGlobal researching associations between exposure to a type of radiation from mobile devices (radiofrequency) and behavioral problems in children and adolescents. My work involves many different roles. Tasks include: taking measurements and working with study subjects in the field, cleaning data from different countries and cohorts, working with biostatisticians and other epidemiologists to plan study protocols and statistical analyses, writing code and models in statistical software for epidemiological analysis, writing manuscripts for publication in scientific journals, and traveling to share results with other institutions at scientific conferences.

Why did you choose this field?

I originally studied Biology in order to prepare myself for medical school in the US. I eventually realized I wanted to work with medicine in a different way. My path to ISGlobal was not a straight one, but through some career decisions involving a love for Spanish and Public Health, I ended up in Barcelona with Pompeu Fabra University, which connected me with ISGlobal.

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

Younger me did not know it was possible to make a living traveling around the world, writing scientific articles, and learning. I only thought this was something I had to pay to do, not that I could get paid to do it!

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love problem solving, I love finding unexpected trends or results, I love seeing what surprises others around me have discovered.

Best advice for next generation?

Learn a coding language, start coding early. I wish I had done this sooner. And look to meet STEM professionals outside of your daily environment.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood." Marie Curie

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