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The Class of 2019

This crop of public health professionals is ready to take on the world.

Convocation at the Bloomberg School is Tuesday, May 21 at 3:00 p.m. 

This group of soon-to-be-grads shares what inspired them into the field, their research, and their insider advice for future students—like respecting the absolute importance of sleep.

They're on their way to further public health studies, exploration and figuring out next steps in their plans to protect health and save lives—millions at a time.


Pranay RandadNAME: Pranay R. Randad, MS
HOMETOWN: Frederick, Maryland
DEGREE AND PROGRAM: PhD, Environmental Health
UNDERGRAD/OTHER INSTITUTIONS: MS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University; BS in Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Maryland
RESEARCH AREAS: Infectious disease transmission dynamics; infectious disease biomarker development
ADVISER: Christopher D. Heaney, PhD

I had my “public health moment” about a year into my PhD program. I began to adopt a more holistic approach to thinking about health adversities, and I approached public health questions with skills I developed during my stint in the biotechnology industry. What made me really stick with public health was the amazing collaborative environment I found here at the Bloomberg School. It was full of smart and inspirational people and came with lots of adventure.

The intensive use of antibiotics in food-animal production provides a selective pressure that may give rise to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in livestock. Industrial hog operations (IHOs) may be reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

In the United States, IHO workers are at increased risk of carrying S. aureus, including MDRSA, intranasally and of developing S. aureus skin and soft tissue infections. No studies have elucidated the transmission dynamics for the transmission of S. aureus between pigs raised on IHOs and humans in the top pig-producing counties in North Carolina, the second-highest pig-producing state in the U.S. I employed whole-genome sequencing analysis to provide evidence for the transmission of S. aureus, including MDRSA, between pigs raised on IHOs and humans in North Carolina. I then developed a non-invasive method to identify/measure immunological biomarkers to monitor for S. aureus colonization and infection.

1. I’ve learned new perspectives on approaching health, to think about health conceptually, and that incremental benefits—at the population level—can have major impacts.

2. Sometimes you may feel paralyzed by the entire PhD process, but you will be able to work through it. I had the amazing opportunity to work on a project in Bangladesh during my time here. At times, the obstacles we faced when working in low-income settings seemed insurmountable, but step by step—and with the support of amazing team members—we always worked through them.

3. Doing what you love beats the cash. Well … at least for now.

I’m really excited to write two manuscripts, believe it or not! I’m also excited to travel to conferences and present my work. To celebrate and recharge after graduation, I have a 10-day vacation to Central America coming up. I plan to see volcanoes and relax on the Caribbean coast.

With my public health degree, I hope to develop an independent research career at a top university which includes research, consulting and teaching. I want to continue to travel and meet scientists all around the world. And, of course, I will continue to write and publish.


Peggy NingNAME: Xuejuan (Peggy) Ning
SCHOLARSHIP(S): Nancy Fink Fund for Scholarship and Service
HOMETOWN: Beijing, China
UNDERGRAD/OTHER INSTITUTIONS: Peking University Health Science Center
DEGREE AND PROGRAM: MHS in Cardiovascular Epidemiology
RESEARCH AREA: Examining the relationship between diabetes and abdominal aortic aneurysm
ADVISER: Kunihiro Matsushita, MD

I saw the glory in public health during my first epidemiology class when I learned about how John Snow, the father of epidemiology, combatted cholera by mapping the occurrence of cases. It seemed so cool that one could control and prevent a disease without even knowing what was causing it. Later, I found equally amazing research going on in public health that was not limited to infectious diseases, and I decided to pursue a degree in epidemiology.

My thesis was about disentangling the relationship of diabetes and abdominal aortic aneurysm. Abdominal aortic aneurysms can be fatal when they rupture, and effective treatments other than surgical repair are still lacking. Interestingly, diabetic patients have lower risk of aneurysm, but reasons why remain unclear. Although we have not fully explained the paradoxical relationship, we focused on the facets of diabetes that are associated with lower risk of aneurysm and discussed potential mechanisms that may shed light on potential prevention or treatment strategies.

1. Coffee is your best friend.

2. Appreciation. I felt grateful to be able to learn from and work with the extraordinary professionals who are so passionate about their research and teaching.

3. Although I enjoy conducting data analyses, I learned that it was the people behind the data that mattered the most. Every drop in my Kaplan-Meier graph reminds me that there is more I need to work on improving.

Sleeping for a week. Also, I’m really excited about working on more interesting and high-impact public health problems where I can apply the training I’ve acquired during my graduate program.

I hope work on important public health problems that will help inform clinical practice and improve the lives of many people.


Nat RogersNAME: Nathaniel Rogers
SCHOLARSHIPS: Centennial Scholars
HOMETOWN: Richmond, Virginia, USA
UNDERGRAD/OTHER INSTITUTIONS: Bachelor of Arts in History from The University of Virginia
DEGREE AND PROGRAM: ScM in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
RESEARCH AREA: Genome integrity
ADVISER: Phil Jordan, PhD

I became interested in medicine and public health while working as a volunteer firefighter and medic, which I have been doing for seven years now. After majoring in history at the University of Virginia, I felt I would benefit from enhancing my science background prior to matriculating into medical school. To accomplish this, I looked into several Master of Science programs. I ultimately chose the Bloomberg School because the curriculum allowed me to take courses in basic science as well as public health, and because the school offers countless seminars on topics ranging from basic science to public health issues that are open to all students regardless of department or degree program.

My thesis is titled “Structural maintenance of chromosomes 5 (SMC5) conditional depletion in murine cerebral cortex leads to microcephaly and genomic instability.” Structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) complexes are important for fetal development, and their depletion can cause a variety of developmental defects, including microcephaly. We have modeled these neurodevelopmental defects in mutant mice.

Hopkins has an incredibly collaborative community of researchers across many departments and disciplines, and being here has shown me how much that type of collaboration can foster discovery and breakthroughs.

Second, I attended several seminars about the opioid crisis, where I learned about the large-scale efforts to combat the effects of opioid addiction on our communities and health care system.

Finally, I taught sex education to middle school boys in Baltimore City for a semester as part of a joint Bloomberg and School of Medicine program. I found that I enjoy teaching and working with kids, which may be something I pursue in my future as a physician.

I will be pursuing my MD at the Tulane School of Medicine in New Orleans. I am very much looking forward to my training there and exploring the culture of New Orleans. I hope to use the knowledge of basic science and public health principles I’ve learned at Hopkins throughout medical school and on into my career as a physician.


Kenny FederNAME: Kenneth A. Feder
SCHOLARSHIPS: National Institutes of Health National Research and Service Award (2017), Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Wellbeing (2017), Paul V. Lemkau Scholarship (2017), Department of Mental Health Mental Health Scholar Award (2015), recipient of the Morton Kramer Fund for the Application of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in Research on the Prevention and Control of Mental Disorders
HOMETOWN: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
DEGREE AND PROGRAM: PhD, Mental Health
UNDERGRAD: BA in Physics and Psychology, Wesleyan University
RESEARCH AREA: The impact of the United States’ opioid epidemic on children and families
ADVISER: Elizabeth J. Letourneau, PhD

Collaboration with other students. It didn’t take long to see that Hopkins students were a unique and remarkable group who not only shared my hunger for learning and discovery but brought an incredible range of skills and knowledge vastly different from my own. This made working on research with my peers here very productive. More importantly, it made research fun.

Challenge yourself. You have the rest of your career to study and work on things you already understand well. Graduate education is a chance to work on projects you don’t understand well. During your time here, you will be offered opportunities to work on projects that sound exciting and valuable to your career but seem intimidating. Say yes anyway! After all, you’re in school to learn, and you might not get this chance again.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to say no. The luxury of having so many opportunities at Hopkins means that, to do anything well, you will have to say no to many projects that sound interesting and promising. Each time you’re offered a project, ask yourself, “How will this benefit me as a scientist and professional? Is it more or less important than my other projects? Will taking on new work negatively affect the work I am already doing?” Carefully thinking through these decisions improve the quality and relevance of all your work.

Sleep. Seriously, grad students who don’t sleep are miserable, and the quality of their work suffers. I’m a night person, and I had to learn that sleep isn’t something that just happens; you have to commit to it. Now, I budget time to sleep into my schedule. I don’t use any electronics in my bedroom. If I have an early morning commitment, I start going to sleep early a few days in advance to shift my natural sleep cycle. If I find I’m not sleeping enough, I cancel things. My happiness and productivity have improved substantially.

I will be joining CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, a two-year training program in applied epidemiology where I will work on outbreak investigation and health emergency response.


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