Two doctoral candidates from the Department of Epidemiology have won prestigious F31 research fellowship grants from the National Institutes of Health. The purpose of these pre-doctoral awards is to enable students to obtain funding while conducting dissertation research in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of a variety of NIH Institutes and Centers.
The multi-year awards are for about $43,000 per year to cover the trainee’s doctoral stipend and tuition. The awards are notoriously difficult to get, with success rates well below 20% for most NIH Institutes/Centers.
Lauren Schwartz was awarded funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Her grant award focuses on an ongoing project in collaboration with the University of Maryland’s Center for Vaccine Development to enroll cases with severe diarrhea and healthy matched controls in children under five in Mali, Kenya, and The Gambia. The study aims to estimate the effectiveness of rotavirus vaccine and to understand the causes of severe diarrhea. Schwartz’s study leverages the infrastructure from this ongoing study to try to determine the reasons that vaccine effectiveness in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia is only 40-60% compared to 90% in the U.S. and Europe. By collecting saliva in cases and controls who have received rotavirus vaccine, the study hopes to determine how genetic determinants may influence vaccine failure.
Emily Deichsel was awarded funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Her study will provide new evidence in understanding the pathway between maternal health and infant diarrhea, malnutrition, and death among HIV-exposed, uninfected infants. Diarrheal disease is a leading cause of death among children under 5 years old and evidence suggests that HIV-exposed, uninfected children may be more susceptible to diarrhea-causing pathogens and long-term sequelae. The findings will identify opportunities to intervene on novel modifiable factors to decrease diarrhea incidence and consequences.