Ph.D. in Public Health
Student Profiles

Jaime Allgood

Jaime Allgood, MA

Ph.D Student

My research interests are in green chemistry public policy. Currently, I am completing a qualitative study on the public comments to California’s Green Chemistry Initiative. I am also interested in chemicals of concern - mainly flame retardants and bisphenol-A,, assessment of associated risks and possible alternatives. Further, I am interested in practical asspects of alternatives to products containing bisphenol-A such as consumer knowledge and preferences for those products. Also, I am beginning a study measuring levels of flame retardants, mainly from common office electronics, found in dust and possible risks to persons exposed.

Bridgette Blebu

Bridgette Blebu, MPH

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Annie Ro

Broadly my interests include health disparities and neighborhood research. I’m also interested in the association between receiving context and immigrant health, particularly as it relates to factors that increase risk for adverse health outcomes over time. My dissertation focuses on neighborhood social context and prematurity among infants born to black immigrant women in the state of California. In my work, I examine whether neighborhoods contribute to the risk of premature birth by considering the intersections of factors in the receiving context (e.g. racial residential segregation) and migration factors unique to black immigrants in the United States.

Amanda Brown Tortorici

Amanda Brown Tortorici, MS, RD, CSCS

Ph.D Student

I am a current recipient of the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31), and my research focuses on dietary behaviors in end-stage renal disease hemodialysis patients.



I am a practicing registered dietitian, and I have conducted nutritional assessments on hemodialysis patients enrolled in the Malnutrition, Diet, and Racial Disparities in Chronic Kidney Disease study. I also currently serve on the International Society of Renal Nutrition and Metabolism (ISRNM) review panel to work with the Kidney Disease Outcome Quality Initiative (KDOQI) to develop updates on guidelines in renal nutrition.

Kathleen Carlos

Kathleen Carlos,

Ph.D Student

I am interested in the promotion of mental wellness in medical students and physicians, as this population is at high risk of developing depression and suicidal behaviors. My research measures behavioral and physiological risk factors (stress, sleep, exercise, neuroendocrine-immune functioning, etc.) for depression and suicidality in medical students with the purpose of elucidating pathways for prevention.

Biblia Cha

Biblia Cha,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: TBA

My research interests include mental health and mental health service use; health disparities, and the intersection of race, religion/spirituality, and health. My current work investigates social, structural, and racialized factors that contribute to inequities in mental health service use within Asian American communities. I am also interested in mixed methods research and program evaluation. My previous research has focused on mental health service use among undocumented college students and community disaster resilience in underserved Southern California neighborhoods.

Nicole DeVille

Nicole DeVille, MPH

Ph.D Candidate

Advisor: Veronica Vieira

My broad research interests include maternal and child health, environmental health, mental health and wellness, health disparities in Pacific Islander and Indigenous populations, and public health education. My dissertation research explores how and at what levels mixtures of prenatal chemical and non-chemical stressors affect risky behavior during adolescence. I also work with our Director of Undergraduate Education on an initiative called Empowering Students for Success in Public Health, which provides discipline-specific programming focused on academic success and personal and professional development for first-generation, low-income undergraduate students affiliated with our department.

Huong (Theresa)  Duong

Huong (Theresa) Duong,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Suellen Hopfer

Huong (Theresa) Duong is a Ph.D. student on the Disease Prevention track in the Program in Public Health. Her research to date has focused on various aspects of communication around the HPV vaccination and cervical cancer. Furthermore, her interests lie in cancer prevention, developing health behavior interventions, and addressing health disparities in minority populations, particularly in the Asian American community. Her current work revolves around understanding intergenerational health communication in Vietnamese families and designing culturally appropriate cancer communication interventions in the context of social media messaging platforms.

Samantha Garcia

Samantha Garcia, MPH, CHES

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Suellen Hopfer

Samantha’s research focuses on advancing the understanding of mechanisms contributing to Latino health disparities and intervening with efficacious health behavior interventions utilizing health communication strategies. Her work focuses on developing, implementing and testing community-based interventions using mixed methods research. Currently, she is investigating intrapersonal, sociocultural and structural drivers of HPV-vaccination disparities among Latina sub-groups. Using a multi-level approach, Samantha will investigate the influence of HPV message framing and strategy appeals on HPV vaccination behavior.

Javier Garcia-Rivas

Javier Garcia-Rivas, MA

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Dean B. Baker

My research interests are in occupational health psychology and the surveillance of psychosocial factors at work. I am interested in exploring working conditions which contribute to the development of mental and physical health outcomes in diverse occupational groups. My past research experience includes the assessment of psychosocial work stressors and the development/adaptation of context and culture-specific questionnaires (e.g. presenteeism, burnout, stress) in the Mexican industry. My current efforts are focused on work-site environment and health behaviors which may be related to obesity measures among firefighters. Also, I am exploring working conditions and injury experience among vulnerable Latino working populations. I currently maintain academic and research collaborations with universities in Latin America, including my home university in Mexico.

Sara Goodman

Sara Goodman,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Daniel M. Parker

My research interests include infectious diseases, particularly Hepatitis C and sexually transmitted diseases including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV/AIDS. I am also interested in global health and vulnerable populations. I am currently focusing on the Hepatitis C surveillance data to better understand the disease burden in Orange County and the Hepatitis C treatment cascade and why people are not being retained in care. I was a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso, 2011-2013 which sparked my interest in Public Health, I currently volunteer at the Orange County Public Health Department working on their Hepatitis C data. 

Fangqi Guo

Fangqi Guo,

Ph.D Student

The newborn screening for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) is properly performed in rural areas. My doctoral research is focused on implementing a newborn CCHD screening training program for pediatric and obstetric doctors and nurses in rural Yunnan province of China and evaluating the effectiveness of the training program. I am also interested in the epidemiology of pediatric pulmonary hypertension and Eisenmenger syndrome in underdeveloped areas.

Georgia Halkia

Georgia Halkia,

Ph.D Student

My passion has always been to help and work with underrepresented minorities and managed to get involved with educational and research projects that have a significant public health impact. As a master’s student I was involved with the Center of Excellence for Behavioral and Social Research on Terrorism and Counterterrorism, which lead to creating imminent threat public health messages for mobile devices, and with the California Earthquake Study of Household Preparedness (The Great California ShakeOut).  My current research focuses on understanding individual and community implications of human-induced seismicity caused by deep-wastewater injection to create interventions that best serve the needs of those affected as well as to inform policy. Deep injection of wastewater from fossil-fuel extraction can result in extremely frequent earthquakes. In some areas, individuals may experience earthquakes nearly every day. The relatively sudden increase in potential physical risk and property damage inherent in these earthquakes can prove to be a powerful psychological stressor to this population. Presently, over 7 million Americans are living in areas affected by these chronic, artificial earthquakes. The purpose of my research is to shed light on the challenges that individuals and communities face due to this seismicity, as well as the affected individuals’ perspectives.

Brook Jeang

Brook Jeang,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Daniel M. Parker

My interests are in global health and the implementation of point-of-care diagnostics in low-resource settings. I am interested in studying diagnostics because they sit at the intersection of two issues I am passionate about: health and education. I earned my BS/ MSE from Johns Hopkins University in Materials Science and Engineering, where my research focused on tissue engineering and drug delivery. I realized my interests lay in rapid diagnostic tests while conducting research on microfluidic devices at the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan. In pursuit of a translational research opportunity as well as a more in-depth understanding of the immunoassays commonly built into POC devices, I worked as a research associate at City of Hope National Medical Center, where my work focused on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell immunotherapy for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer patients with brain metastases. I hope to draw from my experiences in materials science, bioengineering, and translational research to better understand and cross barriers in the design and implementation of diagnostics for infectious diseases.

Tamara Jimah

Tamara Jimah,

Ph.D Student

My dissertation research seeks to contribute to current knowledge on improving stewardship to prevent antibiotic-resistant infections. The imminent public health consequence of drug resistance is the high burden of morbidity and mortality in communities. Today, antibiotics are indispensable, however, the limited number of life-saving antibiotics and the decreasing efficacy of those available are concerning. Although antibiotic resistance is widespread, low and middle-income countries, in particular, are projected to incur the greatest burden. I am interested in understanding the potential factors contributing to this growing global health threat. Data gathered from fieldwork conducted in Ghana will assess antibiotic knowledge and consumption among various socio-demographic and economic groups, including stakeholders' role in improving antibiotic stewardship. 

Dustin Moore

Dustin Moore,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Yunxia Lu

As a registered dietitian, I have a particular interest in health and wellness as they relate to dietary behaviors and practices. For this reason, my research focuses on nutrition-related public policy, cultural practices and beliefs pertaining to food, and empowering individuals to integrate and adopt healthier behaviors. I completed my BS in Dietetics from Brigham Young University, after which my wife and I moved to California to pursue graduate work as well as opportunities to serve within our community. 

Ngozi Genevieve  Nwosisi

Ngozi Genevieve Nwosisi,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: David Timberlake

My research interests are broadly in smoking cessation among the HIV-positive persons. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the challenges to smoking cessation that people living with HIV face as a barrier to achieving high quit rates. Key factors that I will be studying include risk perceptions, motivations, and health beliefs of patients. I will also analyze patient-provider health communication, in particular, physicians' adherence to the 5As intervention method as recommended by the Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guideline for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence.

Brandon Osborn

Brandon Osborn,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Annie Ro

My current research interest focuses on the social epidemiology of diet. I have recently been studying food security and its implications for diet and disease risk among Latina/os. Prior to my arrival at UC Irvine, I worked as a program assistant at the Center for Health Equity Research (CSU Long Beach). During this time, I helped evaluate a variety of place-based programs including Building Health Communities and multiple CalGRIP projects aimed at decreasing gang involvement and human trafficking. In the community, I have volunteered as a research & evaluation coordinator for the UC Irvine Mobile Food Pantry. I also served as the health education coordinator for the Orange County Transitions in Health Program, during which I developed a health and resource education curriculum for inmates pending release from the Orange County Jail System.

Vida Rebello

Vida Rebello,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Andrew Noymer

My research interests focus on quantifying the impact of infectious diseases on the population and their interaction with humans as well as other hosts and identifying drivers of disease transmission. The overarching aim of my research is to help contribute to the strengthening of health systems in developing countries, with regards to the control and response to infectious diseases and building the capacity to improve the use of data in low-resource settings.
Previously, I worked with Nothing but Nets and the United Nations Foundation as a Global Health fellow to address global health challenges, such as preventative measures for malaria and child vaccination coverage. I have also worked with health care institutions in the United States and India to improve the quality of health care, increase patient safety and reduce healthcare-associated infections.

Victoria E. Rodriguez

Victoria E. Rodriguez, MSW, MPH

Ph.D Student

My research interests encompass inequities in women’s sexual and reproductive health. I am interested in the structural, racialized, and gendered processes that contribute to women’s health outcomes. Specifically, I am focused on Latina women’s quality of life and social and health-related experiences after surviving gynecologic and breast cancers.

Parvati Singh

Parvati Singh,

Ph.D Student

My research examines the association between health systems and use of safety nets (such as Emergency Departments) for mental health services. Some examples of the system level factors I study are economic downturns and community health centers. My dissertation examines the association between psychiatric Emergency Department visits and economic downturns. I aim to develop a deeper understanding of how system level factors influence utilization of mental health services, and whether expansion of health systems may reduce adverse mental health outcomes. I am also interested in impact evaluation of policy tools like income or benefits transfers on maternal and child health. I enjoy learning about analytic approaches and statistical methods. Apart from this, I am building my knowledge in the field of in-utero selection, cohort variation in infant survival and indicators of cohort fitness such as sex ratio and male-specific birth defects.  

Ian Tang

Ian Tang,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Veronica Vieira

My research interests primarily revolve around toxicology, environmental health, and birth defects. I am also very interested in modeling the spatio-temporal trends of environment exposures such as air pollution, proximity to wells, and water contamination. My current research looks to better understand the etiology of birth defects, which is not well understood, by modeling and mapping environmental exposures in the context of their geographic locations. My prior research experiences explored PBDEs, air pollution, and the spatial distribution of Lyme disease. 

Connie Valencia

Connie Valencia, MPH, CHES

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Cynthia Lakon

My research interest focus on health disparities, healthy equity, health and social policy, minority health, childhood obesity, health literacy and social capital. I am interested in learning more about how the structural environment and social health disparities impact health outcomes among low-income Latino residents. I obtained my BS from UCLA and an MPH from Cal State Fullerton with a combined emphasis of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention/Environmental and Occupational Health.

Carolina Villanueva

Carolina Villanueva,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Veronica Vieira

My research interests lie in examining the role that geographic location plays in disparities observed in health outcomes. I am passionate about understanding the differential effects that residential location has on vulnerable populations, from inequities in access to care to the disproportionate exposures to environmental pollutants. My dissertation research focuses on investigating the association between geographic location and ovarian cancer outcomes, while examining the impact of race and socioeconomic status.

Nik Warren

Nik Warren,

Ph.D Student

My primary interests revolve around digestive health and natural approaches. Diseases of the gut fascinate me, and my goal is to better understand the associations of gut health, stress, and greenspace restoration in the hope of finding ways to mitigate the impact of various gut diseases through natural means. Through this research, I also hope to reiterate the vital need for, and access to, protected greenspace. I have a great love of animals and have several in my family. I hope to apply my findings regarding gut health in ways that improve the lives of critters. In addition to my own explorations, I am working with Dr. Miryha Runnerstrom on some intriguing studies regarding the use of greenspace.

Robert Weltman

Robert Weltman,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Rufus Edwards

Robert is a Public Health PhD student in the global health concentration at UCI. Robert achieved his MS in environmental health sciences from UCI in 2017 for his thesis, "In-field Emissions from Rural Indian Households". After achieving the MS, Robert has continued working at UCI, primarily to study the pollutant emissions of solid-fuel burning cookstoves. Robert has co-authored several peer-reviewed publications, where has contributed knowledge on epidemiology, GIS mapping, analytical chemistry, hazardous air pollution, and both indoor and outdoor cooking.

Margaret Whitley

Margaret Whitley,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Annie Ro

Broadly, I am interested in the preventive health behaviors that happen in people’s everyday lives, and how structural factors influence those behaviors. My dissertation work uses quantitative methods to examine how working conditions relate to breastfeeding behaviors among working mothers. I have an MPH in Community Health Sciences and a BA in Social Welfare.

Justin Wilford

Justin Wilford,

Ph.D Student

Advisor: Lari B. Wenzel

My research interests lie in translating laboratory, clinical, and epidemiological findings in preventive and behavioral medicine into community-based interventions to lower health risks throughout the trajectory of childhood cancer survivorship. More specifically, I am interested in combining social psychological findings in social support, social learning, and social modelling with pre-clinical and clinical research in supportive oncology and preventive medicine. I want to use this multidisciplinary integration to design flexible, mobile, and adaptive health behavior interventions for childhood cancer survivors and their families. Ultimately, my goal is to find ways to leverage the power of human social integration to improve health and lower risks across the survivorship continuum. I hold a doctorate in geography from UCLA and made the transition into public health after my wife and I started a childhood cancer non-profit called MaxLove Project, inspired by our son’s battle with brain cancer.

Tze-An Joann Yuan

Tze-An Joann Yuan,

Ph.D Student

As I am on the Disease Prevention Track, my goal in public health is to identify the population at risk of non-communicable diseases, especially in malignancies. In particular, my research focuses on finding genetic variations in melanoma carcinogenesis, in hopes to provide more accurate information for the possibility of developing novel biomarkers for screening out highly susceptible individuals in order to improve melanoma early detection or prevention.

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