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Nathan Kelete, UNC '25, CSS 9

Research Profile: Computer Science Meets Public Health

October 10, 2022

Nathan Kelete (UNC ’25, CSS 9) is a computer science and information science double-major from Charlotte, NC, with a minor in data science. His summer research in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Equity and Environmental Justice Program internship utilized his analytical skills to explore the disproportionate effect of environmental exposures on low-income areas and populations of color.

Where did you conduct research this summer?

This summer, I conducted research in the Fry Lab with Dr. Rebecca Fry in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

What research questions does your lab study?

Dr. Fry’s lab studies how exposure to toxic substances is related to human disease outcomes, with focuses on genomic and epigenomic effects. Environmental justice is a big focus of the lab–addressing how environmental exposures disproportionately affect low-income areas and people of color.

Please tell us a little about the research project you worked on.

This summer, I studied how air pollution exposure during pregnancy affected placental proteins. I focused on placental genomics, with 274 proteins involved in the study, and identified the biological pathways that were affected. My project was more data science focused rather than wet lab based; I conducted data analysis, model construction, and figure generation in the R coding language.

How has this experience shaped your future goals?

Working in a public health lab this summer has opened my eyes to how computer science can be applied to different fields. With the Fry Lab specifically, learning about the importance of environmental justice through weekly guest speakers has made me consider how I can continue to be involved with it in future career paths.

What has been the most fun or interesting part of your research?

While there is a lot of research out there about air pollution and children, the Fry Lab is one of the only labs focusing specifically on prematurely born infants–meaning those born before 28 gestational weeks. It was interesting to learn the mechanisms that brought about preterm birth and how health outcomes are drastically different for prematurely born infants.

Photo by Melanie Busbee Photo

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