Trainee Spotlight: Pahriya Ashrap

Pahriya Ashrap is a PhD candidate from the University of Michigan working in the discipline of Environmental Health Sciences under the mentorship of Project 1 Investigator John D. Meeker. Pahriya has been a trainee in PROTECT since the Fall of 2017, and her responsibilities include conducting independent research, such as data analysis, research communications including manuscript writing, and presentations. Recently, Pahriya submitted posters and orally presented her work at the 2018 NIEHS SRP Annual Meeting, the Academic Pediatric Association Environmental Health Scholars Annual Retreat, and the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology Annual Meeting for the last three years. At the Academic Pediatric Association Environmental Health Scholars Annual Retreat Pahriya was among 30 scholars granted a travel award to attend the 16th annual Environmental Health Scholars Retreat at Brown University. In March, she became a Barbour Scholar, which acknowledges and provides a scholarship covering one full year of tuition and fees for exceptional female graduate students at the University of Michigan. One month later, she was also granted the Teh-Hsun and Mang-Shuen Lee Award which is granted to University of Michigan Students for their work in engineering and sciences.

Pahriya brings passion, dedication, and drive in her participation with our team in PROTECT, and has always been interested in studying environmental impacts on public health influenced by her experience being a member of the Uyghur people in central Asia. While volunteering for an AIDS prevention network she has experienced the effects of poverty, pollution, and lack of quality health care services, and saw firsthand how these compounding factors negatively impact public health, especially of women and children. “These experiences got me interested in studying environmental science and pursuing a career in environmental health,” says Pahriya. “Therefore, my desire to pursue a career in public health has always been directly related to my desire to advocate for the health and well-being of my people, and also the people that are vulnerable and underrepresented.” This passion funnels into the work she does supporting her epidemiologic research of pregnancy outcomes in Puerto Rican women.

As a trainee in Dr. John Meeker’s lab, Pahriya uses epidemiology methods to explore environmental exposures in humans, attempting to decrease the knowledge gap between disease causes and disease manifestation. During her training, she has learned to apply methods from both epidemiology and biostatistics as her main tools to decrease that gap. Under Dr. Meeker’s mentorship, Pahriya has learned much about research translation and that communication must be a core part of doing science. “We can produce data and results, but if we don’t communicate it with other scientists and the public to affect practice and policy, we’ve fallen short,” says Pahriya. “In the beginning of my training, I felt challenged to write about my research, but with the help of my mentors, I was able to finish my first manuscript on the predictor and sources of phenols and parabens biomarkers among pregnant women in PROTECT. Through a few more manuscript I gradually learned that how we can improve on our language choices and our data translation.” Since her first manuscript, Pahriya has published many manuscripts, doing her part to communicate scientific knowledge effectively and contribute to the community.

Additionally, she has had the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across different projects and work with other trainees on professional development initiatives. Through her work as a leader amongst trainees and as a student at University of Michigan, she has realized the importance of mentorship. “Mentoring has become very important to me,” says Pahriya. “It’s a way I give back for all the help I received on my journey. My dream of making an impact on society was just a dream until I came to this stage in professional life, and so many people along the way have supported me. Everyone has been remarkably generous with their time and energy, so I want to do the same for others.”

In the future, Pahriya plans to pursue post-doctoral training at an institution that provides an opportunity to be a researcher that will further address the gap between epidemiological research and physiological mechanisms in environmental health by using quantitative and computational methods. She dreams of becoming a researcher in either academia or government with the mission of conducting research that leads to policies that will limit the exposure to toxic chemicals and ultimately advance public health practice.

Check out more about Pahriya Ashrap on her academic webpage.