Student Opportunities for Research and Outreach



Faculty Research Interests and Potential Projects
Listing of SPPH faculty research interests and potential student projects.

Comprehensive Community Approach for Diabetes Prevention & Care for a Vulnerable Population in Galveston.  Diabetes and diseases associated with diabetes are a significant cause of illness and death. Type 2 diabetes is exacerbated by built and social environment issues such as food insecurity and limited access to healthy foods, as well as factors related to poverty and lack of access to health care or health insurance. To address issues, we are conducting a study to test an integrated approach to treatment, enhanced communication among providers, and provision of social services in conjunction with health care. 

  • Life Coach training and participation
  • Assistance with Diabetes Pantry and shopping
  • Diabetes Buddy Program (student led)

Texas Vaccine Outreach and Education Grant.  The overarching goal of this proposal is to understand factors associated with disparities in COVID-19 vaccination uptake (and thus elucidate related disparities in morbidity and mortality) among medically and socially vulnerable and underserved populations in Galveston County. We seek to increase vaccination rates among these populations through community-based initiatives in collaboration with our long-standing community health network. Network members serve NIH-designated health disparity populations, including the socioeconomically disadvantaged, communities of color, and such vulnerable populations as the elderly, the homeless, and individuals with medical comorbidities known to increase risk of COVID-19 severity.

  • Assist with outreach activities throughout the year:
  • Sandcastle Competition
  • Motorcycle Rally
  • Dickens on the Strand
  • Mardi Gras


Engaging the Veteran Community to advance Understanding of Military Exposure Research and Action Priorities.  In the course of military service, veterans experience many potentially hazardous occupational and environmental exposures, some unique to war, but some of universal concern. The Veterans Health Administration maintains one of the largest data warehouses of medical record data, enhanced with medical record and military service data from the DoD and self-reported information from specialized disease and exposure registries. We have utilized these data to identify a cohort of individuals who report exposures during military service. We used interviews and focus groups to assess their level of concern, desire and need for clinical attention, desire for other official response or action, and general assessment of priorities.

  • Increasing outreach to veterans’ populations
  • SCI Cafés
  • Community Conversations
  • Volunteering with:
  • Mayor’s Office for Veterans Affairs
  • Combined Arms
  • Mission United

Determining Extent of Migratory Water Plume Contaminated with Tetrachlorethylene in a Houston Community (Pilot). In 2000, an area located near Jones Road and FM 1960 in Harris County was found to have tetrachloroethylene (TCE) contaminated ground water due to solvent leakage from an area dry cleaning plant. For many residents, well water was and remains the primary bathing and drinking water source. By January 2003, a ground water plume had been documented and mapped. TDSHS, ATSDR, and the EPA have been monitoring this Superfund site for several years but have declined to perform a reevaluation of the plume. We are assisting our community partner, the Texas Health and Environment Alliance, in gathering water pollution data that might be used to prompt the EPA to perform a full reevaluation of plume margins.

  • Assisting with water and soil sampling
  • Air monitoring
  • Dissemination of information
  • Education

Galveston County Health District (GCHD) Short-term Baseline Study with Long-term Hotspot Investigation.  The main objective of this project is to conduct an air toxics assessment throughout the fence-line communities of Galveston County that are subjected to a disproportionate amount of the air pollution generated within the county. We will facilitate a collection of baseline air monitoring data that will be provided to the community via a dedicated project website.

  • Pending funding, assistance with air quality monitoring
  • Dissemination of information
  • Translation of findings

Community-Engaged Research Training.  We recently developed six CEC modules that address participatory approaches to research and interventions to understand the complex determinants associated with public health problems, as well as those factors associated with racial and ethnic health disparities. We are hiring a program evaluator to aid us with a thorough and careful assessment of the program. Modules include detailed presentations (including scripts for presentations), a workbook, and supporting documentation including pre- and post-tests, etc.

  • Participating in training
  • Providing training for community organizations
  • Assisting with evaluation of programmatic materials.

Prenatal Education on environmental Exposures during Pregnancy Study (PEEPS).  This project is related to Superfund Research Program research projects on PAH impacts on preterm birth and subsequent childhood chronic lung disease. Our goal is to enable pregnant women to make informed dietary decisions to reduce exposures and increase knowledge of risk. We completed a seafood consumption curriculum, which was updated to reflect 2020 USDA Guidelines. It includes a slide deck, a script, references for each slide, pre- and post-tests, and handouts. We are now looking to pilot test materials with HOPE Clinic.

  • Need trainee or graduate student to pilot test materials with HOPE Clinic and possibly other sites
  • Have photos and videos to be turned into videocasts and infographics
  • Create educational videos on seafood preparation

T1 – T4 in 3:  T1-T4 in 3 (Minutes) is an adaptation of The University of Queensland’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) in which PhD students present their 80,000-word thesis in 3 minutes or less to a lay audience. This competition provides the opportunity for participants to cogently present their ideas and research discoveries to non-specialists. Our adapted version, T1-T4 in 3, requires a presentation in three minutes or less to a lay audience, but rather than a thesis, the topics are on the presenters’ research. The purpose of this exercise is to increase health and scientific literacy among our communities, to bridge gaps between the scientific community and the public, and to improve the ability of our trainees to effectively communicate complex science to a lay audience. 

  • Students and trainees can submit an abstract in lay terms for consideration for competition (12 available slots)
  • Five awards will be made (1st, 2nd, 3rd, People’s Choice, and Blackthorn Entrepreneurship)
  • Awardees will compete against winners of competitions at our sister Texas CTSAs

SCI Café (Where Science and Communities Interact).  UTMB has conducted SCI Cafés since 2013, enabling scientists and trainees to engage in informal dialogues with community members about translational health science and medicine. We have held a variety of SCI Cafes with different partners and on a range of health topics. For example, we have worked with St. Vincent’s House on a series of SCI Cafes related to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy to allow honest and frank conversations between underserved communities and scientists. One conversation held at New Life Church was conducted in Spanish and broadcast via Facebook Live. It was picked up and broadcast by Telemundo, with >6,000 views.

  • Students are welcome to take part in the SCI Cafes.  Typically, one is held per month. While most café topics are selected by the community, students are also welcome to suggest subjects.
  • We will be reimplementing a teen SCI Café in local middle schools this year for graduate students to interact with local youth.

Wellness Walkway at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo..  For the 2022 Galveston County Fair and Rodeo, the REACH Coalition planned and implemented a “Wellness Walkway” that included multiple community public health agencies, which supplied various public health activities and games. We used Health Fair Kits in a box developed by previous PMPH students and distributed a wide variety of educational materials.

  • Students are welcome to volunteer for the 8-day Galveston County Fair and Rodeo.  Slots are for evening hours and/or throughout the day on weekends

Community Engagement (CE) Studios.  The ITS “Community Engagement Studio” is based upon the model developed by the Meharry-Vanderbilt CTSA CEC. It is designed to increase community/patient input on research questions, potential issues related to recruitment, and study design and methods; to guide the development of culturally sensitive and ethical proposals; and to help with dissemination of results. In September 2022, we will launch a series of CE Studios in partnership with Texas Southern University’s Center for Biomedical & Minority Health Research Community Engagement Core to assess barriers to cancer screening among minority populations and to participation in clinical research.

  • Students are able to take part in community engagement studios as investigators or as community experts

Hydroponic Gardening.  Our Urban Gardening program is informed by SRP projects related to pyrolytic conversion of PAHs in sediments and identification of PAHs/PACs through ultracompact spectroscopy platforms. We have held two workshops on prevention, nutrition, and alternative methods of raising fruits and vegetables—i.e., hydroponic garden systems. We distributed materials and aided participants in building their own hydroponic systems. We also completed training and installation of gardens at a local church. 

  • Students may participate in hydroponic gardening activities as:
  • Participants
  • Trainers .
  • Installation assistants

Mobile Clinic.  The UTMB Sealy Center for Environmental Health and Medicine (SCEHM) acquired a mobile clinic in 2013 to address lack of clinic space for conducting human health research in medically underserved communities. The SCEHM purchased an RV, retrofitting it to include a phlebotomy lab, a freezer for samples, storage units, a restroom for collecting urine samples, and a private exam room. Following the study’s conclusion, we intended to expand its utility for public health outreach and environmental health research, however, this necessitated further renovations. SCEHM was awarded a $50,000 UTMB President’s Cabinet Award to modify, upgrade, and equip the unit for her use as a fully functional outreach and environmental research vehicle, the Mobile Research Clinic for Outreach And Community Health (Mobi-COACH). It now serves as an operational clinical research mobile unit as well as a state-of-the-science environmental health laboratory.

  • We have multiple opportunities for trainees and students to assist with environmental health research.
  • With appropriate faculty oversight, they may request use of the bus, contingent upon availability of a driver and approval of the SCEHM leadership.

REACH Coalition:  The Research, Education, And Community Health Coalition (REACH) includes 23 UTMB Centers and Institutes and 39 community organizations. Membership is open and dynamic, and includes broad-based, high-impact community participation, including public and mental health agencies, clinicians, policy makers from local governmental and quasi-governmental bodies, family service centers, cultural and faith-based organizations, and local schools and colleges. 

  • Students are welcome to join REACH or to participate in the “Offer and Ask” program whereby research and/or outreach relationships are brokered according to community need and student desires and skills.

Community Health Small Grants program initiated, with fifteen awards made for $70,000 for joint community/campus partnerships for research, education, or intervention. 

  • Approximately 4 – 5 small grants are awarded by ITS annually for community/campus partnership projects.

Community Health Needs Assessment.  CHNA developed and underway under direction of Dr. John Prochaska. 

  • Please check with Dr. Prochaska regarding opportunities.

Galveston Youth Risk Survey.  The last iteration of the GYRS was implemented in fall 2020. The report was widely disseminated over the following year. This was a partnership headed by UTMB, REACH, the Galveston, Texas City, and Dickinson ISDs, the Galveston County Health District, the Family Services Center (a local mental health non-profit providing services to the underserved), the BACODA, the Galveston County Community Coalition, and faculty from the UTMB Women’s Health and Addiction research group and UTMB Center for Violence Prevention. Because results indicated increased and serious risk for suicide and mental health issues, involved school districts have requested that we repeat the survey in fall 2022 to determine if risk associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has abated.

  • Student opportunities include:
  • Assisting with distribution to schools
  • Providing orientation for teachers and students
  • Debriefing
  • Data entry or validation
  • Dissemination of reports and results