As a Division 1 college gymnast, Noelle Harada’s initial college focus often leaned more toward her athletic career but she was not without an interest in science thanks to the influence of her brothers: one who is a doctoral candidate in astrophysics and a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow and the other who is a software engineer.
That interest and their encouragement led her to pursue studies in health science during her undergraduate years. Later, she found a way to merge her scientific interest with her athletics by focusing her graduate studies in public health at George Washington University on the importance of physical activity.
Today, Harada is a participant of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Surgeon General (OSG) Research Participation Program. “I decided to apply to the program because it seemed like an exciting opportunity to further explore my interests in an office that’s known for its work on important public health issues,” Harada said.
Under the guidance of her mentor, Andrey Kuzmichev, Harada has taken a leadership role in two research projects for the journal, Public Health Reports (PHR). PHR is the oldest journal of public health in the United States and has been continuously published since 1878. Harada’s research focused on using the journal’s extensive history to help explain current and future trends in public health.
Her first project explored the history of PHR’s past editors-in-chief. Harada reconstructed a timeline of past editors by reviewing historic PHR mastheads and identified women and racial/ethnic minority representation among the past editors. She also interviewed the current and past living editors about their proudest moments and what, if anything, they would have done differently. “It was an excellent opportunity to practice my interviewing skills and to learn from some top public health experts,” said Harada. This project will be published in PHR in early 2023 with Harada listed as the first author.
Harada’s second project involved the creation and analysis of a collection of historic PHR articles on emerging viral epidemics in the United States. She also explored patterns within this collection related to disease type, health disparities, article type, and more. This collection was intended as a resource to inform the public health response to COVID-19 and future epidemics. Harada conducted several database searches to uncover past PHR articles (1878-2022) about emerging viral epidemics. The final collection of these articles is posted on the PHR website.
Her editor-in-chief research project added to the discussion about the importance of diverse leadership in editorial positions, and her viral epidemic collection and analysis project resulted in an important resource to inform public health officials about current and future epidemics.
Throughout these projects, Harada was able to gain new skills, such as scientific writing, editing and research. “I would love to continue developing my skills in research and data analysis in the future,” said Harada. “These skills will help me become a more effective scientist and allow me to more effectively share my research with the public.”
Harada recommends this program to people who enjoy working independently and who are open to researching topics outside their scope of knowledge. She describes the personal and professional growth she experienced as being “astronomical.”
Upon the completion of her fellowship, Harada hopes to use the research skills she has learned to work on research related to physical activity and the built environment.
The OSG Research Participation Program is managed by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) under an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ORISE is managed for DOE by ORAU.