Pitt Bio Blog
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Colder Weather and Alcohol Consumption: An Article Review and Commentary on the Importance of Public Health
Samhita (Sam) Ravi
MICRO Senior & Pre-med student
Public health is a field that is rarely explored, but is quite interesting. As part of my research with the Liver Disease Center at UPMC, I had the opportunity to collaborate on a public health research project about how colder weather increases the alcohol consumption and alcohol cirrhosis - the resulting publication (see my name in the list of authors?!) can be found at this link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30324707
Working on this article gave me the chance to do research in a field that looks at the population rather than the individual in clinical care. Public health is a field that works towards the prevention of diseases and other medical issues in a population. Rather than just focusing on the individual, public health specialists consider the entire population to understand prevalence or incidence of a disease using analysis such statistics, surveillance, and other measurements.
Here is an overview of the research we did broken down into parts:
What is Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is the scarring of liver tissue. In terms of Alcoholic Cirrhosis, this can be determined by how much alcohol someone consumes. As the liver is used to detoxify toxins of the body, drinking too much alcohol can cause the hepatocytes to overwork themselves. This leads to the first few stages of fibrosis, and finally cirrhosis due to long term damage, in which a liver transplant may be considered.
What populations are affected?
Although we understood that there were many factors that affected people who drank alcohol and were at increased risk for liver diseases, it was uncertain if climate had an effect. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to see if climate specifically had an impact on the amount of alcohol consumption and therefore, alcoholic cirrhosis.
What methods were used in collecting data?
As this study was under the topic of public health, statistics was heavily involved. Databases, the WHO, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation were extensively used to collect data. Not only was data considering alcohol and alcoholic cirrhosis considered but also environmental factors. These environmental factors included religion. For example, in the Middle East, individuals cannot drink alcohol because of strict religious reasons.
What were the results?
There was a negative correlation between temperature and alcohol intake, as well as the number of sunshine hours experienced by a country and alcohol intake. This data meant that the lower the temperature, and the lower amount of sunshine a country experienced, meant that the populations had a higher alcohol consumption. The researchers also did a data analysis specifically for the United States in which it is shown that northern states tend to have a higher percentage of drinkers.
Why was this research important?
The point of this research was not only about showing that colder climates may impact alcohol consumption. It was also to promote the importance of the awareness of alcohol liver diseases. This awareness at a public health level can allow for populations who are more risk for alcoholic cirrhosis to be more easily identified, as well as allow for medical professionals to understand which populations are at risk to alter their health care towards those patients.
The overall importance of Public Health and Evidence-based Research:
Public health allows for an evidence-based research approach. Evidence-based research is defined as making patient care decisions with factual and sound research information rather than one’s own opinion. With the evidence presented in this paper, it can allow medical professionals from different countries to consider the alcohol consumption patterns of their populations. Furthermore, public health allows for people to consider whole populations and their cultures to better cater to the population’s needs.
Is Public Health a field you are interested in?
If so, I recommend finding research projects and courses where you can have public health experience. Though there is no defined public health major at Pitt, there are many certificates offered (such as from the College of General Studies) that you can do that can match especially well with your biology degree. Taking courses such as Introduction to Epidemiology (HRS 1017) and Contemporary Issues in Cross-Cultural Health Care (NUR 1829) is a great way to dip your toes into the public health field!
Interested in public health and want to find more ways to get involved? Feel free to come to the Bio Peer Advisor Office Hours!
Also check out the Pitt Public Health Open House on Friday, November 8: https://www.publichealth.pitt.edu/open-house
Pre-Med MICRO Senior (with RELGST minor & Managing Health Services Programs & Projects certificate)
As a first-year student entering Pitt, it can be a little scary and daunting when it comes to choosing extracurricular activities that might boost your resume. When it comes to balancing your academic and social life, it is especially important to remember to find ways to do activities that you can enjoy, but manage at the same time. One of the most common activities that students ask about is getting involved in independent research.
Some common questions about research include:
I would recommend that you wait to start research until you feel comfortable with your class schedule and are fully adjusted to life in college. Students start research at all points in their undergraduate careers - from first term through last term and there is no best answer for everyone. It really depends on your specific circumstances. Some students (including myself) get their feet wet in research during the second semester of their first year after a term of getting acclimated to college life and classes. By this time you may have also established connections with your professors who can help you find research projects. This is helpful as you can either work with these professors on their own projects, or they may be able to connect you with other professors who are currently researching a topic you are interested in. As a first-year student, I found the option of the First Experiences in Research program (FER) which introduced me to many departments that conduct research at Pitt, and gave me hands-on experience in developing my own project, which I presented to students and faculty at the end of the semester.
For those looking to start research in the spring (of any year), Pitt offers opportunities for research through the First Experiences in Research program offered by the Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity. Through this program, I did research with a Principal Investigator (PI) within the Department of Psychiatry where I was given the chance to learn about the research process as well as gain experience communicating my science.
One may wonder how to begin the process of applying to FER and picking a research project. Here is a timeline of how the process usually occurs:
Participating in FER is a great introduction to research. It can help you decide on what you are or are not interested in as an inexperienced student. But, this is just one of the many ways you can get involved in research. For instance, there is a research database (Pivot) that you can search to find research of interest across the entire Pitt community (including hospitals). You can also check our Departmental research page or search for research pages in other departments of interest (Neuroscience, Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, Human Genetics, etc.) Another way is to communicate with professors that you have had to ask about research opportunities. If you know a topic that you are interested in but are unable to find research through any of the above options, the next best place to search research is through Google, which is how I have found my current research group! That search box found in all the above options may seem scary at first, but do not be afraid to type something in that box that you find interesting. Overall, make sure to read and check your options before jumping into adding research into your schedule. As always, make sure to manage your time wisely and find research that not only fits your interests, but your schedule as well.
If you need help with the FER process or finding research in general, come see the Bio Peer Advisors! My office hours are Tuesdays from 2:30pm to 3:30pm at Langley and feel free to ask about the FER process and my experience!
Senior BIOSC major and pre-dental student
Without a doubt, the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology (PLE) is one of my favorite parts of my undergraduate journey thus far. PLE is located in Pymatuning State Park which is approximately an hour and forty-five minutes north of Pittsburgh. Throughout the summer, a plethora of undergraduate courses are offered. Each course lasts three weeks and are offered during one of 4 summer sessions that start in the middle of May and run until the end of July (the summer 2020 course schedule is now available here.
A few of the courses that are offered at PLE include BIOSC 0370/0390: Ecology & Lab, BIOSC 1610: Conservation Biology, BIOSC 1400: Disease Ecology, and BIOSC 1420: Wildlife Management. These courses are open to Pitt students as well as students from many other universities such as Edinboro, Clarion, Slippery Rock, and the Pitt regional campuses, which provides a great opportunity to meet students from different college backgrounds. In addition, the courses are taught by faculty from a range of schools, allowing for great networking opportunities!
Completion of a summer course at PLE is an extremely efficient way to earn 3-4 credits in a short amount of time. Moreover, a PLE course is a great way to attempt to boost your GPA because it allows you to focus solely on one class rather than a full course load (4-6 different courses at the same time during a regular fall or spring term). Personally, I took the Ecology & Lab course which granted a total of 4 credits. As a Biological Sciences major, this course covered both the Ecology (or Evolution) core course requirement and one out of two required BIOSC Elective Labs. The other courses offered at PLE can each count as a BIOSC upper division elective and because they are field courses also satisfy an elective lab (but please remember that students must complete one elective lab course on the Pittsburgh campus). This can be a great way to free up space in your schedule for future semesters in order to prevent a heavy workload.
When I first arrived at Pymatuning for my Ecology course, the facilities greatly exceeded my expectations. At the housing site, there are two recently remodeled dorms. Believe it or not, the bathrooms in the dorms were nicer than the bathrooms in the Litchfield Towers that a majority of freshmen live in at the Oakland campus. Food is provided in the Dining Hall, which is in close proximity to the dorms. Additionally, the Sanctuary Lake Site contains the classrooms. Vans are driven by the instructors to travel the short distance between the Housing Site and the classrooms. The courses are scheduled for Monday through Friday from 9:00 am until approximately 5:00 pm. However, you will spend a large portion of that time in the field instead of the classroom each day.
Although the main goals of the PLE courses are to gain experience in a field course and to earn credits towards a degree, there is an overabundance of ways to spend your free time while there. One of my personal favorites was taking canoes and kayaks out on the lake with some friends. In addition, the Recreation Hall contains ping pong tables, a pool table, and an area with couches and a TV. Also, there are biking trails, hiking trails, and designated swimming beaches nearby. If you happen to have your car, there are grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants within a few miles of the site. Within the 3-week span, my friends and I made at least 5 trips to the nearby Sheetz for some late night food. Lastly, taking a course at PLE was a great way to make new friends. Even though you will meet those who are enrolled in your course, there are also students taking the other courses that are offered. Approximately a year has passed since I took the course; however, I still communicate with the people that I met through my time at PLE!
All and all, I would highly recommend taking a summer course at the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. If you have any questions about PLE, come and see me during my office hour in the Langley Lobby on Mondays from 4:30-5:30PM! Below is a link to the PLE website in case you would like more information about the program.
In addition, the Bio Advising office will be holding an information session about PLE summer courses and research opportunities on November 15 from 2-3. More info can be found here.
Junior Microbiology major & pre-med student
The start of my Junior year feels different than the past two years. I can’t believe that I have only 3 semesters left in my undergraduate career. I am excited for this year because now that I am older and have more credits I am able to take more of the specialized biology and neuroscience classes that I am interested in and can use to explore a variety of directions my career my take. Last semester I took Immunology (BIOSC 1760) and it changed how I saw the human body and medicine. As part of my Neuroscience minor, I also took Synaptic Transmission (NROSCI 1017), which was a really interesting class that I loved taking. Now I am even more eager to dive into more of my major and minor classes that fit my interests. This semester, I am currently taking Microbiology (BIOSC 1850), Introduction to Microbiology Lab (BIOSC 1855), and Human Physiology (BIOSC 1250) as my science classes. To balance my schedule, I am also taking a race across cultures class and a children's books lit course.
My schedule each semester has mostly revolved around science courses but each semester I took other classes that piqued my interest. I took Political Philosophy (PHIL 0330) to explore my love for politics and find out more about the ideals behind political views and ideologies. I took a Western Art Music (MUSIC 0211) class which helped me find new beautiful music to appreciate and to listen to while I study. I took a Drugs and Behavior (NROSCI 0081) class freshman year that made me more interested in neuroscience and pushed me to pursue a neuroscience minor. When I needed a humanities class, I stumbled upon Magic, Witchcraft and the Supernatural Body (ANTH 0717), which sounded intriguing. That class dove into the magical qualities and things in everyday life and walked through different cultures and realities perceived in different societies. I am currently taking a race across the world class where we discuss race and the underlying hierarchies in its social construction. Another note-worthy non-science class is Childhoods’ Books (ENGLIT 0562) where we talk about what the child means and how children's media portrays society and is a teller of what we want our culture to show other people.
At the beginning of my college career I thought I wanted to pursue research as a career and was thinking about getting an MD/PhD to continue doing lab research as a career. Once I arrived at Pitt I immediately started to search for a research position that would accept me. I found a great position studying lizard tail regeneration and was given my own project to work on. I continued to work with this research group for a year until my boss left Pitt (unexpected twist) and then I found a new position. In both of those early research positions I was doing research on projects that were interesting, but I was not actually passionate about either. Also being so young, I didn’t completely understand the science behind what I was doing. It was at this point that I realized that wet lab bench research wasn’t the only route for me: I loved research, but I also wanted to have more patient and people interaction. I decided to change my path and look into doing clinical research, which brings me to the present. I am currently doing patient research at the Women’s Hospital and checking MRI scans in a project looking at Alzheimer's Disease, 2 things that I am passionate about. From my journey through research I realized that I should not have taken the first opportunity that came about for me. I should have thought more about what I was interested in rather than getting started as fast as I could. The research I am doing now is more interesting to me and feels less like work and a job but just a learning activity that I enjoy doing.
As I get into the routine of my third year, I realize that being a college student has now become normal life for me. At first adjusting to being so far from home (I am from northern Jersey) was daunting, but after getting in the routine of school work and research I felt much more at home. Picking Pitt as my school was the best decision I made: I love having the city close to be able to explore while at the same time having a more secluded college neighborhood that is centered around the students. During my first two years I found my friends and a good support system through a combination of clubs, classes, and extracurricular activities.
Overall, sometimes I forget that college is a privilege and not a right. When I find myself struggling and questioning all my life decisions, I think back through what my 2 years here so far has given me. Everything that I have learned and experienced has shaped me into a more mature and more knowledgeable person. I feel fortunate to learn about what I love every day. If you ever feel confused or lost, try thinking about all the new experiences you have had and please come by and share some with me during my office hours!
Pitt Bio Blog
The Pitt Bio Blog is maintained by the Department of Biological Sciences Advising Office. Posts are authored by our students