What is public health? Some people may say it’s the prevention and management of infectious diseases, others might say it has to do with pollution, water and air quality, and some might mention the obesity epidemic. The truth is that public health is all of those things, and much more. It spans across many occupations and disciplines, which is what makes it so fascinating.

Dr. Zach Weller, an assistant professor in Statistics at Colorado State University, highlights the quote by statistician John Tukey, “the best thing about being an applied statistician is that we get to play in everybody else’s backyard”. This can be said for the field of public health as well, and is a perspective Dr. Weller brings to his research collaborations in public health. Dr. Weller joined the Colorado School of Public Health as a new faculty member in Fall 2019 and has an interest in public health and all the great research that is being done in the ColoradoSPH. His statistics background allows him to bring a different lens, or perspective, to current public health projects.

“Statistics is a powerful tool for extracting insights and telling a story from your data. Whether it is a simple, but compelling, graphic or a complex statistical model, statistics can help illuminate and communicate the key findings of a study” he said.

Dr. Weller is currently collaborating on three projects that are public health related. The first one uses highly sensitive methane analyzers placed on vehicles to detect natural gas leaks, which could develop into an explosion hazard, in urban distribution systems. The second project is examining the inflammatory response of dairy herd workers as a result of exposure to dust and its constituents during their workday. Finally, the third project is examining the factors that affect the accumulation and removal of agricultural pesticides in worker’s clothing.

Dr. Weller thinks continued advancements in statistics will only continue to grow as we are now able to collect large volumes of data from an increasingly diverse set of instruments. This is becoming increasingly important for decision making in both local and global public health interventions.

Dr. Weller reminds us that the field of public health is vast and crosses many disciplines. As MPH students in the ColoradoSPH, we are lucky to have many faculty members who come from diverse fields and backgrounds and who also have an interest in public health. Faculty like Dr. Weller are a great resource for further learning and networking, as well as helping students find their public health niche.

Written by Megan Jansson