Doctoral Student Advised by Dr. Amir Sapkota Receives 2014 STAR Fellowship from EPA
University of Maryland doctoral candidate Crystal Romeo Upperman received a $84,000 STAR (Science to Achieve Results) fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency this fall for research on the relationship between climate change and health outcomes.
The two-year grant enables Ms. Romeo Upperman, a PhD candidate in UMD’s Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences (MEES) doctoral program, to research the impact of long-term global warming and extreme heat events on respiratory problems, including asthma, hay fever and chronic bronchitis. Dr. Amir Sapkota, associate professor in the School of Public Health's Maryland Institute of Applied Environmental Health, advises Ms. Romeo Upperman’s research. Dr. Sapkota has NIH funding to document and predict the impact of climate change on asthma prevalence and morbidity.
STAR graduate fellowships are awarded to support masters and doctoral candidates in environmental studies, and involve a rigorous review process. EPA STAR Fellows receive up to $42,000 per year, including $12,000 per year for tuition and fees, $25,000 per year in a monthly stipend, and an annual expense allowance of $5,000. Doctoral students can be supported for a maximum of three years with funding available, under certain circumstances, over a period of four years.
“This fellowship has allowed me to focus on research full-time,” said Ms. Romeo Upperman. “In just the short period of time of receiving the award I have made significant progress in the analysis. Also, the award has highlighted the importance of this subject matter.”
Ms. Romeo Upperman has already begun conducting research for her project, which is titled “Association between Climate Extremes and Chronic Respiratory Diseases among a Nationally Representative Sample of the U.S. Population.”
She hopes the results of her study can influence environmental policy, and help design tools to aid vulnerable and susceptible populations in combating the negative health effects of climate change.
At a meeting on December 15, 2014 with Shawn Garvin, administrator for EPA’s mid-atlantic region, Ms. Romeo Upperman described how she is using meteorologic data, asthma prevalence data and obesity prevalence data to examine how extreme hot days may be influencing chronic disease conditions by US region and by population. She is examining the impacts on various racial and ethnic groups as well as different age groups. In addition, she and Dr. Sapkota are working with health economics researchers to estimate the health care costs associated with emergency room visits for asthma, as well as other medical costs related to chronic respiratory problems.
“We are finding some interesting results,” she said. “We hope to have a couple of the analyses from this project published by mid-2015.”
Ms. Romeo Upperman is one of three University of Maryland students to receive a STAR graduate fellowship this fall.