Chelsea Hicks

Chelsea Hicks, Ph.D. student, Occupational and Environmental Health

Analyzes disasters and violence

Hometown: Madison, MS
Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Carri Casteel, PhD
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? I am currently pursuing my PhD in Occupational and Environmental Health and am expected to graduate in May 2021.
Please describe your research: My research focuses on understanding how stressor events, such as natural disasters, impact trends in violence. More specifically, I am interested in the Iowa flood of 2008 and trends in community violence in cities impacted by flooding.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? Climate research shows that extreme weather events will continue to increase in frequency as time progresses. And much of the resiliency within communities depends upon already existing social networks and structures. However, if communities are already struggling due to social vulnerabilities created through institutionalized inequitable structures, then these communities can be predisposed to poor survival and recovery outcomes following a disaster. Understanding the impact natural disasters have on violence trends can aid in communities being better positioned to prepare and recover from disaster events.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I was able to participate in research projects starting the second year of my program.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved in research has given me the skillset to not only identify needs in my community but also develop equitable solutions to address the needs.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After I graduate, I would like to continue developing my research skills in a post-doctoral position. Eventually I see myself continuing in academia, teaching and conducting research in a university setting along with being actively involved in community advocacy.
Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain.  Yes, I think that is one of the fascinating things about disaster frameworks. Many types of stressor events fall into the framework, and COVID-19 fits that frame. Just as it is important to understand vulnerability to community violence, it is also important to understand what makes communities more vulnerable to COVID-19.

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