Brant Walker

Brant Walker, Undergraduate student, Mathematics, Economics

Tracks environmental impacts on health

Hometown: Dubuque, Iowa
Faculty mentor/advisor: Jeff DeSimone, Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Economics
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, Bachelor of Science in Economics, Minor in Philosophy
Please describe your research: I study the impact of the environment on human health. In general, my research asks four questions: 1) Do public policies succeed in their goal of improving our lives?; 2) How do environmental quality and extreme events impact people’s health?; 3) What factors influence people to act in a sustainable way?; and 4) Which populations are most affected by environmental changes? (regarding environmental justice)
In simple terms, why does this research matter? We know our climate is changing, and many countries are deciding on policies that focus on reducing the effects of climate change while also adapting to its unavoidable consequences. My research can help identify previously overlooked impacts of the environment on our lives and include those costs/benefits in the decision making process.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I started my own research project after my 4th semester, and have collaborated with Professor DeSimone since the start of my 5th.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Research has helped me gain valuable experience outside of the classroom and explore various paths for my future career. Monetary support for my research and traveling from the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates, the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa, and the Honors Program has allowed me to dedicate time to developing my skills in analysis as I prepare for graduate school. The ability to present my research at various economics conferences and events held by the university has provided a platform for me to share my work and gather feedback from experienced professionals.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? Ultimately, I will attend a graduate program to obtain a Ph.D. in Economics. After earning my degree, I plan on pursuing a professorship position at a research institution, where I will continue to engage in the research process. As for long-term plans, I am keeping my options open!
Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain.  Yes… although indirectly – leading experts in biosecurity and epidemiology agree that climate change is likely to increase the probability of epidemics in the future, and we need to take this additional cost into consideration when developing future policies. On its own, COVID-19 is another extreme event that has already had short- and long-term impacts on our health and well-being.

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