Welcome to Kate Vavra-Musser’s personal website!

About Me

I am currently a fourth year PhD candidate in the Population, Health, and Place doctoral program at the University of Southern California (USC). This PhD program is jointly hosted by the Department of Sociology, Department of Preventative Medicine, and the Spatial Sciences Institute at USC.

My work and personal goals focus on using data-driven methods and spatial perspectives to solve environmental health and environmental justice issues. I believe that, through research and creative approaches to data and analysis, we can identify and solve our world’s environmental and social problems and create a better future for everyone.

You can find out more about my past research and background by taking a look at my previous publications and my CV. The sections below provide additional updates on research and projects I am working on right now.

If you would like to get in touch, I am available via email or for remote meetings.

United States Census Bureau Data Science Summer Fellow - Coding it Forward Civic Digital Fellowship

This summer I will be a member of the Civic Digital Fellowship program with Coding it Forward. I am so excited to report that, through the Civic Digital Fellowship program, I have been paired with the United States Census Bureau to support a series of projects focused on survey redesign and rescoping using machine learning methods. The fellowship is expected to run from June 7th until August 13, 2021.

Dissertation Research

My ongoing PhD dissertation research focuses on modeling the spatial extent and anthropogenic determinants of hazardous levels of soil lead in residential areas of a region in East Los Angeles which is adjacent to a major industrial area and has been burdened with high pollution levels for many decades. My dissertation work is carried out with the support of my amazing co-advisors, Dr. Jill Johnston from the USC Department of Preventative Medicine and Dr. An-Min Wu from the USC Spatial Sciences Institute. My work is also supported by my dissertation committee which includes Dr. Meredith Franklin from the USC Department of Preventative Medicine, Dr. Manuel Pastor from the USC Department of Sociology, and Dr. Julien Emile-Geay from the USC Department of Earth Science.

Research Initiatives with the University of Southern California School of Gerontology and Department of Sociology

Since May 2020 I have been working with Dr. Jennifer Ailshire from the USC School of Gerontology on multiple projects exploring the environmental and community drivers of health in older populations.

I am excited to report that some of the work I have been carrying out with Dr. Ailhire on the rising importance of the health impacts of exposure to extreme heat for elderly people will be presented at the American Association of Geographers Conference in April 2021. I also recently gave a lightning talk on this work at the 2021 Los Angeles Geospatial Summit on February 26th, 2021 with my colleagues Emily Serman and Dr. Rachel Wilkie.