Mercedes Aurelia Bravo

In Funded Scholars

Mercedes Aurelia



Research Scientist
Rice University

Professional Bio

I completed my PhD in Environmental Science at Yale University. Thanks to Yale’s strong focus on interdisciplinary research, I was able to create a unique graduate training program that incorporated coursework in environmental science, mentored training from Dr. Michelle Bell in environmental epidemiology, and courses in epidemiology and biostatistics through the School of Public Health. For one of my dissertation projects, I conducted a study of the association between cardiorespiratory morbidity and outdoor air pollution in over 700 US communities. I also led research based in São Paulo, Brazil, investigating how race, sex, education, and indicators of neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) affected vulnerability to air pollution-related mortality. My dissertation was named an Exemplary Diversity Dissertation by the National Center for Institutional Diversity, which cited its focus on potentially vulnerable and understudied populations, including rural, low SES, and minority groups in the US and abroad.

After Yale, I joined the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative (CEHI), first at the University of Michigan and now at Rice University, as a postdoctoral research fellow. Here, I am deepening my understanding of the statistical principles underlying my applied research and building interdisciplinary collaborations with intellectual leaders and methodological experts. To that end, I have attended workshops on causal inference, Bayesian methods, longitudinal data analysis, and machine learning; collaborated with senior researchers to develop analysis plans and draft grant proposals; and initiated several new research projects.

Project Name

Children, Community, and Opportunity: The intersection of neighborhood, environment, and child development

Project Description

Adverse pregnancy outcomes (APO) and many environmental exposures (e.g., lead, air pollution) are patterned by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status and are individually associated with poor cognitive outcomes. Health outcomes, environmental exposures, and social environment must be considered in tandem, as these exposures may cluster in populations, resulting in children that have experienced multiple threats to their health. This project is concerned with better understanding how adverse pregnancy outcomes are mediated by social and environmental exposures in their impact on educational outcomes. This work will focus on evaluating and implementing metrics describing the neighborhood environment.

Research Interests

My primary research interests revolve around the epidemiology of health disparities, with a focus on the combined effects of adverse exposures (social, environmental) that accumulate over time. I am particularly interested in understanding how in utero and/or early childhood exposures affect childhood health and developmental outcomes. Childhood health and developmental outcomes are important on their own, and may also influence chronic disease (e.g., Type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease) and socioeconomic status (e.g., educational attainment, employment status) in adults.

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2016
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Child and Family Well-Being

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