Zeinab Farhat

Elisabeth Brisley.

Zeinab Farhat is a current Epidemiology PhD student.

How did you become interested in epidemiology as your field of study?

After receiving my undergraduate degree in natural science from Fordham University and my MPH from Long Island University, I gained a strong interest in epidemiology and population health research. While in NYC, I worked with Dr. Paolo Boffetta at the Institute for Translational Epidemiology at Mount Sinai where my research focused on the effects of race/ethnicity and neighborhood on cancer incidence. Working in a community where health disparities continued to exist helped fuel my passion towards a career in epidemiology. It is also where I began to see how epidemiologists could further understand the drivers of diseases in populations, and how we can act as the bridge between basic science research and medicine to eradicate health issues. 

Why did you choose UB?

I chose UB because of the collaboration with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, which was important for me to consider knowing that I wanted to focus my studies in cancer epidemiology. Once I saw that there was a multidisciplinary training program funded by the National Cancer Institute, I was immediately drawn to the opportunities that I could gain from being at UB.

Tell us more about your experience in the program.

My experiences in the program have been unique and have already provided me with the skills I will need to be a successful epidemiologist. Upon coming to the University at Buffalo, I was fortunate to work with Dr. Lina Mu on developing a birth cohort study regarding air pollution and pregnancy outcomes in Beijing, China. After receiving the Global Health Initiative Award through the Office of Global Health Initiatives in SPHHP, I went to China in the summer of 2016 to implement the study, recruit participants and gain experience in primary data collection including biospecimen collection. While my focus of interest was mainly in cancer epidemiology, this opportunity allowed me to gain experience in study design, data collection and participant recruitment of an epidemiological study.

In addition, being a trainee on the NCI T32 training grant has provided me with not only a solid foundation in epidemiological methods and analyses but also an integration of basic science and cancer biology courses. I have taken a variety of courses at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center including oncology for scientists and cancer pathology. 

My collective experience in epidemiological research has led me to focus on dietary factors and antioxidant biomarkers for cancer, with a focus on dietary garlic intake and cancer prevention for my dissertation studies. Overall, I feel that my academic background, my epidemiologic training and my mentors have given me a solid foundation for my long-term goal in cancer prevention research.

What do you enjoy the most about the program?

I enjoy the collaboration with different faculty members and disciplines that I get to experience on the cancer track. It is also reassuring that all the professors are approachable and always willing to help their students to make sure we get the best experience possible here at UB.

How does receiving a degree from UB SPHHP set you apart?

Since I want to pursue a career as a cancer epidemiologist, my degree from UB will provide me with a strong academic and research training in cancer epidemiology. I have been able to participate in projects with collaborators from different cities and countries, allowing me to expand my network and open doors for a post-doc position in cancer epidemiology after I graduate.