By Karen Angelo
When Erica Lancaster was an undergraduate public health student, she worked two part-time jobs to stay afloat. Now as a graduate student in the Master of Public Health (MPH) epidemiology program, she gets to concentrate on her schoolwork, thanks to a federal grant awarded to the university from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The $2 million, five-year grant continues a 25-year tradition at UMass Lowell, supporting graduate students in their public health and occupational health and safety studies.
“I get financial assistance to help with all the things I need so that I can stay focused 100 percent on school,” says Lancaster, who was one of 13 students accepted into the program this year. The students receive tuition, fees and a stipend from the grant to pursue master of science, master of public health or doctor of science degrees in occupational health and safety specialties.
“Winning this extremely competitive national grant was a strong endorsement of the academic standing and hard work of our students, faculty and staff,” says Prof. David Kriebel of Work Environment, who led the team effort to win the grant.
Since the funding began in 1990, more than 350 students have graduated from UMass Lowell occupational health and safety programs.
Originally from Ghana, Africa, and with a background in nursing, Daniel Okyere chose to pursue the doctor of science (Sc.D.) degree in work environment to improve social disparities and healthcare worker safety. During his time at the university, he’s gained research experience as an assistant for the Safe Home Care and Hospitals Program, an initiative that identifies risks that home health care aides face and recommends safer solutions and methods for delivering care.
“I have had a great experience in my research so far,” says Okyere. “I have had the opportunity to work directly with faculty in the field collecting data and interacting with workers, employers and patients. I could not have embarked on this work without the NIOSH funding and all the other support structures that aid student achievement at UMass Lowell.”