Emily LaBombard, Center for Population Health
“Reach out. You need to be vocal about what you want, where you want to work and what you want to do. By speaking with those in positions that you admire, you can learn both personal skills and lessons, as well as career-oriented knowledge that will set you up for success,” says Emily LaBombard, graduate student in public health with a concentration in dietetics, who is working on multiple research projects in the Center for Population Health (CPH).
LaBombard first began her role in research when she reached out to Asst. Prof. Sabrina Noel in the Department of Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences. Labombard took a community research course taught by Noel during her junior year of her undergraduate studies majoring in nutritional science, and she immediately became fascinated by the impactful work being done at CPH and asked how she could get involved.
Currently, LaBombard works specifically on the Age-Friendly Lawrence project, an initiative to support the city of Lawrence, Mass. in improving its infrastructure, services and other amenities to make the community a great environment to age in place. She plays a major role in the food assessment portion of the project including helping to develop the Community Food Survey which is now actively used in Lawrence. The survey collects data related to language, inclusion, food security, finances, food shopping and other areas in regards to the food environment. Community members and researchers are conducting the surveys, translated in both Spanish and English, online and in-person, and the research team at UMass Lowell will be assessing and evaluating the data.
With her involvement in real-life projects, LaBombard has gained experience in data management and analysis, comprehensive literature reviews and scientific writing. In addition to these new technical skills, LaBombard is particularly grateful for the faculty members in CPH who actively engage its student members, provide an abundance of learning and experiential opportunities, and consistently go above and beyond to teach new techniques and skills that drive professional growth.
LaBombard notes that she has improved her adaptability, an asset she recognizes as an important trait for any researcher: “Research is constantly changing and developing. Therefore, individuals need to be adequately equipped to tackle such challenges. Working within the CPH has given me the skills to approach such situations with confidence and flexibility.”
LaBombard is excited to continue her work in public health having experienced the true impact of the Center for Population Health on the community. LaBombard emphasizes the importance of researchers studying diverse populations and aspects of health and well-being in order to recognize gaps and provide evidence to create critical change. She credits her work in CPH for providing fundamental tools and sparking her passion to contribute to these systems changes.