My Co-op Combines Public Health and Chemistry To Study Autism

Our guest blogger for the post below is Anna Bostwick, Class of 2020 public health alum.

My name is Anna Bostwick and I was an undergraduate student at the Dornsife School of Public Health. I found a co-op that combines my love of chemistry and public health at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute located right on campus.

The Autism Institute is the first research organization built around a public health science approach to understanding and addressing the challenges of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Their mission is to understand and address the challenges of autism by discovering, developing, and sharing population-level and community-based public health science.

At Dornsife, students are very much supported and have many opportunities to network and gain real-world experience.

Why was this path best for me? I really love science! I am that nerd that gets really excited when I can figure out how to do a big, long, complicated problem. I knew that I wanted to come to Drexel for chemistry, but I wanted to have a tangible impact on people and feel good about what I was doing.

During my college search, I was drawn to Drexel mainly because of the co-op program. Also, when touring campus, I enjoyed the urban atmosphere and the liveliness. It felt like it was somewhere I wanted to be. Dornsife's mission to fight for health as a human right also really spoke to me. It was a great fit!

During a public health introduction course my first year, we had a guest lecturer, Dr. Nathanial Snyder. He came in and discussed how he studies autism by combining chemistry and public health. This was great because that encompassed everything that I hoped for in my career.

I started shadowing Dr. Snyder in the Autism Institute's Exposure Science Lab, and then began a co-op there in April of 2019. It was awesome! I learned so much from this hands-on experience. I worked on the Modifiable Autism Risk Factors research program analyzing dried blood spots and compiling data. The goal was to identify and better understand the mechanisms behind exposures or behaviors that can contribute to an increased risk of ASD. Chemistry and public health work together and I believe that together they can solve big problems that we are dealing with in the world.

Every day, I was thrilled to go into my co-op. I really loved my role there and I'm proud I put myself out there and connected early on with Dr. Snyder. At Dornsife, students are very much supported and have many opportunities to network and gain real-world experience.