I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in history at Rice University. Professionally, I hope to advance the discipline of history by employing geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial analysis techniques in conjunction with traditional historical scholarship. This goal has been a long time in the making.
From an early age I was fascinated by stories of the past and maps that illustrated the spatial interconnectedness of these past events. I fostered these interests by studying history at Louisiana State University. As a young and impressionable freshman, two events drastically shaped my research interests. The freshman summer reading book, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, told the story of Dr. Paul Farmer (Partners in Health) and his work to fight infectious diseases in Haiti, Peru, and Russia. Talking with Dr. Farmer after he spoke at orientation further solidified my interest in infectious diseases. Shortly after meeting Dr. Farmer, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Katrina hit one week into my freshman year, and LSU was at the center of the recovery efforts. My experiences in Katrina developed my interests in urban disasters and their long term impacts. These research interests, infectious disease and urban disaster, inspired my master’s thesis.
My master’s degree is in Geospatial Techniques from the Geography Department at California State University at Long Beach, where there is a growing expertise in GIS and disaster science. This advanced study of GIS techniques and spatial analysis has provided a sound basis for a multidisciplinary approach to the study of history.
My master’s thesis was on the 1878 yellow fever epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee. I used GIS to study and map historical data from this nineteenth-century public health disaster to better understand the genesis of the epidemic, its spatial progression, and the socio-economic consequences of the disaster. At its core, my thesis merged the fields of history and geography, blending methods from the disciplines of public health, economics, and spatial analysis. In addition to gaining historical insights, critical research results, such as the diffusion patterns through space and time, are directly applicable and beneficial to disease surveillance and identification efforts today.