Editor's note: The talk on Thursday was canceled. Information will be provided if the event is rescheduled.

Technological advances have created unprecedented amounts of data that scientists can mine to inform environmental policy and improve human health, according to Francesca Dominici, the co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative and the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population, and Data Science of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard.

Dominici will present “Tackling the Health Consequences of Climate Change with Data Science” at the next Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC Maury Strauss Distinguished Public lecture, held in-person at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke.

New statistical models and tools can estimate air pollution’s effect on health and measure the effectiveness of federal air-quality regulations, Dominici said in a recent Q&A session with the Harvard Gazette. Electronic medical records and advances in genomics can revolutionize care through personalized treatment strategies.

Dominici will present her latest research in a public lecture that will be geared toward cutting-edge processes in data science that could provide lifesaving guidance ranging from personalized health treatment strategies to air quality improvement.

“Big data can sometimes lead to distrust among the public. Dr. Dominici’s work provides credibility to the field of data science and powerful tools to serve humankind in ways to promote health and respond proactively to challenges faced by the planet,” said Michael Friedlander, Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. “By applying state-of-the-art statistical and computational approaches to gather useful information from complex systems, her findings inform and guide public health and environmental policymakers for decisions that affect our quality of life now and in the future.”

An elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and International Society of Mathematical Statistics, Dominici explains that data are everywhere. Sometimes it’s big. Sometimes it’s small. Sometimes it’s complex and in different formats. The goal remains the same – compile and process information that can make a difference.

In a study published in January, Dominici demonstrates how long-term exposure to high or low temperatures could be associated with an increased risk for hospitalization for cardiovascular disease for individuals age 65 or older. In November, she presented findings that people living in racially segregated communities were disproportionately exposed to toxic elements of air pollution and outlined recommended government actions to address those findings.

Dominici analyzed more than 500 million observations on the health experience of over 95 percent of the United States population older than 65 years old and their air pollution exposure. "We are now providing bulletproof evidence that we are breathing harmful air," Dominici said during an NPR interview.

Utilizing a space-time model, Dominici contributed to research that discovered a positive association between long-term exposure to air pollution and mortality caused by COVID-19 in four regions of the United States.

Dominici was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2018, recognized in Thomson Reuter’s list of the most highly cited researchers – ranking in the top 1 percent of cited scientists in her field in 2019 - and awarded the Karl E. Peace Award for Outstanding Statistical Contributions for the Betterment of Society by the American Statistical Association in 2020.

The public lecture will be in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at 2 Riverside Circle on Virginia Tech’s Roanoke campus. Attendees are invited to a 5 p.m. reception preceding the talk, which is also available via Zoom.

The lecture series is named for Maury Strauss, a Roanoke businessman and longtime community benefactor who recognizes the importance of bringing scientific thought-leaders to Roanoke.


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