The first half of the 2023-24 training year has officially wrapped up. Over the past four months, our 22 CAnD3 Fellows have completed a total of 15 training sessions on topics ranging from research replicability and data ethics to discussions about the latest population analytics research and time management. We caught up with two of our Fellows, Megan and Bavisha, to ask about their experiences with the CAnD3 program thus far. Read on to learn about their research and what they hope to achieve during the remainder of the program and beyond.
Featured image: Megan Skowronski (left), Bavisha Thurairajah (right)
Megan Skowronski (she/her)
Megan found her academic home in sociology when she understood the profound implications of economic and public policies on the well-being of individuals and society more broadly. One turning point was when she researched the household domains of financial precarity that act as barriers to health-relevant resources. Megan found that addressing housing security and the burden of medical bills for older adults could improve medication adherence, opening a path for policy interventions in this area.
Megan’s current research seeks to understand how spatiotemporal changes in welfare systems and redistributive social policies influence population health. “The modest state provisions of social security nets are regulated with stringent criteria that vary across policy contexts within the United States. I am passionate about addressing this variation as I see it as a pathway to close gendered and racialized economic and therefore health disparities that we see today,” shares Megan.
Methodologically and theoretically, Megan’s approach is multidisciplinary, borrowing from and interplaying concepts from sociology, gerontology, epidemiology, public health, and economics. It is, in a way, a reflection of her multidisciplinary academic background: a bachelor’s in economics and political science and now, pursuing a PhD in sociology at Florida State University.
During her free time, Megan enjoys being by the sea, climbing, hiking, reading fiction, personal essays and poetry.
Megan had been participating in CAnD3’s open Lunch & Learn lectures for almost two years before she joined the program as a Fellow. She says that she wanted to participate in the program to learn how to translate research findings into accessible policy recommendations that have the power to improve material living conditions and, therefore, the health of aging populations internationally. “In the future, I intend to utilize my training and competencies in an organization dedicated to facilitating practical social change through the use of population-level economic and health data.”
Bavisha Thurairajah (she/her)
Bavisha’s curiosity in place-based differences and inequalities in resources and lifestyles stems from growing up as a child of two immigrants. She learned about the environmental determinants of health during her undergraduate degree and connected it to how place and housing were fundamental social determinants. Bavisha is now pursuing a master’s in geography at McGill University to study exactly this phenomenon in the context of older adults. She explains that most older adults in Canada want to “age in place” in their own homes for as long as possible, so it’s important to understand how dwellings impact well-being.
Bavisha’s research is not only spatial and place-based but also gendered and temporal. She wants to understand how housing needs vary by urban/rural residency and across genders and evolve as people age to impact subjective well-being. “I hope to contribute to research-informed policy that allows Canadians to ‘age-in-place’ for a longer period of time, but also policy that is specific and considerate of different housing needs within the subgroups of older adults,” says Bavisha.
Bavisha enjoys cooking and learning how to prepare new recipes during her free time. Cooking with her mom and sisters is a bonding activity for Bavisha and something that brings them together to express their creativity. She also enjoys sketching (even though she says she’s not so good), travelling, and watching horror movies with her sisters.
One of the skills that Bavisha wants to cultivate to affect housing policy is working with large survey datasets. This is one of the main reasons she joined the CAnD3 training program, in addition to wanting to improve her quantitative research skills, data storytelling abilities, and research communication capacities.
“Being part of the 2023-24 Population Analytics training program and the CAnD3 Fellows cohort is a wonderful opportunity for me to work towards my overall career goals and build on my existing skills in a collaborative setting with others engaging in similar population aging research,” shares Bavisha. We look forward to seeing how Bavisha will use her newly learned skills to bring about positive, tangible policy changes through academic research.
About the training program
The Population Analytics in an Aging Society Training Program is a rigorous one-year fellowship hosted by the Consortium on Analytics for Data-Driven Decision-Making (CAnD3), funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and based at McGill University. The program upskills rising researchers in Master's, PhD, and postdoctoral programs in the areas of population data science and computational population social science from a multidisciplinary lens. It also connects Fellows to experiential learning opportunities, which include hands-on research projects and internships with government, not-for-profit, and private sector CAnD3 partners. Since the first year of the program in 2020, CAnD3 has trained 52 Fellows and welcomes 22 new Fellows for the 2023-24 Academic Year.