Dr. Courtney Shelley to join Department as first Social Justice/Data Science Postdoctoral Scholar

A new joint appointment in the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics, supported by the Division of Physical Sciences, has been created to focus on a social-justice issue from a data-science perspective. Dr. Courtney Shelley has been hired as the Social Justice/Data Science (SJDS) Assistant Adjunct Professor and will teach two courses in mathematics each year. The position has a dual-mentor system whereby the SJDS professor has a data-science mentor in either mathematics or statistics and a second mentor who is a scholar of social justice from another campus unit.

“Dr. Shelley’s data-science mentor will be Dr. Chad Hazlett, Assistant Professor of Statistics and Political Science. Her social justice mentor will be Dr. Onyebuchi Arah, Professor of Epidemiology. Dr. Shelley will collaborate with them on identifying causal drivers of spatio-temporal patterns and social inequities in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. These issues impact the most vulnerable members of our society, including racial and ethnic minority groups. These topics are both pressing and important for social-justice,” says Department of Statistics Professor Mark Handcock.

Dr. Shelley received her BS from UCLA, majoring in Theoretical Biology with special interests in disease modeling. She then received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of California Davis in 2019, where she focused on childhood vaccination coverage of US children and the potential for vaccine preventable disease outbreaks. She is now a second-year postdoc at Los Alamos National Laboratory where she recently won the 2020 Distinguished Postdoc Award for her extensive work in COVID-19 modeling and forecasting. This work has supported the White House, the Congressional Budget Office, the Governor of New Mexico, and the Nevada State Department of Health. In addition to COVID-related work, she also works with a multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, data analysists, and advocates to reduce suicide outcomes in US Veterans.

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