Taylor Lane finds comfort in the certainty of numbers. She experiences joy in the corresponding data analysis. And when numbers and data change the narratives in the real world, she realizes her aspiration of helping others.
Working with Dirk de Heer, Associate Professor of Health Sciences, Taylor seeks to understand how exercise programs can be implemented to fight diabetes, obesity, and other health issues, especially in traditionally underserved populations. She entered NAU’s inaugural Interdisciplinary Health PhD two years ago.
“The reward can be extremely gratifying when you have someone who hasn’t really exercised since they’ve been diagnosed with cancer because they’ve been really tired,” she said. “And now they’re losing weight and they’re feeling better and their fitness is improving, and you’re a part of that. That has more reward than you would ever see sitting in front of a computer running statistical tests.”
Taylor, who is also working on an Applied Statistics certificate from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, has had experience with several academic units on campus. She credits Steven Barger, Professor of Psychological Sciences, for kickstarting her love of population health data and how to make sense of it.
Dr. de Heer has grants to collaborate with organizations such as Fit Kids of Arizona and the Native American Cancer Prevention Program that are tailor-made for using her skills and preparing her for a career in health-industry research. Her dissertation stemmed from work at Fit Kids; Taylor is looking at excess summer weight gain in children who are enrolled in pediatric weight management programs.
“Every department that I’ve worked in on campus has a wide range of intelligent and helpful faculty members that I think are dedicated to helping students learn,” the Tucson native said.
“There are a ton of research opportunities to be able to help different communities of people live better lives.”