Dr. Susan Cassels, an assistant professor of Epidemiology & Global Health at the University of Washington, will be joining the UCSB Department of Geography faculty in July 2014. Cassels received her PhD in Demography from Princeton University in 2005 and an MPH (Master of Public Health Degree) in Epidemiology from the University of Washington in 2010.
Susan’s research interests are in the areas of migration and mobility, sexual risk behavior, and infectious disease epidemiology. She has been using mathematical modeling and social network analysis to address research questions in these areas. Recently her focus has been on social and behavioral determinants of HIV transmission dynamics, and she has published her research in AIDS, The Journal of Population Research, AIDS and Behavior, Current Opinion of HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, AIDS Care, Globalization and Health, and Human Ecology. She is currently finishing a research project aimed at understanding the role of internal migration on the structure of sexual networks, sexual risk behavior, and HIV in Accra, Ghana. This NICHD-funded project (a 5-year K99/R00 that began in 2008) first established links between migration, sexual partnership concurrency, and HIV infection, using Demographic and Health Survey data from Ghana. She will use data from the survey to parameterize a mathematical model of HIV transmission dynamics to predict the role of migration in ongoing HIV transmission at a population level.
Currently, Cassels is implementing a pilot survey that uses a relationship history calendar to capture information on residential mobility, sexual partnerships, and HIV risk behavior among men who have sex with men (known as MSM) in the U.S. MSM have the highest rates of HIV in the U.S., but not much is known about their migration patterns.
Cassels is committed to using mathematical modeling to better understand social and behavioral determinants of HIV and how to best implement prevention interventions. She works closely with Martina Morris and Steven Goodreau to build and implement network-based mathematical models in various settings, and to write and teach about how to best use mathematical modeling in demographic research (source).
When asked why she decided to join the UCSB Department of Geography, “Susie” replied: I wanted to be part of a supportive academic community that uses advanced research methods to address interesting questions in human geography. The department feels like a perfect fit for me and my research interests. Plus, I received my B.S. from UCSB, and I jumped at the chance to return to Santa Barbara.” Apart from her academic pursuits, her personal interests include spending time with her family, playing soccer, and “pretty much anything that involves friends and good food.”