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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Student Q&A: Julianne Murphy

Julianne Murphy

Julianne Murphy, second-year student in the Health Sciences Integrated PhD Program (HSIP), studies big data to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. 

Where is your hometown?

I grew up in a central New Jersey suburb called Oceanport.

What are your research interests?

As a pre-doctoral student in the Health and Biomedical Informatics track in the HSIP, I am interested in leveraging meaningful information from large and complex datasets for improved patient outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. I am particularly interested in creating novel methods for data representation, integration, analysis and application. My coursework and experiences at Northwestern have heightened my interests in uncovering the potential of high-performance computing and data analytics in structured and unstructured electronic health data.

What exciting projects are you working on?

I was recently chosen to participate in the Biomedical Data-Driven Discovery (BD3) Training Program, the perfect progression of my training to expand my knowledge in developing novel big data tools. I intend to use this training to harness predictive analytics in referring patients to transitional care.

Here at Northwestern, Dr. Christine Schaeffer-Pettigrew, MD and the transitional care team focus on comprehensively addressing patients’ medical and psychosocial needs. I’m working with Dr. Nicholas Soulakis, PhD, to develop a risk and complexity score to quantify and predict how beneficial a transitional care encounter would be for any given patient. I am committed to using data to improve patient care and patient outcomes.

What attracted you to the PhD program?

The interdisciplinary nature and small size of the HSIP attracted me to Northwestern. My master’s degree from Clark University focused on using computational techniques to quantify the population genomics of gene copy number variation. I knew I wanted to expand my computational skillset and learn how to apply these techniques to promote healthcare quality improvement.

After studying RNAs on the micro level, I wanted to take a broader look at healthcare systems. Doctoral training in the science of public health gives me the tools to directly promote health beyond individuals or scientific theories. It combines my personal interests regarding access to care and quality of care improvement with applied biomedical informatics. Additionally, I was really drawn to the small size of the program and the faculty and staff’s intimate dedication to my program’s students.

What has been your best experience at Feinberg?

The best part about my experience so far has been the people — both fellow students and faculty mentors. I feel fortunate to learn with students across the HSIP, Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences and multiple masters’ programs. Our conversations are made richer by contributions from a variety of perspectives. Additionally, the faculty mentors in my program and for my research have been exceptional. I love the program’s flexibility in forging my own path with the support and guidance from faculty mentors.

How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?

The faculty at Feinberg are at the top of their game and a huge reason why I chose Northwestern. It is an incredible experience to learn from experts in the field, and I have found that the faculty are more than willing to make time for educating students and trainees.

What do you do in your free time?

I have really enjoyed getting to know Chicago this past year. I love supporting the arts, and in my free time I try to go to as many local shows and museums as I can. I also take great pleasure in staying active, and I always seem to be checking out a new yoga studio. Chicago’s neighborhoods are very unique and I’m excited to continue discovering different corners of the city.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduate school, I hope to apply my big data training in computational analysis, modeling and stimulation to promote population health and optimize healthcare systems.