Econ Alumna Continues Multidisciplinary Learning in PhD Studies

  • By Natalie Shaak
Melanie Jeske

Melanie Jeske began her doctoral studies this fall at the University of California, San Francisco - one of the nation’s top graduate schools in health sciences. Just like her undergraduate work at Drexel, she is combining seemingly different areas of study to expand research opportunities and make an impact.

Through her doctoral studies, she is exploring the overlap of sociology with science, technology and medicine; specifically, she plans to learn more about how those fields impact society. Ultimately, she wants to develop a better understanding of the complex networks in health sciences that lead to and exacerbate health inequalities.

“This is beyond just asking who has access to the best healthcare,” she says. “It’s a question about how we fund and motivate health research and technological development in this country, how patients are treated in the bureaucratic system of healthcare and the ways information about health travels.”

Jeske holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Environmental Studies as well as a master’s degree in Science, Technology and Society from Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences in 2015. Working toward two degrees in separate academic colleges as an undergrad was not easy to navigate, but she feels it was essential for her education and research goals.

“From the get-go, I worked really hard to find a network of people doing research at the intersection of economics and environmental health,” she says. “My coursework offered contrasting perspectives. Figuring out how various areas of disciplinary knowledge fit together really helped me to articulate my research agenda as I moved through the programs.”

Many people may not understand how a background in economics would be relevant to an academic or professional career in health science research. However, Jeske believes that economics is an important component for appreciating both sociology and health science and that her coursework at Drexel truly prepared her for her doctoral studies.

“Understanding economic systems is absolutely crucial to understanding the world we live in: how businesses, governments and universities operate; how scientific progress is defined; global political tensions; and even our more basic social interactions,” she says.

“For me, understanding economics is about unpacking the roots that have created the current moment we’re in as a way to begin to think about solutions to our social problems.”

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