Meet the Researcher - Rachel McLauchlin

Breakout Room: 19

RachelMcLauchlin_HeadshotResearcher Name: Rachel McLauchlin
Title of Research: Disease Dynamics and Policy Implications for COVID-19 in Incarcerated and Surrounding Communities
Division Representing: Math and Computer Sciences
Institution: State University of New York- Geneseo
Institution Location: New York
Home State: New York
District Number: 27
Advisor/Mentor: Christopher Leery
Funding Source: N/A

Research Experience:  
Rachel Mclauchlin is a senior at SUNY Geneseo. She is double majoring in Mathematics and English Literature, with a minor in Sociomedical Sciences and the college Honors Program. At Geneseo, Rachel has leadership positions in Pride Alliance, Voices for Planned Parenthood, and the Geneseo chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics. She also sits on the LGBTQ+ Working group, collaborating with students, faculty, and staff to better serve the LGBTQ+ community at Geneseo. In the summer of 2020, Rachel worked as a contact tracer for the Finger Lakes region in New York as part of their virtual call center staff. In her position as a contact tracer, she called individuals who had been exposed to the novel coronavirus, delivered them quarantine instructions, answered their questions, and helped them develop solutions to any problems they had with quarantining. Rachel worked as an assistant at the Rochester Museum and Science Center from 2015 to 2019, mainly doing informal education and science communication.

Presentation Experience: 
Rachel McLauchlin has presented several times at her college's annual undergraduate research symposium: Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement, and Talent (GREAT) Day. She has presented one research project in person as part of GREAT Day in 2019, and two virtually in 2020. In non-academic settings, Rachel has presented on a variety of issues related to LGBTQ+ experiences and reproductive justice in her leadership roles in Pride Alliance and Voices for Planned Parenthood, two clubs on campus. Additionally, her position at the Rochester Museum and Science Center included presentations in the form of informal education and science lessons for children of different ages, especially in later years when Rachel was promoted to lead assistant and acted as the main instructor for several camps.   

Significance of Research:       
Prisons and jails have been epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. While conditions like poor sanitation and difficulty social distancing promote disease spread within prisons and jails, arrests and releases link correctional facilities to their surrounding communities and create complex disease dynamics. We expand on existing research by recognizing the differences in how prisons and jails interact with their surrounding communities. We have constructed an agent-based disease model based on incarceration in rural towns in upstate New York, connecting inmates, facility staff, and community members, and incorporating the motion of arrests and releases. We examine three main questions: what is the difference between disease dynamics in a prison town versus in a jail town; which group--inmate, staff, or community--should be prioritized for vaccination; and what is the effect of inmate releases and lowered arrest rates on the spread of COVID-19. We find that staff members are the most vulnerable population, which makes them especially important in vaccination scenarios. Additionally, we have found that COVID-19 spreads more completely through prison populations than jail populations, which points to the importance of lowered arrest rates and inmate release in reducing case load.

Uniqueness of Research: 
Although the importance of carceral systems in the COVID-19 pandemic have been explored by some, there has been less research into the differences between jails and prisons as institutions and how they interact with their communities. This project expands on existing research on incarceration and COVID-19, while also addressing the potential need for different policies for jails versus prisons.