Meet the Researcher - Gianna O'Connor

Breakout Room: 17

GiannaOConnor_HeadshotResearcher Name: Gianna O'Connor
Title of Research: Quantitative Correlations of Severe Covid-19 Effects and Markers of Environmental Racism by New York City Neighborhood
Division Representing: Health Sciences
Institution: Marymount Manhattan College
Institution Location: New York
Home State: Illinois
District Number: 12
Advisor/Mentor: Alessandra Leri
Funding Source: N/A

Research Experience:  
From June 2020 - August 2020, I worked at World Business Chicago in Chicago, IL as Workforce Initiatives Intern. My experience consisted of: Collaborating directly with executive leadership to drive inclusive economic growth throughout Chicago's 77 neighborhoods; promoting job creation and supporting small businesses with opportunities for growth; providing metrics for workforce development; Organizing roadmap project to identify best practices for job retention for Chicago's largest hospital systems; uniting employers and industry partners to develop inclusive workforce strategies; teaming and collaborating with external partnerships; Working with Executive Director of America's Urban Campus (AUC) to support the ALL IN Campus Democracy Voting Challenge by recognizing Chicago's colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing student political participation by voting; Demonstrating effective project leadership, organization, and management. From March 2019 - May 2019, I worked at the New York League of Conservation Voters in New York, NY as a Research and Development Intern. My experience consisted of: Working with executive leadership on change management projects to combat climate change, conserve land and water, and protect public health through political action; policy analysis focused on local environmental legislative agendas; Researching and analyzing different foundations and philanthropies involved in environmental advocacy; utilizing databases and data analysis; Helping organize private events for donors including the annual Spring Gala with over 800 prominent guests; Providing insightful research in order to organize future campaign events for local elections throughout New York state; developing strategies for campaigns and candidate endorsement; assisting with electoral work; developing strong research and analytical skills.

Presentation Experience: 
I have presented research studies and different projects both virtually and in-person in numerous courses throughout my undergraduate education. The presentations have covered a broad range of topics related to my specific areas of study: Politics and Human Rights and Urban and Environmental Sustainability. I plan to expand my presentation experiences by participating in conferences similar to Posters on the Hill. I am also applying to present this specific research study at Marymount Manhattan College's competitive Honors Day program this coming March. 

Significance of Research:       
To date, the Covid-19 pandemic has killed more than 400,000 Americans and more than 26,000 New York City residents. The pandemic is disproportionately affecting minority populations throughout America and in specific neighborhoods of New York City. Early evidence demonstrates that chronic pre-existing conditions contribute to higher Covid-19 mortality rates. Many of these pre-existing conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are exacerbated by prevalent environmental health risks. Some of the environmental factors that lead to increased health risks include air pollution, lead exposure, traffic density, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and ozone (O3) in the atmosphere. Herein, I examine the relationship between Covid-19 mortality rates in New York City neighborhoods and established markers of environmental injustice in order to explore the potential correlations. There are strong positive correlations between O3 pollution, PM2.5 attributable deaths, asthma hospitalization rates, COPD hospitalization rates, and Covid-19 case and death rates especially in low-income minority neighborhoods. By contrast, black carbon, NO2, SO2, and mean PM2.5 levels are anti-correlated with Covid-19 case and death rates. Overall, respiratory disease and ozone pollution are strongly associated with Covid-19 case and death rates, especially in low-income and racially diverse communities in New York City. Therefore, severe effects of Covid-19 appear to be correlated with traditional health markers of environmental racism in New York City neighborhoods. 

Uniqueness of Research: 
I am pursuing a double major in Politics and Human Rights and Urban and Environmental Sustainability, with a minor in Law and Ethics. This research study combines important topics from both disciplines, such as air pollution, economic injustice, and racial and health disparities.