University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Kristen Downs is a PhD Candidate in Environmental Sciences and Engineering and graduate research associate at the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Her background is environmental science and engineering grounded in public health and international development. In her dissertation, Kristen investigates and models the relationship between acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI), weather, and environmental factors using a case study in North Carolina to give insights into the future potential impacts of climate change on diarrheal diseases. Kristen’s interest in water and sanitation issues in developing countries began when teaching high school science in the Peace Corps in Kenya and has since led to water and sanitation fieldwork in Mozambique and South Africa with UNC, UNICEF, and Engineers Without Borders. Her primary interests include how infrastructural planning and policies and technology development can be used to provide sustainable services in the face of uncertainties such as environmental and climate change, development, and population growth. Kristen’s research focuses on modeling the risks, uncertainties, and implications associated with climate change impacts on waterborne disease, as mediated by the service quality of water and sanitation infrastructure and its interactions with weather variability and extreme events. She is also interested in the monitoring and sustainability of rural water supply and sanitation. Prior to pursuing her PhD at UNC, Kristen obtained her MS in Environmental Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University in 2010 and her BS in Chemistry, with a minor in French, from the University of Florida in 2006. After her PhD, she would like to further develop her skills in the intersecting fields of water, climate, energy, and health.
Postgraduate Research Assistant