School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Laboured Breathing- Meet Priyanka Gogna

PhD candidate, Epidemiology   

by Phil Gaudreau, February 2021

Priyanka Gogna

Between cars, industry emissions, dust, and more, it’s impossible to avoid breathing in air pollution. These pollutants can have negative effects on our body, and can directly lead to inflammation in the body.

Priyanka Gogna’s research looks at how outdoor air pollution – specifically, particulate matter such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets, and nitrogen dioxide – can impact inflammation during pregnancy. Current research suggests this can contribute to health complications such as hypertension and diabetes in the mother.

“This relationship really hasn’t been well studied in vulnerable populations, like pregnant women,” says Gogna. “We know that pregnancy leads to increased stress on the body and circulatory system, so it’s important to study these relationships in this susceptible group.”

Gogna first got interested in epidemiology during her masters degree, where in addition to her thesis work, she had the opportunity to work as an research assistant on the ComPARe Study – a study that estimates the current and future burden of cancer due to modifiable lifestyle, environmental and infectious risk factors. There she had the opportunity to quantify the burden of cancer attributable to outdoor air pollution and residential radon in Canada.

“This really sparked my interest in environmental exposures and health because we were studying the direct impact these exposures have on the health of Canadians,” says Gogna.

Gogna chose Queen’s for her master degree because of the strength of their epidemiology program, and its clear focus on transferable and quantitative skills.

“There really wasn’t anything comparable in Ontario in terms of a dedicated and established master of science in epidemiology,” says Gogna. “Once I began my masters, I knew I didn’t want to end my academic journey there, so I applied for the PhD program in the same department to continue to work under Will King, while preparing to defend my masters.”

Gogna is continuing to explore different career options, but with the clear goal of continuing epidemiology research.

“If you asked me when I started my PhD, I would have said that I definitely want to be a university professor at an academic institution,” says Gogna. “Since then, I’ve been able to gain experiences working in the government setting as well, allowing me to see the direct impact of research on policy work. I know I want to do epidemiology research, but I have started to think outside the box a little bit in terms of where my skills and ideas can make a difference.”

When she’s not working on her studies, she volunteers as a mentor for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), and helps run the Cancer Today program, which delivers engaging science modules to high school students in the community. She also runs her own epidemiology blog EpiSense, and has a keen interest in scientific knowledge translation activities.

“I don’t think science is done until it is communicated, whether that is at a scientific conference, at a public talk, or through online article. It’s very rewarding to be able to share my findings and ideas with others through these different settings.”

To learn more about graduate studies within the department of Public Health Science, please visit their website.

Each breath is a potential danger.
Breathing in Vulnerabilities
Breathing towards vulnerabilities
Expectant mothers breath
Particulary bad breath