Lab Team Members

Dr. Irene Yen, MPH - Principal Investigator

Irene Yen is the principal investigator and director of the HOPe Lab. She received her B.A. from Stanford University and her MPH and PhD from UC Berkeley. She is a social epidemiologist, a public health professor at the University of California Merced and a Robert Wood Johnson Interdisciplinary Research Leadership fellow. Irene's current research is centered on the question of how place influences health. That is, how things like transportation, walkability, the food environment, and socioeconomic status influence health. She is also interested in social policy-health connections and would like to study the role of K-12 education in addressing public health outcomes. You can reach her at

Shaina St. Cruz - PhD Student

Shaina is a PhD student in the Public Health graduate program at the University of California, Merced. She developed her passion for improving population health through statistics while attending In her undergraduate program at California State University, Fullerton. With a focus on the social inequalities that factor into health outcomes, she aims to assess community needs on a population scale and facilitate data-driven solutions, such as effective program interventions, to improve their quality of life. She plans to utilize results derived from big data in influencing policy and decision-making in the affected communities. Ultimately, she aims to earn a faculty position in a Public Health or Epidemiology department at a state university and establish an undergraduate research center to mentor the next generation of researchers.

Past Members: 

Mariamawit Belette, undergraduate researcher (2019)
Katie NGO, undergraduate researcher (2019)
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