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Breadth of ASU experiences help determine student's career path

May 06, 2011

As a high school senior in Colorado, Mara Steinhaus knew she wanted to attend a big university that would challenge her and offer lots of activities. ASU has definitely filled the bill.

Now graduating with degees in computational mathematics and anthropology, she has immersed herself in research, analyzing the skyrocketing rabies incidence in Arizona’s wild animal population and also the impact media attention has on disease research funding.

She tutors and mentors refugee children at a local elementary school, coordinating the efforts of about 25 ASU volunteers who work one-on-one with the youngsters to catch them up to their peers.

And last month she danced for 14 hours at the Student Recreation Complex to raise funds for cancer research, as part of the ASU Swing Devils dance-a-thon. Steinhaus and a friend revived the inactive student dance club three years ago, offering lessons and building a professional team that competes in out-of-state contests.

“ASU has been a really good place for me, because it allows me to pursue every interest I have,” she says. “It’s been a really great place for me to explore.” 

She is graduating summa cum laude as the Outstanding Graduate from Barrett, The Honors College, heading to Johns Hopkins University next fall for a master’s program in international public health. She hopes eventually to work overseas, designing and implementing community-based health programs.

Steinhaus, who has been a Barrett ambassador and an active Honors Devil, says all of her experiences at ASU have helped determine her life’s direction.

When she entered ASU she didn’t know what her major would be, but she gravitated toward math. After adding an anthropology major she began doing research on epidemiology and public health. And it was her work with COAR, Community Outreach and Advocacy for Refugees, that led to an interest in refugee health issues.

She completed her honors thesis a year ago, developing a dynamic mathematical model for the spread of rabies in animal populations in Arizona. Her work has been adapted by a new group of math students who are extending her work to the analysis of rabies in surrounding states.

This year she was awarded a competitive research assistantship through the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, after proposing a method to quantify the cultural transmission of health knowledge – through media articles – on the allocation of research funding and effort.

She plans to continue her exploration in graduate school, working with refugee populations abroad, before deciding whether to attend medical school. Her ASU degree is also from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Sarah Auffret
Media Relations