Ellis Silva

PhD in Behavioral and Social Health Sciences ’24


Undergraduate Institution: Northeastern University
Undergraduate Major: Biology

Why did you choose the Brown University School of Public Health?
I chose the Brown University School of Public Health because of its open, welcoming, and collaborative environment. Faculty members genuinely care about the success and happiness of students. Students are incredibly supportive of one another, and are always reaching out to lend a helping hand. Classes are designed to engage students to ensure that students walk away with applicable skills for real world public health problems. As soon as I walked out of the Van Wickle Gates at my MPH commencement, I was ready to walk right back through them for a PhD orientation.

What makes Brown's program different from other programs you considered?
Brown's program is rooted in student happiness, success, and opportunity. The School of Public Health constantly strives for students and faculty to work across departments, ensuring an atmosphere of collaboration and not competition. Other programs I interviewed with were lovely but their focus was on quantitative outcomes, such as grades and papers. While grades and papers are important, Brown focuses on the qualitative outcomes of student and faculty satisfaction, comfort, and support. Don't let the common office building exterior deceive you, the School of Public Health is like no other in the world.

What do you enjoy most about your program?
While I enjoy so many aspects of my doctoral program in Behavioral and Social Health Sciences, the students are my favorite part. Students want the best for each other, constantly collaborate together, and provide continued support. Impostor syndrome is so common at the graduate level, but students here really work to hype each other up and remind one another that they belong.

What is your academic area of interest and why?
My academic area of interest focuses on obesity in low- and middle-income countries. Through this dual burden lense, I am interested in understanding and measuring under- and overnutrition in these global settings to inform effective interventions. While previous thinking focused on obesity as a problem only plaguing high-income countries, Western companies have infiltrated developing markets as their success has dwindled in developed markets. It is so important to study this issue in hopes that public health can work to minimize the burden of disease attributed to processed food in low-income global settings.

What are your postgraduate goals/plans?
While I am only a first year in my doctoral program, I would absolutely love to be a faculty member in a school of public health one day. This goal stems from my love of teaching, research, and mentorship, so this placement would allow me to pursue those passions. Brown is full of opportunities to build skills in these areas, including TA opportunities, teaching certificates, thesis research with faculty, and research-based scholarships.

Why Providence?
We might be the smallest state, but what we lack in size we make up for everywhere else! Rhode Island is full of beautiful scenery, bustling activity, and so many things to do. Providence is one of the best spots in Rhode Island with its bubbling diversity, delicious cuisine, easy walkability, old New England charm, niche local businesses, and ability to feel like a small-town within a city. Our location also makes it so easy to hop on the train to Boston, get on local transit and head to one of many Rhode Island beaches, or jump in the car and explore mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont!

What advice would you give to prospective applicants?
My number one piece of advice is to not be afraid of applying, as I know firsthand how common Impostor Syndrome can be. Students are what makes our school so great, and Brown would be so lucky to have you! I recommend reaching out to students and faculty that have research interests aligned with yours, as this is a great way to get a feel for Brown and help you to make your decision!

Find out more about the doctoral program in Behavioral and Social Health Sciences