Caroline Joyce

Caroline Joyce, MPH Class of '19


University of Pennsylvania, Master of Public Health Program, 2019

Scripps College, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, 2016


Favorite thing about Philly: The food


During her undergraduate studies as a Psychology major, Caroline enjoyed statistics and research, but knew she didn’t want to end up in psychology research. Having always had an interest in global health, she decided to take her research skills and apply them in a public health context, which is how she ended up at Penn.

Unlike many other public health graduate programs and schools, Penn’s MPH Program doesn’t require applicants to have prior work experience. In fact, current undergraduates and recent college graduates are encouraged to apply. This appealed to Caroline, who had worked for a year as a research assistant at a hospital in Boston before pursuing her MPH full-time. 

She was also very attracted to the Global Health track, which she says was somewhat rare compared to the other programs she applied to. During her MPH studies, she took full advantage of all the global health offerings. Her most rewarding opportunity was her 8-week fieldwork experience in Kenya, where she did data quality control for an HIV prevention study where female sex workers were given HIV oral tests.

“It was really interesting to me because it was my first time working on a global health research project,” Caroline said. “And specifically working with a local organization that was carrying out all of the research, so all of the research assistants were Kenyan. One of the principal investigators is Kenyan which is something that was really important to me and something I was happy to see.”

During her fieldwork experience, she also identified a capstone project which explored the role that education plays in predicting the prices female sex workers charge for sex both with and without condoms. It also ultimately helped inform her future career path.

Harsha Thirumurthy, PhD, Associate Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine, who Caroline worked with in Kenya, helped inform her research focus.

“That was incredibly necessary as I applied to research programs,” Caroline, who will be pursuing a PhD at McGill University upon graduation, said. “It helped me narrow and shape what my research questions are.”

For prospective students interested in research, Caroline recommends reaching out to faculty to help develop your skills. And although the MPH Program provides a “good foundation,” she recommends all students to “take advantage of Penn resources and supplement your education with all of the other ways you can learn from faculty.”

When she’s not busy honing her research skills, Caroline likes to read, run, watch Game of Thrones, and drink tahini milkshakes from Goldie.


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