SIS faculty member establishes Lab for Health & Environmental Information at WSU

SIS assistant professor Nic DePaula
Dr. Nic DePaula

School of Information Sciences Assistant Professor Nic DePaula has recently established the Lab for Health and Environmental Information (LHEI) at Wayne State. Dr. DePaula is a social scientist studying how information and communication technologies are used to address and mitigate environmental and public health risks.

He created the lab to address the need for knowledge and information about the impacts we have on our environment and the risks of these environmental changes to our individual and public health.

“My interest lies not only in understanding the risks, but also in understanding how people learn about and interpret those risks,” DePaula said. “The lab is a reflection of the diverse work that we do in the School of Information Sciences. The lab is a space to bring people together from various departments and backgrounds to discuss and research how human actions impact the environment, and how environmental changes in turn affect us.” An example of his work with WSU Computer Science students is the Visualizer of Environmental Toxicants – an online application that enables visualization of facilities that emit environmental toxicants, linked to related hazards and toxicity information about the chemicals emitted.

In addition to researching these complex issues, DePaula said that it is essential to create communication campaigns that go along with the research. He hopes that collaborating both on Wayne State’s campus and beyond will help extend the reach of the work done at LHEI.

DePaula received his Ph.D. in Information Science from the State University of New York at Albany, and degrees in Geography and Urban Planning from the same institution. His research examines how social and psychological factors implicate information systems, information policies and communication practices aimed at improving environmental and public health. This research has been applied to several important challenges, including analyses of government provision of environmental information, crisis communication on social media, the politics of health communication, and others.

Dr. DePaula is looking to fill an open position for a part-time student/research assistant to work at the lab to participate in related research as well as duties including collecting data via APIs, basic data analysis, and administrative tasks including website management.

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