July 29, 2020
SURF Student Decodes Death Data
Undergraduate researcher delves into causes of death inside Pennsylvania prisons
By Katy Rank Lev
Zhenzhen Liu, a senior majoring in statistics and machine learning, has always been interested in data-driven analysis of social issues. For the past year, Liu has applied her passion toward Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Human Rights Science(CHRS) under the direction of Robin Mejia, statistics manager, and Jay Aronson, the center’s director.
Liu had followed with interest as another Center researcher, Ben Klingensmith, analyzed data to understand causes of death in jails throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. "Deaths are an important indicator of public health," Liu said. "Elevated death rates means something is going wrong." Liu applied for and earned a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) grant to pursue a project looking at causes of deaths in Pennsylvania's prisons.