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Ryan Simpson

School: Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

Department: Nutritional Epidemiology and Data Science

Research Interests: Food Systems, Infectious Disease Modeling, Public Health

TIE Affiliation

Environmental Research Fellowship


(part of IRES team)

Ryan aims to use publicly available data from the Indonesia Family Life Survey (IFLS) to assess associations between foodborne infections in Indonesian communities facing poor water quality. He intends to extract records on households residing in the Central Java and explore the temporal and spatial granularity of household- and community-level survey questions. He will characterize the surveyed population based on occupation, socio-economic status, demographic information, place of residency, etc. and estimate self-reported economic losses of differing food operations (farming, fishery, etc.) impacted by floods, the risk of food/water contamination in flood-prone communities, and the risk of food/waterborne illnesses according to contaminant exposure. Ryan will then construct a set of time series of disease rates and contamination exposure, align these time series with compiled time-varying environmental and climatic data, and examine seasonality of foodborne and waterborne infections and their associations with flooding intensity.


Ryan is a PhD candidate in Nutritional Epidemiology and Data Science at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. He expects to complete his studies in May 2021. Ryan earned a B.A. in Global Affairs, a B.A. in Environmental Engineering and a M.S. in Nutritional Epidemiology and Data Science. He came to Tufts directly after finishing his undergraduate degree and hasn’t left since! In his final year of college, Ryan worked on two semester long consulting projects, one focused on food security in Tanzania and the other on improving water filtration systems in Hyderabad, India. In the summer of 2017, fellow researchers and Ryan patented a water disinfection device they designed and tested the device's efficacy at a local farm. Since arriving at Tufts, Ryan has worked with Dr. Elena Naumova on applying time series methods for describing, explaining, and predicting the seasonality infectious diseases. For more information, please see their research page at For the past two years, Ryan has co-chaired the 2018 Nutrition Data Summit and 2020 Tufts Analytics Without Borders Conference. Both events were aimed at increasing student familiarity with data sciences and understanding of data science applications in food and nutrition sciences. For more information, check out the website at

Current Studies and Future Goals

When asked what he found most meaningful about his field of study, Ryan responded with the following: “Data empowers knowledge and information. Working as a data scientist has shown me both the importance of understanding where data comes from and the frustration of communicating statistical results into actionable policies. From my research, I have found that translational research requires thorough investigation into how, why, and what form data is collected. Additionally, I find that the complexity of data is often easily overlooked leading to more confusion and misinformation than clarity. The Nutritional Epidemiology and Data Science concentration at the Friedman School provides a wonderful perspective on how the quality and integrity of data influences our thoughts, science, and policies.”

When asked what interested him in becoming a TIE Fellow, Ryan responded with the following: “The TIE Environmental Research Fellowship emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration in conducting environmental research. Given the complexity of forecasting infectious disease outbreaks in my own research, I became interested in better exploring how food, water, and the environment drive seasonal infections. The TIE Fellowship allows for the greatest opportunity to collaborate with students of different backgrounds and skill sets to answer questions on this complexity.”

After Tufts, upon completing his PhD, Ryan hopes to find a post-doctoral research opportunity at a US federal agency, specifically the CDC, CIA, or FDA. These organizations each focus on mitigating infectious disease outbreaks of different scales and focuses based on research experiences from his own work. Additionally, he hopes to find the opportunity to become an adjunct professor to teach statistics and data sciences.

Fun Facts!

Rare are the times Ryan is not glued to his computer writing reports, publications, or crunching data analyses. When finding free time, Ryan tries to walk, run, or bike to remain physically active. As a nutrition student, he loves to cook for friends and family. Otherwise, he definitely catches up on sleep!

Favorite food/drink: Blueberry smoothie

Favorite movie/TV show: Jack Ryan

Favorite place you've visited: Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan

Favorite thing you've seen: Singapore Botanical Garden orchids

Favorite course taken at Tufts: NUTR-394, Advanced Data Analysis

Dream job: Data Scientist for the CIA