Welcome to our new project director, Rachel Connolly

Learn more about her research at the nexus of environmental equity, air quality, and clean transportation

By Mara Elana Burstein

The Luskin Center for Innovation is excited to welcome Rachel Connolly as our new project director for air quality and environmental equity research.

Rachel joined the Center in 2017 as a graduate student researcher and quickly excelled at managing a wide range of projects. She has since earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences from UCLA. Her research focuses on the intersection of air quality and environmental justice, primarily addressing transportation. Rachel brings an important public health perspective to the Center and deepens opportunities to collaborate with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, where she is also a staff researcher.

We asked Rachel a few questions to get to know her better. Read on to learn more about her!

Why is environmental health important to you?

Growing up, I always loved science and math, and wanted to help the environment. When I learned about the many health issues and inequities associated with environmental exposures, I realized there was a way to positively impact people’s lives through environmental justice research.

What are you most looking forward to in this role?

I’m excited for a few things – it will be great to conduct truly interdisciplinary work, as well as work directly with communities disproportionately impacted by environmental factors. It is so important to have community knowledge and perspectives be the foundation for impactful, environmental equity solutions.

And it will be great to explore research questions that expand on our existing work, that I didn’t have time for as a graduate student.

What types of research do you most enjoy?

I really enjoy conducting quantitative research with large datasets – it’s fun to develop new code for statistical analysis and identify trends. I’m also excited to do more community-based work that involves qualitative methods, such as focus groups.

What drew you to UCLA and the Luskin Center for Innovation?

I came to UCLA years ago to pursue a graduate degree because I was impressed by the interdisciplinary research being conducted and really excited to learn more about the intersection between environmental exposures and health effects. I took Dr. Pierce’s water resources class and knew I wanted to contribute to policy-relevant, actionable research. And I’ve been working at the Center ever since!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love hiking, spending time in nature, and art history (which I studied in Rome). I’m a big fan of baking as well — that was a pandemic hobby that stuck with me!

To get in touch with Rachel, contact her at rachelconnolly@g.ucla.edu or connect on LinkedIn.