Donald Fejfar

Don Fejfar is a junior and Morehead-Cain Scholar majoring in biostatistics within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He studies how disease relates to food and water quality, security, and accessibility on Isabela Island in Galápagos, Ecuador.

Don Fejfarphoto by Megan May
September 25th, 2019

Q: When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

A: I loved being outside, so I wanted to be a professional athlete. But I also sort of knew it was out of reach. By the fourth or fifth grade, that changed to some kind of international health worker like an ER doctor.

Q: Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.

A: Knowing what I wanted to study was actually just an accumulation of things over time. I cared about health and studying it in understudied or underrepresented places and people. When I got to college and figured out what the world of academics and research look like, I realized I didn’t just want to practice medicine, but pursue more population-based work as well.

Don Fejfar with a windsurfing board and his water polo team

This past summer, Fejfar (second from left) took windsurfing lessons at the Copenhagen Surf School, which he visited with fellow UNC water polo team members.

Q: Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?

A: To find funding for my recent summer fieldwork in the Galápagos, my colleagues and I applied for every opportunity we could. Then, we developed a plan on how to best utilize the funds received to achieve our goals. Figuring out how to maneuver these more basic problems feels trickier than the general bumps in the road that come with research, especially since the research problems are the fun part.

Q: Describe your research in 5 words.

A: “Water woes in the Galápagos.”

Q: What are your passions outside of research?

A: I love sports and being outside. Climbing, running, biking, kayaking, hiking, snorkeling — you name it. I am president of the UNC Men’s Water Polo Club and have swam, played football, and played soccer all my life. In addition, I love my chocolate lab, Tim, all my friends at home in Iowa and at UNC, and to go to concerts, read, and travel!

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