A New View on an Old Game

PhD Student Avinash Chandran Takes a Quantitative Approach to Injury Prevention

Avinash Chandran is not your typical soccer coach. While having years of experience as a player himself, Chandran brings a new perspective to the game in his role as coach for the men’s varsity team at Bladensburg High School and as a PhD student at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH).

GWSPH PhD Student Avinash Chandran Coaching Soccer

Chandran is pursuing a PhD in epidemiology and is working as a research associate in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Milken Institute SPH. He works closely with Department Chair Loretta DiPietro on a number of projects, including research that examines player injuries in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Chandran is looking to identify factors that may be driving particular injuries and their severity, as well as the time players spend away from the game as a result of their injuries. For the ongoing study, Chandran and DiPietro are analyzing past and current data from the NCAA’s injury surveillance system and will include new data as it’s made available. He is hoping his research, which is different than most research in this area, will build towards his doctoral dissertation.

“One of the main reasons I chose to study at GW, beyond the academic coursework offered, was the intellectual freedom here,” Chandran says. “Oftentimes researchers are hesitant to push the limits or retest existing paradigms, so it’s a big draw to be able to study and work in a setting where the support and intellectual freedom given by faculty drives research.”

Chandran received his bachelor’s degree in public health with an undeclared minor in mathematics from the University of Maryland, College Park. It was during his undergraduate studies that Chandran began to see how a field that is as technical and quantitative as mathematics can serve as a bridge to a totally different setting like soccer. “It got me thinking about the possibilities this could bring in a public health setting,” Chandran said. He decided to apply his technical background in mathematics and earned a Master of Science in epidemiology from Milken Institute SPH in 2013, which then led him to pursue a PhD from the school. “Towards the start of my master’s program I realized that my interest was in academia and research, and that I needed to follow through with a PhD to fully execute a research agenda,” Chandran said.  


Credit: Dan Gross/The Gazette

Despite having a number of personal and professional commitments right now, Chandran says he’s finding this first semester of the program to be manageable. “I’m thankful that the department is understanding of my time and commitments, and that my advisor Dr. Sean Cleary is able to help me develop a workable course schedule,” he says.

Chandran anticipates he will complete the PhD program in 2018, but says he is really looking forward to the process, his classes and the opportunity to explore his research further with Dr. DiPietro. “Epidemiology drives an understanding of where we are, where we would like to be and lays a framework on how to get there,” he says. “It supplements all public health efforts, and I’m excited to have my research contribute to that.”