2017 Fellows

Partnering with host organizations on four continents in seven countries, these nine Notre Dame students will complete research projects throughout 2017 and 2018. The students and their research projects are as follows:

Tracy Lynn Cleary

Tracy-Lynn Cleary

Summary: Cleary is a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry will travel to Kenya to develop a paper analytical device (PAD) that has the capability of detecting low quality oxytocin in an affordable, safe, and field-friendly manner to be implemented in birth clinics around the world. She will be supported by Marya Lieberman, a professor of surface chemistry.

Project Description: Oxytocin is amongst the twelve most important medical commodities for the health of women and children. It prevents potentially fatal bleeding after childbirth, and is administered to 200 million women per year. However, the drug is a cyclic peptide which is difficult to manufacture and must be kept refrigerated to prevent degradation. Studies show that more than a third of oxytocin in developing countries is degraded and some is entirely fake. The bad quality of oxytocin in the developing world contributes to 300,000 maternal deaths per year. My work proposes to create a microfluidic Paper Analytical Device that can distinguish between good and bad quality oxytocin.

Analysis of injectable oxytocin is very challenging and there are no field tests for this critical pharmaceutical. The concentration of oxytocin is 10 IU/ml, which corresponds to 20ug of peptide per milliliter, and there are several excipients that could interfere with color tests. It is not enough to detect functional groups present in the peptide. The thermal degradation products of oxytocin are chemically very similar to oxytocin, so the molecules must be separated chromatographically before analysis. We plan to chemically modify the cellulose fibers and pre-load buffers to simplify the chromatography step. Finally, the PAD must be suitable for field use by birth attendants, which means no use of hazardous chemicals or lab equipment. The user will load the injectable oxytocin on the PAD via capillary action, dip one edge in water, wait 10 minutes, and then fold a flap over to activate visualization reagents. Analytical metrics for the prototype PADs will be compared with the USP monograph assay for simulated and real dosage forms.
Our goal is to create a safe and reliable field test to assess the quality of oxytocin which can then be scaled and shared across the globe.


Jenna Davidson

Jenna Davidson

Summary: Davidson is a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences will travel to Indonesia to study which mosquito vectors are present in Indonesia and their associated behaviors, as well as what arthropod-borne viruses are being transmitted by mosquitos. She will be supported by Neil Lobo, a research associate professor of medical entomology.

Project Description: Arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) are responsible for some of the most explosive epidemics of infectious disease. More than 130 of 231 arboviruses pathogenic to humans are vector-borne, transmitted by blood-feeding insects. These arboviruses have been characterized in many areas of the world, but we have limited epidemiology data for illnesses in Indonesia, a country with a population of 249 million people. Many undiagnosed febrile illnesses in the Indonesian community are caused by arboviruses like Zika, Dengue, chikungunya, and Japanese encephalitis. Additionally, there are no records from Indonesia of some arboviruses known to circulate in the region such as West Nile, Sepik, and Banna. Our study will make a preliminary survey of potentially pathogenic arboviruses from mosquitoes.

Surveying for arboviruses in mosquitoes is a rapid and effective means for demarking general risk of infection. Nearly 35% of all human arboviruses were discovered in vectors–like mosquitoes–before being proven to cause human disease. Surveying arboviruses in these locations will characterize unknown disease transmission systems, allowing determination of effective methods to reduce infections as well as improved responses to epidemic scenarios in Indonesia and beyond. 


Lauran Feist

Lauran Feist

Summary: Feist is an undergraduate senior student in the Departments of Political ScienceEconomics, and Romance Languages will travel to Argentina and Brazil, to study the comparative power of governors in the two countries and their role in shaping public policy outcomes. She will be supported by Scott Mainwaring, the Eugene and Helen Conley Professor of Political Science.

Project Description: The institutional structure of federal systems and the interactions between presidents, governors, and mayors have serious implications for public policy and development efforts. Governors in Brazil and Argentina have historically enjoyed extensive political influence – constraining presidents and launching state-based interests into the national political arena. However, research on Brazilian federalism after the turn of the century has begun to question the strength of the “veto power” of governors and their influence in Brazilian politics. This diverges from the Argentine case where research shows that Argentine governors continue to possess extensive political, financial, and administrative powers. Lauran’s research seeks to understand why governors’ spheres of influence have evolved differently in Brazil and Argentina and what said developments mean for public policy design and implementation. She will spend the yearlong fellowship based at Torcuato Di Tella University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a USAID Fellow, Lauran will conduct semi-structured interviews and data analysis. She will also be working with the Center for Research on Federalism and Provincial Politics at Di Tella. A David L. Boren Scholar in Florianópolis, Brazil, during the 2016-2017 academic year, Lauran’s project is a continuation of research conducted in Brazil.
 
Lauran will spend a year conducting research on the comparative power of governors in Brazil and Argentina and their role in shaping public policy outcomes. Based out of Buenos Aires, Argentina, she will be hosted by Torcuato Di Tella University and will work with the Center for Research on Federalism and Provincial Politics.


Catherine Flanley

Catherine Flanley

Summary: Flanley is a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences will travel to Brazil to join a laboratory group, which is developing sandfly age-related gene-expression markers so that researchers can more accurately estimate the age of field caught sandflies. These age markers will allow researchers to determine the efficacy of plant-derived, glycoside-baited traps in decreasing the longevity of field sandfly populations, frequent carriers of visceral leishmaniasis, which they hope will reduce transmission rates. Flanley will be supported by Mary Ann McDowell, an associate professor of immunoparasitology and vector biology.

Project Description: Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease that infects over 1 million people each year, is endemic in 88 countries, and considered one of the most important neglected diseases. Different Leishmania parasites cause different clinical manifestations such as cutaneous (CL) and visceral (VL) leishmaniasis. Phlebotomine sand flies vector different Leishmania parasites and are geographically widespread. In Brazil, Lutzomyia longipalpis is incriminated as the vector of VL. Several factors complicate leishmaniasis control such as growing urbanization, lack of vaccines, emergence of parasites resistant to available drugs and the disease’s resurgent nature. An increasingly important and strategic tool to combat leishmaniasis is to interrupt transmission by decreasing vector populations; routinely accomplished through the use of insecticides despite the rise in resistance. 

Dr. Genta’s laboratory demonstrated that toxic glycosides from native plants shorten L. longipalpis longevity up to 50%. Reduction in longevity is critical to interrupt the disease cycle, which relies on female sand flies living long enough to obtain second blood meal, transmitting Leishmania parasites in the process. We hypothesize that glycoside traps will decrease longevity reducing transmission of VL without the strong selective pressure for resistant populations as seen with insecticides. Glycoside use would not incur detrimental environmental or human health effects. A limitation is the lack of knowledge concerning sand fly longevity in nature. Transcriptome analysis at different ages can elucidate age-dependent gene expression. We will establish molecular age markers in sand flies to estimate the age of field caught sand flies and the effect toxic compounds may have on the average age of field populations.


Kristina Hook

Kristina Hook

Summary: Hook is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies will travel to Ukraine to analyze the effects of the 1930s Holodomor – a human-caused famine in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Ukraine that killed an estimated 2.5 to 7.5 million people – on Ukraine's collective political identity in the modern post-Soviet landscape. She will be supported by Ernesto Verdeja, an associate professor of political science and peace studies.

Project Description: My doctoral dissertation analyzes the 1930s Holodomor, a human-caused famine in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Ukraine which killed an estimated 2.5 to 7.5 million people.  While in Kyiv, Ukraine, I will partner with the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy's (NaUKMA) Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) to explore how these events have shaped Ukraine's collective political identity in the modern post-Soviet landscape, as well as how these events inform our broader understanding of large-scale violence against civilians and other human rights protection issues.  The CIHR works to educate in the sphere of human rights, to conduct relevant research, and to provide training for human rights activists.

Specifically, I will aid the CIHR in their academic and policy relevant work by exploring the Holodomor through the lens of comparative genocide studies.  The goal of such research is to ultimately inform more carefully calibrated policy responses to global mass atrocities as they unfold by developing empirically grounded theories about violence dynamics, decision-making, and expected outcomes.  Further, while the Holodomor is a historical event, its magnitude and severity entails that the Holodomor’s political legacy continues to reverberate.  My work will also allow me to gauge how this legacy impacts multiple sectors of Ukrainian society, as well as how it has influenced modern understandings of human rights protection and rule of law topics.


Kevin Kho

Kevin Kho

Summary: Kho is a Master of Divinity Student in the Department of Theology. He will travel to Uganda to develop strategies to aid parents in earning additional sources of income to support the education of their children. He will be supported by Stacey Noem, the director of human formation in the Master of Divinity program. 

Project Description: Education is an essential part of development. Many organizations have worked hard to build schools throughout developing countries, especially in the rural villages who would otherwise have no access. However, despite education being more readily available, families are running into another challenge of being able to afford the education for their children. Currently, parents who work as a casual laborer earns about $50 USD. To pay for one term of tuition for one child, the parent will have to devote four month’s pay to the school. As a result, many parents are forced to take out loans and put their property as collateral. When they cannot pay back the money, they lose their land and their ability to pay for their child’s education. 

My research will explore strategies to train parents to effectively and efficiently plan, manage, and utilize the available resources that they have. I will primarily focus on evaluating the ability for agri-business to have an impact on a family’s income. Because of limited land and rudimentary methods of farming, many families rely on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood so their local markets usually sell imported goods and crops. Through training in agri-business, parents are able to set up a learning/incubation farm with irrigation, greenhouses and other modern agribusiness facilities.  This training will bring an increase in value as well as an ability for families to compete in local and regional markets. I will be exploring how effective this project is at helping parents to support their children through school in hopes that it is a strategy that can be implemented in many schools, increasing the effectiveness of education in a person’s life.


Sam Lucas

Samuel Lucas

Summary: Lucas is an undergraduate pre-professional studies senior student in the College of Science will travel to Malawi to review the progress of an NDIGD project, funded through a grant by Catholic Relief Services, focused on the capacity of local government councils that deal with local development, civil protection, and natural resource management. He will be supported by Jaimie Bleck, an assistant professor of political science.

Project Description: This project, submitted by Catholic Relief Services in partnership with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), will review the progress of the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) and UBALE partnership programs to date, focusing on the capacity of local government councils such as Village Development Councils (VDCs), Village Civil Protection Councils (VCPCs), and Village Natural Resource Management Councils (VNRMCs). The capacity of the local government structures will be assessed and compared with prior NDIGD learning to demonstrate the progress (or lack thereof) in achieving the goals enumerated by the UBALE project. A central goal of the project is to ensure the sustainability of the work already begun within the communities in southern Malawi. UBALE initially identified five key aspects of local government to strengthen: governance and group dynamics, participatory planning, monitoring and evaluation, resource mobilization, and gender equity. Each of these aspects will be analyzed in determining the sustainability of UBALE and NDIGD programs to date. To meet the goals of this project, surveys will be administered to local government council members. This survey will be designed in partnership with CRS before implementation in the field.  Separate survey instruments will be made for each local governance council. In addition to administering surveys to local government members, a review of the Malawian government’s Care Group efforts to strengthen food security and child nutrition will be conducted.


Paulina Luna

Paulina Luna

Summary: Luna is a Master of Science in Global Health student in the Eck Institute for Global Health and will travel to Peru and partner with Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) to learn about how a community-based service program that provides free therapy to children with disabilities from low socioeconomic families impacts parental wellbeing. The research will provide feedback in order to improve services to families of children with disabilities. She will be supported by Lacey Ahern ‘03, the associate director of global health training at the Eck Institute.

Project Description: I am partnering with the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) Peru to learn about the experiences of parents of children with disabilities. I will be using Photovoice, a community-based participatory research method that allows participants to capture their experiences through photography. Specifically, we want to learn how CMMB impacts the ways in which parents experience stigma in their communities. CMMB Peru offers Rehabilitación con Esperanza (Rehabilitation with Hope), a community-based service program that provides free physical, language, cognitive, and emotional therapy to children with disabilities from low socioeconomic families. The research will provide feedback for Rehabilitación con Esperanza in order to improve services to families of children with disabilities.


Emily Maiden

Emily Maiden

Summary: Maiden is a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science and the Kroc Institute will travel to Malawi to determine what an effective implementation strategy might look like that could strategically combat the issue of child marriage. She will also be supported by Professor Bleck.

Project Description: Malawi, a small, landlocked country in southern Africa currently ranks as one of the countries with the highest rates of child marriage: one in two girls will be married before they turn 18 years old. To combat the practice, the Malawian government recently signed a new law and ratified their constitution to raise the legal marriage age to 18 years old. However, research on how to effectively implement a new law like this, one that radically changes existing sociocultural norms and expectations, remains extremely limited. As a USAID Fellow, Emily Maiden will spend approximately ten months in Malawi examining the policy implementation process between elected officials, nongovernmental organizations, and traditional authorities. Through interviews, data collection, and participant observation, she will explore the policy change process at multiple levels to determine what an effective implementation strategy might look like for this newly signed constitutional ratification banning child marriage.  


Lilian Ramos

Lilian Ramos

Summary: Ramos is a Master of Science in Global Health student in the Eck Institute and will travel to Uganda to assess the perceptions of nursing students and tutors about incorporating mHealth as a tool to improve palliative care services and delivery, as well as the feasibility of integrating mHealth training into the current curriculum of a diploma in palliative care program. She will also be supported by Lacey Ahern.

Project Description: The Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU) is a national organization that supports and promotes the development of palliative care services in Uganda. PCAU’s goal is to increase access to culturally appropriate palliative care through strengthening health systems in Uganda in collaboration with partner organizations. In 2015, PCAU conducted a pilot project to test an mHealth surveillance system to better understand and support palliative care services. The mHealth surveillance system is currently being tested in 10 facilities around the country for acceptability and quality of data collected. Small scale expansions, however, are time and resource intensive. There is need to explore other avenues for implementing and sustaining the mHealth surveillance system. The 2017 phase of this project will assess perceptions from nursing students and tutors on integrating mHealth training into the current Diploma in Palliative Care Program (DPCP) curriculum. The current DPCP course enables nurses and clinical officers to be recognized as morphine prescribers upon completion. Integrating the use of mHealth within the DPCP curriculum will lead to consistent standards in regard to collecting data and improving data quality.  Increasing the nursing population with a certified training accepted throughout the country will also facilitate in decreasing the existing gaps in patient access to palliative care. The Fellow, in collaboration with PCAU, will be responsible for conducting in-depth interviews and focus groups at the pilot site, Mulago School of Nursing & Midwifery, which is the largest government nursing school in Uganda.


Megan Wright

Megan Wright

Summary: Wright is a Master of Science in Global Health student in the Eck Institute and will travel to Uganda to follow up with mothers and newborns post-cesarean section during the post-discharge period. She will use hospital data and will conduct a home survey for mothers and newborns to determine cause-specific mortality and morbidity, which will be used to identify necessary follow-up care practices post-cesarean section. Wright will be supported by Dr. Brian McCarthy ‘68, an adjunct professor.

Project Description: This study will be conducted in Kibaale, Uganda during the months of May and June 2017.  Megan Wright will be working with partners in Uganda with the Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL) initiative. Megan will be working with post-cesarean section data from Kagadi and St. Ambrose hospitals in Kibaale, Uganda. The goal of this study is to identify cause-specific mortality and morbidity for mothers and newborns post-cesarean section, and use the information generated from a data analysis and a post-discharge survey to develop follow-up care practices. Ultimately, the findings will lead to a reduction of mortality and morbidity among mothers and newborns in Uganda. After data analysis, a sample of mothers and their newborns who have had a cesarean section will be selected to participate in a post-discharge survey. The data collected will be useful for healthcare professionals and will provide critical information related to complications mothers and newborns face post-cesarean section. The results will aid healthcare facilities in providing helpful follow-up services for mothers and newborns following a cesarean section.