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2022 - 2023 Academic Year Part-time RAs

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Strategies for Reducing Environmentally Mediated Infectious Diseases

This project  focused on public health interventions to reduce environmentally-mediated infectious diseases. This included studies focused on malaria, diarrhea, and enteric pathogen infection in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Faculty mentor: Jade Benjamin-Chung, '24, Health Research & Policy Department
Research assistant: Gabby Barratt Heitmann, earth systems major


Data, State Capacity, and Distribution in Post-Independence Africa 

Tools developed in machine learning and computer vision have the potential to unlock vast amounts of previously hard-to-digitize historical data. This project aims to leverage some of these developments to extract data from sources containing unstructured, or semi-structured, information – including newspaper data, staff directories, and maps – and to use these sources to speak to important questions around political and economic development.

Faculty mentor: Jeremy Bowles, King Center on Global Development
Research assistant:


Legacies of Conflict and Transitional Justice Institutions

The backdrop for this project is, on the one hand, a book that I have been asked to write assessing the past 30 years of efforts to pursue transitional justice in societies scarred by war, genocide, and internal divisions and conflict. On the other hand, this proposal, and the book, are closely connected to the research and field work through which students have been collaborating with me, thanks to King Center support, over the past several years in Indonesia, Cambodia, and elsewhere. This year the student researcher(s) will focus on important case studies in how the international community, regional organizations (e.g. ASEAN, African Union), national actors, and civil society are responding to ongoing situations of conflict (Ethiopia, Mynmar, CAR, DRC, Indonesia) through measures designed to address humanitarian crises and prevent future violence. A comparative perspective will be provided through examination of the legacy of transitional justice in post-conflict societies, focusing in particular on to what extent typical transitional justice goals such accountability, reconciliation, truth, rule of law, and so on have been fulfilled (East Timor/Timor Leste, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sierra Leone).

Faculty mentor: David Cohen, Classics Department
Research assistant: Jessica Zhu, '24, international relations major


Safe Water and Women's Time

Health
 
Innovations in Methods and Data
 

Globally, women and girls are responsible for the majority of household water management. The time costs of water fetching have been described in the literature, but far less research has looked at the time costs of water treatment at the household. Depending on the treatment strategy, this can cost women hours per week boiling water, cleaning filters, mixing chlorine solutions, or doing other tasks to make their water safe to drink. This means that the benefits of clean water at the tap, for women in particular, may be underestimated.

Faculty mentor: Yoshika Crider, King Center on Global Development
Research assistant: Elizabeth Evers, '25, human biology major; Rafeea Tamboli, '23, economics major 


Household Flooring Materials and Child Health 

Children are exposed to pathogens in soil when they play on the ground. In settings with primarily dirt floors, upgrading those floors to concrete is potentially one way to reduce these exposures.The research team is conducting an individual participant data meta-analysis of the association between household flooring materials and child health outcomes.

Faculty mentor: Yoshika Crider, King Center on Global Development
Research assistant: Lea Wang-Tomic, '24, mathematical and computational science major 


 


Emollient Therapy for Improved Survival and Growth of Very Low Birth Weight Infants in Zimbabwe

Health
 
Innovations in Methods and Data

Up to 30% of neonatal deaths occur in very low birthweight [VLBW, <1500 grams (g)] infants who have a poorly developed and dysfunctional skin barrier, which puts them at risk for loss of water and heat and penetration of pathogens into the bloodstream through the skin, leading to poor growth, sepsis and mortality. Mortality among VLBW infants is 50% at Zimbabwe’s top public neonatal care unit at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, which is representative of sub-Saharan Africa. Oil massage of newborns is a widespread practice throughout Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean region, but studies of locally available products and oils routinely applied to newborn infants in high-mortality regions show harmful effects. In low- and middle-income countries, emollient therapy with sunflower seed oil (SSO) in VLBW infants has been shown to improve skin barrier function, reduce the risk for serious infections, and enhance growth during the neonatal period. Data on the impact of emollient therapy on neonatal mortality is limited – especially from Africa – but suggestive of a 25% reduction.

Faculty mentor: Gary Darmstadt, '24, Pediatrics Department
Research assistant: Aiyana Austin, '24, human biology major; Reilly Pigott, '24, human biology major


Entrepreneurship Education in Developing Economies

In an on-going research project in Thailand, we are interested in the impact of peer learning on entrepreneurs’ abilities to recognize opportunities and to create a business model that can execute on those opportunities. Our project involves collaboration with two large companies and their efforts to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem to shift Thailand from an agriculture and tourism-based economy to more of a knowledge and innovation-based economy. The second project involves helping refugees and immigrant entrepreneurs with team formation for entrepreneurial ventures. We will test newly developed theory on the match between business type and team characteristics via a massive open, online course targeting prospective migrant entrepreneurs.

Faculty mentor: Charles Eesley, Management Science and Engineering Department
Research assistant: Rachel Ochoa, '23, international relations major


The Politics of Humanitarian Aid: Why Do Governments Prevent Emergency Aid to People Who Need It?
 

When do governments prevent emergency humanitarian aid from reaching people who need it? In this project, students will participate in the creation of a dataset on government decisions in response to emergency events, focusing on floods and droughts. Governments of poor countries often rely on aid from foreign countries to fund basic services, such as health, education, and infrastructure. When these countries experience emergencies, foreign donors offer additional aid to help people in harm’s way. Recent events in countries such as Venezuela, Syria, and Ukraine illustrate how governments refuse offers of humanitarian aid or make it difficult for aid to reach populations in need. This project investigates why governments prevent emergency humanitarian aid from reaching people who need it. 

Faculty mentor: Allison Grossman, Immigration Policy Lab
Research assistant:


Carbon and Nutrient Content of Tropical Peat Soils

Tropical peatlands are the world’s most carbon dense ecosystems and must be protected from human disturbances to prevent the exacerbation of climate change. However, our understanding of how much carbon tropical peatlands store and where and how peats are able to form over thousands of years remains limited.

It is important understand the magnitude of tropical peatland carbon storage at different spatial scales and how it relates to environmental conditions, especially hydrology, in order to inform peatland conservation planning.

Faculty mentor: Alison Hoyt, Earth System Science Department
Research assistant: Carla Nicolini, '23, chemistry major


Community Group Model Building to Identify Systemic Barriers and Facilitators of Postpartum Depression Care Delivery for the Floating Population in Shanghai

Health
 
Innovations in Methods and Data

Even though nearly one quarter of all mothers in Shanghai, China suffer postpartum depression (PPD), 70% of women do not seek help for perinatal mental health problems. The issue is particularly challenging for the 3.2 million women of childbearing age who live in the city as migrants. They could be more susceptible to PPD than local residents due to a lack of social support, health care, and social services as well as isolation and language barriers. Despite these challenges, little is known about these women’s needs and the services they receive due to a lack of clinical diagnosis of PPD and a reluctance among women to access care.

This project aims to better understand the factors that lead to treatment gaps for migrant women with PPD by gathering information from the women themselves, their caregivers, hospital staff, and community health workers.

Faculty mentor: Carmen Lee, Medicine Department
Research assistant: Antia Taft, '24, human biology major


Does Community Attachment Improve Climate Change Attitudes and Mitigation Behaviors? A Large-Scale Randomized Evaluation

The challenges surrounding climate change and the actions required to address it are well understood among the scientific community. Changing the behaviors of individuals in society is not only critical for mitigating the effects of climate change, but is particularly important for those who are most likely to encounter the pernicious effects of climate change and must adapt to new situations. Climate education interventions have typically been constructed around a ‘knowledge-deficit’ assumption, whereby people who lack information on climate change will adapt their behaviors when confronted with new information. We intend to examine an alternative approach by examining how aspects of human interconnections affect addressing a communal challenge like climate change.  

Faculty mentor: Prashant Loyalka, Graduate School of Education
Research assistant: Liza Goldberg, '24, earth systems major


A Scoping Review on Delivery of Essential Newborn Care in Armed-Conflict Settings

Essential newborn care (ENC) includes thermal care, immediate and exclusive breastfeeding, hygiene, and focuses on the care after birth including neonatal resuscitation and immunizations. Implementation of ENC in countries experiencing armed conflict has been insufficient, yet it is critical to preventing newborn mortality, and for reaching Sustainable Development Goal 3.2 of reducing neonatal mortality to no more than 12/1,000 live births. We are conducting a scoping review to reveal the current methodologies and identify gaps of ENC delivery in conflict settings. This research is critical towards improving healthcare for these underserved neonatal populations across the globe.

Instructional Video Curriculum QI Intervention for Identification and Management of Pediatric Respiratory Distress in Gondar, Ethiopia

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted both the importance of identifying respiratory distress and the limited in-person training to develop such skills. Respiratory distress caused by infections represents significant pediatric morbidity and mortality in low- and middle-income countries. Additionally, there are significant opportunities to equip providers to care for children in respiratory distress. We will conduct a needs assessment on trainees’ attitude about the identification and management of pediatric respiratory distress in Gondar, Ethiopia and design a curriculum to equip trainees in resource-limited settings to identify and manage children in respiratory distress.

Faculty mentor: Rishi Mediratta, Pediatrics Deparment
Research assistant: Abhinav Kumar, '24, computer science major


Geospatial Analysis and Site Prediction for Deforestation and Charcoal Production Sites, Maranhao Brazil

This project uses a new geospatial dataset covering regions of forest loss in Brazil’s arc of deforestation, along with machine vision-detected charcoal production sites commonly associated with forest-to-agriculture land transition and human trafficking to carry out geospatial analysis of relevant spatial and temporal patterns. The goal of the research is to understand how activity detected in a given region predict activity in neighboring regions, with the aim of predicting future hotspots of both deforestation and human trafficking activity.

Faculty mentor: Grant Miller, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR)
Research assistant: Phil Chabaneix, '25, economics major


Awareness-Based Behavior and Disease Dynamics in a Split Population

When infectious disease spread through a population, they may cause severe, observable morbidity and mortality. People may then assess their own risk based on recent disease burden and in turn modify their behavior, adopting protective measures like vaccination and mask-wearing. Furthermore, social divisions within a population may lead to differences in disease burden and protective behavior uptake between groups. By developing a model that reflects these processes, we can show how awareness-based behavior and social division can produce complicated and counterintuitive dynamics and better understand actual epidemics including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faculty mentor: Erin Mordecai, Biology Department 
Research assistant: Kimberly Cardenas, '25, human biology major


Identity Politics and Policy Change: The Impacts of Quotas on Policy Outcomes in India

How does politician identity, particularly gender, affect the delivery of development programs in the world’s largest democracy? When and why does women’s descriptive representation beget their substantive representation? To answer this question the project will draw on a trove of administrative data from across India, to build a village-level dataset on the reservation status of elected positions and lists of elected officials for several past elections.

Faculty mentor: Soledad Artiz Prillaman, Political Science Department
Research assistant: Barry Migott, '25, computer science major 

 


Determining the Impact of Dengue Virus Infection in Pregnancy on Maternal and Child Health Outcomes

Health
 
Innovations in Methods and Data

Using a unique set of biobanked samples and data from a well-characterized previous prospectively collected maternal-child cohort (2012-2016), we propose to fill current knowledge gaps about the consequences of maternal DENV infection for both pregnancy and offspring outcomes in Kenya. Specifically, we will investigate the impact of the virus serotype, severity of disease and timing of maternal DENV infection related to MTCT as well as offspring growth and development.

Faculty mentor: Izabela Rezende, Pediatrics Department 
Research assistant: Annabelle Smith, '24, biology major


The Burden of Dengue and Chikungunya Transmission, Infection and Disease in Kenya

Using a unique set of biobanked samples and data from a well-characterized cohort collected during the years of 2020-2022 in Kenya, we propose to analyze risk factors for human exposure to DENV and CHIKV, proposing that ongoing endemic transmission sets the stage for potential outbreaks.

Faculty mentor: Izabela Rezende, Pediatrics Department 
Research assistant: Erin Florand, '24, bioengineering major


Improving Healthcare Resiliency by Enhancing Natural Ventilation in Liberian Healthcare Facilities

Health
 
Innovations in Methods and Data

Healthcare facilities in low-resource settings are frequently under-prepared to prevent disease spread among patients or healthcare workers. One durable strategy to reduce hospital-acquired airborne infections is to improve ventilation. Ventilation in naturally-ventilated facilities largely depends on infrastructure parameters but can also be augmented through building modifications or assistive devices. We propose to evaluate ventilation in Liberian healthcare facilities, using CO2 as a proxy for airborne infectious disease transmission risk.

Faculty mentor: Ashley Styczynski, Medicine Department
Research assistant: Ethan Bell, '25, undeclared major


(Inter)National Capital Flows and Growth

This research project encompasses an umbrella of 3 separate setting where we study the role of bank branching on domestic and international market access from the 19th to 21st centuries. First, we examine the US before and after the Great Depression where we have unique branch-level balance sheet records that will allow us to model and estimate the importance of greater capital mobility on trade, growth, and financial resilience. Second, we examine the international economy using a novel city-level panel dataset of international banks where we look at how market access changed and impacted trade flows. Third, we study how access to banks impacted US industrialization and structural change in the 19th century.

Faculty mentor: Chenzi Xu, Graduate School of Business
Research assistant: Garry Piepenbrock, '26, economics major


Bureaucratic Mobility and Economic Development

A study of bureaucratic mobility and local elite circulation and their impacts on economic development and public goods provision in the urbanization processes across regions and over time in China. We collect data on both economic indicators and official and local elites information and the relationships between the two.

Faculty mentor: Xueguang Zhou, Sociology Department
Research assistant: Charolette Zhu, '25,undeclared major