CINQ 396: Blog 6

In order to identify risky human behavior, it is necessary that we conduct a survey in Sierra Leone and gather more information. For us to complete our fieldwork in Sierra Leone, it is necessary that we get approval from the IRB, or Institutional Review Board, as we are involving human subjects in our research through the survey. Of the three levels IRB approval, this project falls under the expedited category. We would not have exempt status as we will be collecting identifiable information from the subjects. However, as we are just asking questions and there is minimal risk involved, so a full committee approval would not be necessary. Therefore we are expecting this process, once submitted, to take 1-3 weeks. We are not sure if we would like to survey adults or children. While children under the age of 18 are considered a vulnerable group to the IRB, it is still possible to use them as subjects so long as we disclose that we plan to in our proposal. We are looking to submit for approval in early April. It is also necessary that we provide informed consent for all subjects involved in the research. Luckily, Lehigh’s IRB has documents online that include the necessary legal aspects of informed consent. As we are trying to make the survey as short as possible (no more than one page), it is now an interesting aspect of our project to figure out the most efficient way to include the informed consent as part of the survey. In order to obtain the most honest answers we can, the survey is going to be anonymous. This makes things a bit more difficult when considering informed consent, which must be signed.

One way our project might be completed more efficiently is using a logic model. There are a variety of inputs necessary for our project. It is necessary that the team input a lot of time into this project. It takes time to run simulations, specifically craft survey questions, and determine the appropriate framework for survey distribution and collection. Every team member must put in enough time for this project to be successful. Another input this project requires is a knowledge base. Luckily, our professors Dr. Buceta and Dr. Bocchini have expertise in this area, as they have been studying the disease propagation and have modeled the spread of Ebola in bats successfully. Depending on the exact survey method used, different materials will be required. We are leaning towards paper surveys, which could require obtaining upwards of 1000 sheets of paper either in Sierra Leone, or travelling there with it. Regardless, the materials necessary to administer the survey are required inputs for this project. This project also has the input of partners, including the Creative Inquiry/Mountaintop Program, World Hope International, and the National Institutes of Health, which has been very helpful and supportive.

With all of the inputs, we are looking to develop a survey that can be used to correlate different measurable factors to how at risk a human is of contracting ebola virus. We are looking to deliver and distribute the survey to 4 villages (2 larger, 2 smaller) during our fieldwork in Sierra Leone. We are also considering partnering with someone in Sierra Leone that can continue distribution of the survey for about 1 year. If we can acquire data that can be used effectively, even just during the 3 weeks of our fieldwork, we are excited for the outcomes. One outcome would hopefully be general awareness of how to stop Ebola from spreading, and what easy preventative measures an individual can take. The output we are truly looking for is to be able to predict the likelihood of transmission of the ebola virus from a bat to a human. While it is not possible to provide additional doctors and resources to the entire continent of Africa, if the time and space could be predicted there could be an increase of doctors or medical supplies in that area specifically. This, along with shaping preventative policies, are the desired outcomes of our project.

CINQ 396: Blog 5

Any design process that is effective and uniquely mine would have influence from my life experiences, skills, and interests. Personally, I am both a kinesthetic and a social learner. This means that I learn most effectively by physically doing things and also working in a group setting. This means that an effective design process would incorporate going and physically doing things as well as collaboration with any team members. I personally enjoy working and brainstorming using white boards, and that is a good way to stand up and write or draw that can be done as an individual or collaboratively with a group. Any design process of mine would also be continual, in the sense that I would always be thinking about it to some extent. I have a hyperactive mind and often jump from topic to topic, so it would be useful to be ready to jot down any ideas or questions whenever they come into my mind. An effective design process for myself should also have built in checks for accountability. It is easy to say you want to get something done, but it much more likely to actually happen if you set a time and place to do it. It is also more likely to get done if there is some way built into the design process to ensure that tasks are completed, or at least attempted. Although in a perfect world everyone would just do what they are supposed to, it is sometimes necessary (particularly for myself) for there to be deadlines or other methods to ensure accountability.

I will validate my project concept throughout this semester by presenting it to others. Not only will I be able to show what my team and I have completed, but I will validate the project concept through fielding questions. The project concept is validated as well to some extent due to the 2014-2016 ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. During the outbreak, there was a large attempt to gather information. However, this system was significantly flawed as it was not centralized and not fully fledged until the end of 2015. The fact that there is a database of information on ebola virus because of data collected during the old outbreak is proof of the validity of my project concept, although the means and methods of my team’s are slightly different. The project will probably not use technology as technology is not common throughout Sierra Leone, and for my project to be successful the survey should be widely distributed. The usability of my project will be validated during the fieldwork in Sierra Leone and beyond that. The goal is to collect data for a year beginning at the start of the fieldwork. Lastly, the operational model will also be validated when we are in Sierra Leone and into next Fall, but the model will be tested throughout the semester while the project is presented and subsequently critiqued.

My philosophy on engagement with communities, partners, and markets is fairly straightforward. I think engaging with different communities Sierra Leone is going to be critical for this project. Not only are we going to need to interact with communities to administer and distribute the survey, but we will be interacting with communities and partners to get feedback on the survey itself and the administration process. Interactions with communities and partners will be mutually beneficial as almost every single person in Sierra Leone was affected by the ebola virus outbreak in 2014, and one goal of our project is to shape preventative policies in terms of disease spreading. It is also may prove to be important to interact with markets in order to distribute this survey as widely as possible, depending on if there is an opportunity there. Overall, engaging with communities, partners, and markets is beneficial for projects, particularly when the community is more knowledgeable about the topic or location which is certainly true with my project. However, it is important to maintain some minimal amount of control over the project as to maintain ownership of your work.

CINQ 396: Blog 3

     There are a variety of stakeholders in my project. The Office of Creative Inquiry is  teaching us and supporting our project throughout the semester. They are helping us decide how we plan to accomplish our goals effectively. This office is tied to the Global Services Impact Fellowship program and is therefore motivated to support my project as it tries to promote sustainable change through development and innovation. Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics is also a stakeholder as I have received a grant from the college for my fieldwork in Sierra Leone. The business school is motivated as this allows me to gain a new perspective through an international experience that does not only benefit me personally and professionally, but also has wider implications for change throughout Sierra Leone. Another stakeholder in my project is the National Institute of Health. This is as my project of modeling Ebola transmission in humans using data collected in Sierra Leone falls under a bigger project in which the spread of Ebola in bats has been successfully modeled. That project is supported by the NIH, as the “NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability”. This modeling project will provide fundamental knowledge about the behavior of Ebola, and ideally knowledge obtained will be used to drive preventative policies and reduce the illness. In a similar way but without the financial support, the government in Sierra Leone is also a stakeholder in this project. The government is motivated to assist with this project in order to reduce the magnitude of any future Ebola outbreaks. Lastly, the people of Sierra Leone are also stakeholders in this project. Many of them lost friends and loved ones during the 2014-2016 outbreak, and therefore stand to benefit a lot from preventing or minimizing another Ebola outbreak. I hope that this motivation to promote general well being and avoid another outbreak overshadows any possible stigma around Ebola in Sierra Leone. It is important that we collect accurate data during our fieldwork.

     In order for my project to be as successful as it has the potential to be, I must validate the project and enhance my own credibility throughout this semester. My first opportunity to validate my project will be at presentations next week in class. This will give us the opportunity to share our project with a variety of interested people. I am particularly looking forward to the question and answer portion of these presentations, as the questions will open our eyes to a lot of the issues or things we simply did not think to consider in our project. In recognizing that we have these issues or working to consider other factors, we are only getting information that can improve the project. We can then work to resolve these issues and consider other factors, which will increase the viability of the project. Whether the issue gets resolved or it just begins a more long term conversation on the project, this will enhance the credibility of our project as we will have a more robust pitch for the future. Another way that I may enhance my credibility is if I were to obtain a Grant for Experiential Learning in Health. This would mean that Lehigh recognized the viability of this project and is willing to support it financially to some extent. If I were to obtain this grant, that would definitely validate the project and enhance its credibility. Obtaining this grant would also result in more showcases or presentations during which I could enhance this project’s credibility. I will also be presenting this project in April, which is a good opportunity to see the viability and credibility of the project after working this semester, relatively close to when the field work in Sierra Leone is. Overall I plan to improve the viability and credibility of my project throughout this semester, but it is good to note the credibility and support the bigger project we are working under has.

CINQ 396: Blog 4

Nature can be used as a model or measure for your own designs. Natural selection reflects the way that a design should evolve and change as you find what does and does not work. Through this evolution, nature has produced designs that humans are still learning from today. Taking a product and trying something new, testing and improving the design until all you are left with is the best of the best. Nature acts as a mentor for my own designs/life as it never stops growing and progressing, continually improving. Designs should continue to grow and improve, and should not be considered stagnant or as final products. Lastly, nature also is perseverant. After natural disasters, nature grows back anyway, which is an ideology that should be applied to designs and life.

Being Resource Efficient is something that I have to take into account every day in my life. I always have something to do and something that I need to get done, when I start my day I make a plan on how I am going to spend my time and I try to make sure that I use every second. If I waste time doing something that I don’t really need to or could do faster and better, then I am missing out. Not being efficient means I could have done more, I want to make the most of my time and do that I have to make the most efficient use of it as I possible can. This also applies to my project, as there are resources that I must use efficiently. There is information in an Ebola database that has to be used in an efficient manner. In addition, we must be as efficient as we can with time– a resource that is very limited in Sierra Leone and must be used efficiently.

When I envision a project, I don’t make something that can’t be made for as long as it is needed. If I create something I want it to be something that doesn’t create more problems than it solves, something that doesn’t need to be limited in supply and use up resources and create a shortage that makes everyone’s life worse. This concept can be applied to this project by not using the resources from the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016 that may not last too long. We should create a survey for the model that is not dependent on these resources for it to be used in the future.

I have learned many things from friends and professors that were completely alien concepts to me. When I first learned about quantum mechanics I was blown away. It was crazy to think that things would or would not happen based on probability and not through just the standard physical models. This concept opened my eyes to how much of what we learn is just models and approximations, which do not accurately predict many things in the universe.

Economics and how economists thought about the world was something I had not considered. The worth of things being dictated by the specifications of how it was made and how much people want it was totally new to me, I had only considered how valuable things were by how much they seemed to be, the fact that that value wasn’t decided by some immutable property but by people was inspiring to me.

I had an argument recently and it seemed that we could get nowhere. When I brought this up to my friends, they said that, for most people, the truth wasn’t what was actually true, but what people could be convinced was true. In fact, telling people certain facts repeatedly makes them more likely to believe them. In classical sciences, things are simply true or false. It was completely alien for me to think of the truth as a reflection of someone’s perspective and experiences, and not as empirical fact.

CINQ 396: Blog 2

The project team I am a member of conducts research on Ebola, and is working to develop a mathematical model to track the spread of Ebola in humans that will work in conjunction with data obtained from satellites and a questionnaire that we intend to distribute throughout Sierra Leone.

There are a variety of cultural issues that affect this project. One cultural issue that plays into this project is the rituals in Sierra Leone surrounding death and burials. The outbreak in West Africa from 2014-2016 was made far worse when individuals travelled hundreds of miles to attend the funeral of a man who died from Ebola. Those individuals then carried the virus back to their home towns and villages. Understanding different rituals in the culture of Sierra Leone will help us better understand how the disease spreads.

Another cultural issue affecting this project is the language barrier. While most people in Sierra Leone speak English, it is different from the English we speak here in the United States. People in Sierra Leone speak Krio, which is an English based language. In order to use our survey to collect data, it is critical that the individuals answering the survey are very clear on what the questions are asking. It is necessary that they are able to understand the survey for it to produce accurate data.

A third cultural issue affecting this project is the socio-economic state of Sierra Leone, which affects both the propagation of the Ebola Virus and the healthcare system in the country. In poorer areas, individuals have to go to bush meat markets, at which bats, who carry E.V., are purchased for food. In addition, we need to understand the healthcare system in the country in order to figure out exactly how to distribute our questionnaire, which is not very robust due to the socioeconomic status of the country as a whole.

When I was abroad, I experienced a few language barriers. I was in Berlin, and while most people speak English, not everybody does. Other than that, I honestly have not had a lot of experience with these social situations.

There are cultural practices that can be used to leverage community/market problems in Sierra Leone. For example, the healthcare system which is part of the culture includes community health workers or CHWs. These individuals can be leveraged in order to possibly distribute or administer these questionnaires. Also, due to the 2014-2016 outbreak individuals in Sierra Leone take Ebola very seriously. This could be used to our advantage as it may incentivize individuals to both administer and take our survey.

The African context presents different challenges to overcome than the American context. For example, the healthcare system in the United States is not public. Therefore, it may be more difficult to distribute a questionnaire around the country. Although, it would potentially be easier, it may also be more difficult as the United States healthcare system is more robust than the system in Sierra Leone. While there are community health workers, there is only 1 in most towns. In addition, the African context presents more difficulty due to the lack of infrastructure, so it would be difficult to both distribute and collect a paper questionnaire. Lastly, the lack of technology in the African context presents difficulty if the survey were to be an application, weather that be web or for a handheld device.

The African context also offers different resources than the American context. For example, the public healthcare system allows for a unified way to distribute our questionnaire. Another resource the African context provides is individuals with experience with the disease. There were thousands of Ebola mobilizers during the outbreak who were responsible for educating individuals on the spread of the disease. Lastly, the African context provides individuals with personal experience with individuals who have died from the disease. The African context is more relevant as the country has experienced this problem very severely.

CINQ 397 Blog 1

     I found out about the GSIF program through my professor Javier Buceta. As soon as I learned about the program I knew it would be a very unique and valuable opportunity for me both personally and professionally. As Dr. Buceta’s research is one of the projects, and I am shifting topics in my research and beginning work on that same project, it was only natural for me to enroll in this course. I am especially looking forward to the fieldwork in Sierra Leone. I believe this course will definitely help me become a both better chemical engineering student and finance student. It is very easy for chemical engineers to get caught up in theory, without realizing that in order for their efforts to solve problems they need to be practical. I believe this course will give me exposure to problems the world is facing. It was disappointing to learn that 90% of the worlds engineering efforts are to solve legitimate problems for 10% of the worlds population. It would make the world a better place and possibly be much easier to find solutions to the problems facing the vast majority of the world– particularly in under developed countries in which engineering solutions would be truly impactful. While my efforts during this course and perhaps even onward may not solve any problems, the ideology will stick with me throughout my professional career. I also believe this course and the perspective it gives me will make me a better finance student. It is important to have a global mindset, especially with how connected the world is today. 

     The plethora of individuals who need but do not have access to glasses is an engineering problem that certainly deserves work. This problem is especially prevalent in developing countries. While this may not be realistic or impactful, I believe that there is a way to give some of those individuals access to the glasses they deserve. Knowing that there is barely one optometrist per one million people in areas such as Kenya, I believe that if any store with access to mail can provide glasses with a small glasses kit many more individuals who need glasses would have access to them. In order for any store or market to be able to sell glasses, there needs to be a quick and simple way to evaluate an individual’s level of vision and ultimately provide them with functioning glasses. Even though I am not an optometrist, I believe this can be done with a piece of paper with letters written on it. Ones vision could then be evaluated based on how well he or she could read the paper at a variety of distances. Along with the paper to evaluate the level of vision, the glasses kit would also include instructions on how to interpret the results. The inability to read at certain distances would indicate near sightedness, farsightedness, or a combination of the two. At that point, the worker would pick 1 of maybe 5 or 7 standard prescription lenses. The last thing the kit would include would be the glasses frame. If the frame we’re to look like conventional glasses, it would have to be initially flat and made from a cheap material, possibly even a natural material. The material would need to hold its shape but also bendable and ideally also durable. The store employee would then put the required lenses into the frames and squeeze the material to hold each lens in place. The employee would then have the customer hold the lenses up to their eyes, ensure they were helpful to the best of their ability, and then bend the frame to fit the head size of the customer. Instead of a standard frame look, I also think an interesting idea might be if the frame was circular and stretchy, almost like a headband, but fitting around the customer’s head similar to a blindfold would, only with a flat rigid front of the frame that the lenses could then pop in to. Regardless, I think these glasses kits may have the potential to provide vision assistance to those who need it. Even if this solution is ridiculous and has absolutely no viability, the fact that so many people do not have access to something so basic and that so many people take for granted is problematic in my opinion.