Biology and Society Grads Travel the World for Research and Internships
Representing Arizona State University's School of Life Sciences and Center for Biology & Society as a Master’s student, I spent summer of 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland as a Global Health Fellow through the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University in the Duke Global Policy (DGP) and Governance Program. In the DGP program, I joined the Duke intensive course “PubPol860: Prevent, Detect, Respond: Understanding Security and Global Health”. I have gained academic and experiential perspectives on how intergovernmental institutions, public- private partnerships, and non-governmental organizations shape global healthy policy.
In addition, I participated in an internship with World Health Organization for the summer. I worked as an intern for Research Capacity Strengthening (RCS) and Knowledge Management team at World Health Organization’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR). TDR has its postgraduate scheme and training through seven participating universities in the disease and endemic regions. To help increase the capacity of lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) to take on a leadership role in research capacity strengthening (RCS) on the control of infectious diseases of poverty, training grants are provided to the participating seven research universities to support postgraduate training for students with emphasis on implementation research (IR). TDR manages, contracts, assesses, and directs the overall quality control with these seven universities. The seven research universities select, manage, and provide trainings necessary for students toreceive MPH, MSc, or PhD degrees. For my internship, I was given my own project, and I worked on developing and testing usability of TDR’s postgraduate scheme database as a core component of the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework. Specifically utilizing Microsoft Excel, I developed a database holding data collected from research universities from LMICs, and tested the database’s usability. I provided assistance with evaluating the effectiveness and research outcome success on IR secondary to training grants provided by TDR. At the end of my internship, I presented the finished products of a written report on the development of the database including a test analysis of the main M&E indicators, and made a presentation to WHO TDR staff. I am still in close contact with my mentors and director supervisor at the RCS team at WHO. I am looking forward to refining the database and written report for WHO TDR staff to report at this year’s Scientific Working Group, as well as preparing for future publication.
During weekdays in Geneva, I cherished my routine of taking the tram to the main train station, and getting breakfast before taking another bus to head to the WHO headquarters. I enjoyed walking along the lake after work and eating delicious Mövenpick ice cream. During weekends, I got to travel and enjoy my time in Europe. I made my way to Lyon, Interlaken, Zermatt, Paris, and Barcelona. Now that I am back at ASU for the fall semester, I am very excited to officially start the journey of my master’s program. I plan on applying the skills I have gained through my summer experience to my research and thesis project.
For more information please contact: Jada.Wang@asu.edu
Theresa Marie Lorenzo
Before I left for my 10 months research trip to the Philippines, I was warned that fieldwork never goes according to plan. I thought I wouldn’t run into major roadblocks since the Philippines is my home country but I was sorely mistaken! My research at the broadest scale asks, “What are the patterns of water security challenges in Philippine municipalities given different climate vulnerabilities, economic trajectories, and water management approaches, and how can future water security challenges be addressed given the different combinations if determinants?” A large part of answering this question involves numerous key informant interviews and focus group discussions with people ranging from provincial and municipal government officials to community water utility managers and officials. I had hoped to be able to set these up through phone calls, emails, and letters in my four targeted case study municipalities. Being away for some time, I had forgotten that face to face contact is highly valued, and so had to do two rounds of trips to my municipalities, one to set up my field activities and one for the actual activities, instead of the single trip I had originally planned. Once I was able to hurdle this roadblock, with the valuable help of my host university, things went more or less smoothly and I was able to buckle down and do the activities I had mapped out in my prospectus. I was even able to add an additional case study to my original 4 municipalities, which allowed me to have a stronger basis for comparison between municipalities facing different climate challenges and with different projected economic futures.
During each trip, I would first coordinate with municipal governments, explain my research, and present my list of targeted participants and requested data. Together, we would identify actual participants based on the positions and officials that were in my official targeted list. I would then contact them directly and fix dates for the actual focus group discussion and views, most often one month after my initial visit. During my second trip to the municipality which were usually two weeks in duration, I would hold half day focus group interviews with around 10-15 attendees, and then interview the same attendees and others that they or the municipality suggested I contact. I also asked them for data I was interested in. I would then also conduct around 7-10 key informant interviews with the provincial government where the municipalities were located. After my return to Arizona, I am in the thick of analyzing my results and thinking about how they can be published in papers and presented in conferences. Being away for 10 months from the academic world, it has been an adjustment for me to return to my usual routine, but I look forward to finishing the process of sifting through my data and crystallizing my findings. I will share these not only with the academic community, but more importantly, with the communities and university that graciously accommodated me. Through my research, I hope to join the conversation on how our cities and municipalities, especially in developing countries, can be better prepared for the multidimensional water challenges that they face.
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When I first started at ASU in the Fall of 2015, I knew that I was broadly interested in human-environment interactions. However, when it came to what specific topic I wanted to study, it took me a few months to find that answer. After reading more papers than I wish to count, I discovered that tourism and its impacts on communities and the surrounding environment was an intriguing subject that had yet to be fully teased out.
As time continued, I created my dissertation project, which is a study of ecotourism certification programs around the world and the socioeconomic and environmental impacts that these programs are having across geographic scales. Like all of my research endeavors, my ultimate goal is to provide research-driven data to policymakers that can aid in improving existing programs or creating new policies/guidelines if needed.
Although I am studying these programs at the international and national levels as well, a particular aspect of my project that greatly excites me is the studies I am conducting at the community level and the field work that these require.
Through my research, I was fortunate enough to spend March 2018 – June 2018 in Costa Rica. During my time there, I completed: interviews with hotel management that asked how their hotel has changed over the past decade and their thoughts on the certification program, household surveys with community members in several communities asking how their household and community has changed (both socioeconomically and environmentally) over the past decade, and an internship with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, the government agency that operates the certification program in Costa Rica. Hopefully it goes without saying that I also made time to sightsee and see all that Costa Rica has to offer!
After leaving Costaz Rica, instead of coming back to ASU, I had the opportunity to spend the remainder of the summer in Washington D.C. interning with the World Bank. I was assigned to the Central and South America regions and worked on a plethora of projects ranging from deforestation in the Amazon to the impacts of infrastructure on biodiversity in Chile. This internship was not only a great time to network, it was also an eye-opening experience to see what the everyday life is of a person who works for an organization and not in academia.
I returned to campus in Fall 2018 and am excited to sift through all of my collected field data and see what trends I discover. Just from a first glance, it has been interesting how communities now place a higher value on nature and biodiversity in the light of tourism and how there is a clear distinction that exists between hotels that are certified and those that are not. I look forward to creating concrete strategies of how to improve certification programs worldwide and disseminating my findings to governments, organizations, academics, and the broader public. Ryan Davila is a fourth year doctoral candidate on the Ecology, Economics, and Ethics of the Environment (4E) track in the Biology and Society program at ASU.
For more information please contact: Ryan.Davila@asu.edu