UofL researcher leads students through transformative wastewater research

Posted on July 9, 2024
UofL researcher leads students through transformative wastewater research

Image of UofL honors student Dammy Jeboda

Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute researcher and associate professor from the School of Medicine, Rochelle Holm Ph. D., is leading transformative research in wastewater-based epidemiology across both Kentucky and Malawi. This initiative is not only advancing scientific knowledge but is leading to a rewarding research experience in Malawi for eight students.

Holm, known for her extensive work in global health research in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH), has spent more than a decade in Malawi conducting research. She is currently working to cross the boundaries of research and innovative practice by collaborating with rural communities, government officials, and academia with a special focus on sanitation system data for better community monitoring of pathogens.

Eight University of Louisville and North Carolina State University students were selected for the opportunity to join Holm’s research in Malawi. Through the International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), these students participated in eight weeks of ground-breaking water, sanitation, and hygiene field work in Malawi this summer.

“My time in Malawi has been unforgettable as I have had the opportunity to research the public opinion of wastewater-based epidemiology in Malawi and how public health surveillance privacy concerns may differ from those in the United States,” said UofL Honors student, Dammy Jeboda. Jeboda’s project used both a respondent survey and a game-based theory with a board game she developed to investigate public health surveillance privacy concerns.

While in Malawi, the team also participated in a service-learning opportunity called Girls Science Day, which brought together 250 elementary-aged girls to educate them on wastewater, sanitation, and viruses with a strong emphasis in STEM education. Malawi has both a national water policy and national sanitation policy, but this is both a lack of enforcing and teaching the community these public health policies. Not only were the girls excited to learn about these policies and the research being conducted in their community, but their teachers and the student volunteers were proud to be able to foster the next generation of global health professionals.

“It has been a great honor to have these eight students join me in research in Malawi this summer,” says Holm, “Their dedication to being a part of groundbreaking public health improvements is inspiring and I am proud to be a part of their journeys.”

Upon completion of the program, the students are encouraged to co-author manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals and to present their research at conferences. The University of Louisville School of Medicine is dedicated to providing the pathways towards innovative research experiences and commends Dr. Holm and the team for their dedication to international research.