Postcard from India: McGill student takes research to India

Graduate student Carl Hughes is in India, helping health officials track the spread of hepatitis using smart phone technology

I came here from McGill University to complete the field work for my Master of Arts degree in the Department of Geography. I am designing and testing a disease surveillance tool which uses mobile phones to track the spread of hepatitis in the state of Gujarat, so health officials can plan better intervention strategies.

By using smart phones with an accurate GPS locator, health officers can input the exact location of a hepatitis case into a database while they’re out in the field. This creates a map showing the disease prevalence in the community. As new cases are confirmed, the map gives detailed information on how the disease is spreading.

The technology has many other potential applications. For example, it could be used to track the spread of invasive species nesting sites, or even for reporting the locations of road potholes in need of repair. 

I first heard about the Mitacs Globalink Research Award from my Masters supervisor at McGill, Dr. Raja Sengupta, who supported me through the application process and connected me with colleagues in India.

Doing this kind of international research has been invaluable for me as young researcher. I have truly benefited from working with colleagues in India who come from completely different backgrounds with different skill sets, who have helped me view things from different perspectives and ask different questions.

After almost two months here, each new day provides me with a new story, lesson or experience I would never get anywhere else, whether it is learning new Hindi words to communicate with the auto-rickshaw drivers, being trapped inside my office because the local gang of Langurs (monkeys) have infiltrated the hallway or trying one of a (seemingly infinite) number of mango-based foods or drinks.

For anyone contemplating doing research overseas, do it! For anyone not contemplating it, do it as well!

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia for their support of the Globalink research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Globalink program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

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