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2019 LMI Young Scientist Program LAOS

Funded by the U.S. State Department, the Lower Mekong Initiative and implementing partner Arizona State University announce the beginning of year two of the LMI Young Scientist Placement Program.

This year's theme is Public Health & Bioinformatics, and the host university for the four-week placement is the Faculty of Engineering at the National University of Laos. Over the course of a month, the program will deliver skill-building workshops, allowing participants to apply skills learned toward research initiatives and new technology development.

The U.S Ambassador Rena Bitter, Assoc. Prof. Khamphoui Southisombath, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering NUOL, and Assoc. Prof. Mayfong Mayxay Vice President of the University of Health Sciences delivered welcome and opening remarks during the opening ceremony. 33 participants from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam will work on multidisciplinary projects using information technologies and bioinformatics to address public health challenges in the Lower Mekong region.

2019 Cohort Composition

Week One: Introduction to the Main Public Health Challenges in the Region

The focus of week 1 was to introduce participants to the main public health issues regarding vector borne diseases and existing regional programs to combat these issues. Guest speakers included Assoc. Prof. Mayfong Mayxay, M.D. Ph.D. Vice President of the University of Health Sciences; Mr. Pongsakorn Sadakorn, Public Health Technical Officer, Bureau of Vector Born Diseases, Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand; Dr. Naiyana Sahavechaphan, Senior Researcher, National Electronic and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), National Science Technology and Development Agency (NSTDA), Ministry of High Education, Science, Research and Innovation, and Dr. Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh M.D., Ph.D Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, Ministry of Health, Vientiane, Lao PDR. The week concluded with a city tour of Vientiane, visiting places such as: Patuxay monument, Wat Sisaket temple, Pha That Luang stupa and Buddah Park.

Video by LMI Young Scientist, Daraden Vang from Cambodia

Week Two: Design Thinking & The Human-Centered Design

Week two was dedicated to a 4-day Deign Thinking workshop led by experts from the School of Global Studies from Thammasat University in Thailand. This workshop introduced participants to this human-centered methodology, an iterative process which seeks to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent.

"Design Thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems; it is a way of thinking and working as well as a collection of hands-on methods."

Hermes Huang, Lecturer from the School of Global Studies at Thammasat University

By the end of week two, the 33 participants grouped into six teams around projects using models, computational methods and information technologies to address public health challenges in the Lower Mekong Region caused by vector borne diseases.

The week concluded with a field trip to the Lao province of Savannakhet to visit the provincial health office and participate in a dengue fever survey and mosquito and larvae collection activities in Tonhen Village.

Mr. Jeffrey Goss, Associate Vice Provost for Southeast Asia from Arizona State University, welcomes participants to week 2, with a focus on Design Thinking.

Participants work on an activity using post-it notes to help them hone their communication skills and enable them to quickly sift through ideas for their projects to quickly establish what has potential and might work.

A team from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos prioritize ideas from easiest to hardest

Participants get ready for a sensory and ethnographic data-gathering activity through Vientiane's downtown to interview different groups of people. The purpose of this activity was to collect information from the general public on their base knowledge of vector-borne diseases.

A team from Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos work on an activity on ideation and prototyping.

Young scientists from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos teamed up to develop an Intervention Optimization Tool. This data-based decision making tool will provide recommendations to public health officials on the best strategies to reduce mosquito populations, while minimizing organizational expenses, costs to society, and dangerous exposure to communities, to save lives through diminished outbreak threats.

The participants were invited to the Pasteur Institute of Laos to learn about their work on Medical Entomology and Biology of Disease Vectors.

Dr. Khamsing Vongphayloth, an entomologist from the Paesteur Institute of Laos gives a lecture on mosquito identification

The entomology lab at the Pasteur Institute of Laos show specimens of mosquitoes at the different stages of their life-cycle and discuss how to identify the different species.

Group photo at the Pasteur Institute of Laos

The Honorable Rena Bitter, U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR, invited the LMI Young Scientists to her residence in Vientiane for a relaxed evening of food and networking between participants, instructors and special guests in recognition of their hard work.

The Honorable Rena Bitter, U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR with Souliya "Pao" Channavong an LMI Young Scientist from Laos

Dr. Tiengkham Pongvongsa, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Director of Savannakhet Provincial Health Office led a discussion on the current dengue outbreak situation in Savannakhet and researchers from the University of Health Sciences presented the DENCLIM Project, which studies the relationship between climate change and dengue outbreaks.

Group picture at the Savannakhet Provincial Health Office, Department of Communicable Disease Control

Field work at the Tonhen Village, Xaybouly District in the province of Savannakhet with the DENCLIM Project. The LMI Young Scientists survey homes at the village to follow up with patients that suffered from dengue fever.

Vannida from Laos and Duy from Vietnam review the data collection log

Taking a break after a very hot day conducting fever surveys and mosquito and larvae collection at Tonhen Village.

Video by LMI Young Scientist, Daraden Vang from Cambodia

Demonstration of a mosquito collection device that uses a battery powered fan to trap mosquitoes inside and outside the homes. These mosquitoes are taken to the entomology lab to identify them.

Xaythavy Louangvilay from Laos testing the mosquito collection tool

After a full day of collecting mosquitoes at Tonhen Village, participants attend a mosquito identification workshop at the entomology lab in Savannakhet

Taking pictures of mosquitoes collected in the village

Image captured by La Ngoc Thuy Van from Vietnam

Video by Daraden Vang, LMI Young Scientist from Cambodia

Week Three: 21st Century Skills Workshop

Week three was spent on building 21st century professional skills, such as: running effective meetings, interpersonal communications, team optimization, presentation skills, critical thinking and conflict resolution.

This week also included a presentation at the American Center by Vannida Douangboupha, one of the Lao participants, who gave a Ted Talk-style presentation on Dengue and useful techniques to control mosquito populations at the household level.

Robert Schoenfeld from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University delivered a 4-day 21st Century Skills workshop during the LMI Young Scientists program

This week also included a field trip to the Mahosot Hospital to visit the microbiology and virology labs to learn about laboratory methods to identify dengue and other infectious diseases through techniques such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Visit to the Mahosot Hospital

The week ended with a 2-day cultural tour to Vang Vieng where the participants had fun hiking, exploring caves, zip-lining and kayaking.

Follow #LMIYoungScientist for updates

See what impact the 2018 Young Scientists made

“The goal of this program is to support young scientists in developing a network of like-minded professionals who can use science and engineering to find joint innovative solutions to common challenges in the region.”

Jose Quiroga, Director, LMI Young Scientist Program

Learn more at asuengineeringonline.com/lmi

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