The Global Health Established Field Placements
Translate theory to practice with research opportunities around the world
Jordan Hoffman came to the Bloomberg School in Baltimore for bench science. Within the year, however, she was standing in a dusty scrub of grass alongside a goat pen outside of Macha, Zambia, affixing a lantern-like plastic mosquito trap to one of the corners.
This global field research experience is not an uncommon one for students—many are made possible through Global Health Established Field Placements (GHEFP), offered by the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health.
Hoffman, an ScM student in the department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, had applied for a GHEFP for the project working with principle investigator Bill Moss and his research team on the ground in Zambia, hoping to try a mix of benchwork and fieldwork. When she arrived in Macha in early May 2018, she found just that.
Hoffman studied a species of mosquito—Anopheles squamosus—that has only within the last decade been identified as an important malaria transmitter. Researchers suspect that this species may exhibit unusual behavior that allows it to circumvent malaria control efforts.
“Unusual behavior,” Hoffman says, means that while many malaria-carrying mosquitoes prefer an indoor setting, An. squamosus may be feeding outdoors. Widespread control methods like insecticide-treated bed nets may therefore not prevent human exposure to An. squamosus. Another method, like personal protection in the form of bug spray, could be needed.
Hoffman collected mosquitoes from indoor and outdoor traps—managing not to be bitten once—and then identified the samples by looking at wing coloring and body characteristics. She also helped with lab analysis, cleaning up old data sets and running polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) to confirm species. Confirming the presence of An. squamosus in traps placed in areas where researchers think the mosquitoes might be feeding and resting can help shed light on behavior patterns, although Hoffman says that she didn’t get to do everything she hoped: “My project was meant to include collections of resting mosquitoes, but we weren’t able to accomplish that in the time I was there.”
Malaria prevalence in this region is currently less than five percent. Officials in Zambia and neighboring countries are hoping for zero prevalence within the next few years, but a mosquito that evades current control efforts threatens progress toward this goal.
Hoffman’s experience wasn’t all field research and lab work. She also got to explore Macha and get to know her fellow researchers. She learned to cook some local dishes, watched the World Cup with colleagues and attended church one Sunday with her Zambian supervisor’s family.
Additionally, Hoffman spent some time learning Tonga, one of the 73 languages spoken in the country. English is the primary language of the lab, she says, but Tonga—regional to the Southern and Western provinces where she conducted fieldwork—came in handy during trips to households outside of Macha. Most of her lessons came from coworkers.
“There aren’t any Tonga language books, so I couldn’t study beforehand,” Hoffman recalls. “But I did OK!”
Hoffman is continuing her work in the lab of Doug Norris, PhD, MS, hoping to turn her field and lab research into a thesis about An. squamosus behavior and how it might affect malaria infection rates in Macha. Her experience blending field and lab work in this project helped confirm fieldwork as an area of interest though she’d originally come to the Bloomberg School for lab work. She had hoped to work internationally but didn’t know how to translate bench science to global fieldwork. That answer was the Global Health Established Field Placement program.
The Bloomberg School and the GHEFP program are uniquely positioned to offer quality field placement work for students. “You can do research anywhere,” Hoffman says, “With the GHEFP program, you can get funding and work with people who are very experienced and can give you guidance.”
“There are so many opportunities with GHEFP all over the world in all different focus areas,” she continues. “Even if [fieldwork] is not part of your research, you will learn so much. You may do it and learn that you hate it—that’s also informative.”
Interested in the Global Health Established Field Placement program?
- Seeking a more independent experience to pursue your own research? The Global Health Field Research Award is a good fit for student-driven research under the umbrella of a faculty mentor’s project. Applications are due March 1, 2019.
- Looking to join a cross-divisional team that’s addressing a global health issue? Global Established Multidisciplinary Sites bring together teams of students and faculty from across Johns Hopkins to work together and learn from their peers in unique ways. Faculty sites are slated to go live in early 2019.
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#JHSPH students often have the opportunity to travel internationally to complete field placements and work on research projects. One of the School’s established programs through the Center for Global Health – the Global Health Established Field Placement Program – places students in specific sites to work with faculty members on designated projects. Katy Gerber (second photo), MSPH ’19, a student in the Department of International Health, is currently in Kathmandu, Nepal, working with Joanne Katz. Katy shared some initial highlights and photos of her time in Nepal! . “So far, my expectations for working in Nepal have been challenged daily,” Katy says. “Some of these are small things. Nepali food can be quite spicy! If I don't close our rooftop kitchen door, monkeys will come and chase me away so they can get inside. But other challenged expectations are larger, like the diversity of the ethnic and caste groups and geography. . “I wholeheartedly welcome these challenged expectations because I think they make me a better and more thoughtful public health worker,” Kate explains. “Holding on to narrow, preconceived notions of a place doesn't allow me to think of health as the real, multifaceted, and dynamic thing that it is.” . “Challenged expectations remind me to identify that many challenges, many assets, many needs, and many ideas are moving around; my small expectations are only a tiny fraction of the real story in Nepal. By embracing the changes in these expectations, I can better respond with my research in a way that appreciates the dignity, capacity, and complexity of Nepalis and in a way that better partners with them to reach solutions.” . We look forward to sharing more about Katy’s journey when she returns from Nepal! #publichealth #globalhealth #travel #fieldwork #highereducation #GoHop