Congratulations — Meiling Gao Graduates

Congratulations to Meiling Gao, who’s graduating this weekend with PhD in Environmental Health Sciences at Berkeley.  Meiling’s dissertation examines the complex associations between the built environment, mixtures of different air pollutants, and both physical and mental health outcomes.  Her research was conducted in Xi’an, China, where some of the worst urban air pollution exists in the world.  In addition to time-integrated monitoring of various pollutants throughout the city, developing land use regression models, and conducting epidemiologic modeling, Meiling conducted a study using the low-cost PUWP air pollution instruments to monitor time-varying particulate matter levels during the Winter 2014 Airpocalypse in Xi’an.

NCI’s RADAR Initiative Will Release Final Report

For the last couple years, the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health has been working on an important emerging area of health research — how to improve the collection, storing, management, and sharing of data from wearable sensor devices.  Over these last two years, a team of sensor researchers, technologists, and behavioral scientists have been gathering and sharing notes, and coming up with ideas for the future.  Not only does this initiative have relevance for the FitBits, Shines, Jawbones, iWatches, etc. — all those personal fitness devices you and your friends and family are using today.  But, it has the potential to affect how the next generation of devices interact with one another, via their data and metadata, over the Cloud. This initiative is called the “Repository for Algorithm Development in Ambulatory Research — or simply RADAR. Kudos to NCI for kick-starting this effort.

I wasn’t able to make all the various conferences where the RADAR team met, but it was great to be a member of the group, and to interact with the many bright minds on the team.  NCI should be releasing the final report “any day now”.

New Phased Innovation Grant from NIEHS to Develop Next Generation Exposure Assessment Device

In collaboration with other UW collaborators, my research group will receive a new 5-year phased innovation grant from the NIEHS. Under the funding opportunity (RFA-ES-13-013), the intent is “to facilitate the translation of prototype devices for characterization of personal exposures into field use by supporting a phased validation effort involving a partnership between tool developers and environmental epidemiologists”.  The new grant will support much needed pilot-stage iterative prototyping, refinement, and usability testing of new exposure devices, which will demonstrate device reliability and data quality, and usefulness in real-world settings. The later stages of the grant will support larger scale deployment in a large epidemiological study to improve science and to refine associations between environmental exposures and health outcomes.  This new grant will utilize my new rapid prototyping lab at UW — a newly renovated space for collaborative design, engineering, and testing of new exposure assessment tools.


New collaboration between China and the Fred Hutch Cancer Center to create a Tumor Biorepository

China’s Henan Cancer Research Institute, China CDC and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are starting a new collaboration to create a tumor tissue repository to allow for molecular exploration into all types of cancer.

I spoke at the meeting last week.  This biorepository opens the door to potential new investigations of the associations between behavioral and environmental risk factors such as smoking and indoor and outdoor air quality and cancer.

Mobile Technologies in Action for Thai Parasite Study

Some progress on the new R21 O. viverrini study in Thailand —  Working with Beth Carlton at Univ of Colorado Denver, we have implemented mobile surveys on Google Nexus Tablets using the Open Data Kit developed at UW.

So far the Android tablets have been great. And, we’re set up to collect GPS-tagged field data on fish caught by fishermen working in a set of lakes, where O. viverrini is prevalent.  Data automatically stream into Google servers, which we can review not only in Thailand, but also at the collaborating U.S. research sites (UC Berkeley, UC Denver, and UW).

What hazards might lurk in your environmental bubble?

UW ran a story about my group’s recent work with personal environmental monitors.  It highlights development of a new device that we have been using to collect multiple environmental exposures, which is shown in the photo to the left.  This is the Portable UW Particle (PUWP) monitor.

In the news story, instead of showing the tech, they decided to run with a  picture of me in desperate need of a haircut and a clean shirt!


Meiling Gao wins student award at ISEE for distributed sensing research

Meiling Gao won an ISEE Outstanding Student Poster award, for her work, “Population Exposure Assessment Based on a Distributed Network of Low-Cost Continuous Reading PM2.5 Sensors in Xi’an, China”. Last winter we had an opportunity to deploy a sensor network at Meiling’s research sites in Xi’an to measure the spatial and temporal variations in PM2.5 across the city. We deployed the latest generation of the Personal University of Washington Particle (PUWP) monitor, and calibrated it against the BAM, Dustrak, and Minivol. At each node of the network, we collocated the PUWP with a Minivol for further validation of the network’s performance. The deployment was completed in collaboration with the Institute of Earth Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


ISEE 2014 Talks

“SpaceNeedleQAClose” by MyName (Cacophony) – Own work. Licensed under CC.

The International Society for Exposure Assessment conference is always a fun gathering and learning experience.  This year is special because it’s being held in Seattle at the UW.

Elena Austin will be presenting recent work we’ve done in the laboratory evaluating low cost Shinyei PM sensor.  We’ve looked at its sensitivity to different sized particles.  We’ve integrated this sensor into both fixed site monitors for distributed sensor networks, as well as small battery-operated personal exposure monitors.  This recent work, combined with previous work by David Holstius, has greatly informed our understanding of how to use this sensor in environmental health studies.

Meiling Gao will be presenting her recent research in Xi’an, China.  She will be presenting a talk on her dissertation research looking at the associations between the built environment and mental and physical health using two validated instruments.  Additionally, she will be presenting a poster on her recent findings from her deployment of several Portable University of Washington Particle (PUWP) monitors developed by my lab in a distributed sensor network last winter in Xi’an.  The monitors recorded very high concentrations in the city, provided good spatial temporal data of PM variations, and compared quite nicely against collocated BAM, TSI Dustrak, and Minivols.

Finally, I will be presenting a poster of work that Hilary Ong (UCSF) and collaborators from Kunming Medical University conducted using the PANDA portable monitors a couple years ago in a pilot study in which we developed a model of children’s PM exposures in Kunming, China.


New P01 Center To Examine the Role of Human Mobility in Infectious Disease Transmission

My group will be working with researchers from UC Davis on a newly awarded NIH P01 Center Grant, “Quantifying Heterogeneities in Dengue Virus Transmission Dynamics”, a 5-year $7.3 million study that will examine as one of its aims, the role of human mobility on contributing to virus transmission and spread.  The study builds upon previous studies conducted by UC Davis researchers on dengue transmission in Iquitos, Peru.  My group is involved in the data core project for the new center.