This summer, Sarah McFann spent 12 weeks interning with the quantitative team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the creative team at Gates Ventures.
During her internship, Sarah evaluated different mathematical models for how malnutrition leads to developmental stunting. Her goal was to ultimately identify which models could best guide malnutrition interventions. Among the models evaluated were genome-scale metabolic (GEM) models, microbe community GEM models, and ordinary differential equation models, which Sarah explains, “try to capture the complicated relationships between microbial population dynamics in the gut, gut health, and the human immune response.”
In addition to her mathematical work, Sarah says she got to write and learn a lot about the roles that epidemiology, digital health, and renewable energy play in global development.
In describing her experience, Sarah says:
“Working in Seattle was like having a bird’s eye view of the world. I got to see, in real time, how philanthropy can be used to shift markets and how social factors impact epidemics—things you don’t necessarily get to see firsthand in the lab. While it was sobering to realize the bigness of some of the challenges that people around the world are facing right now, it was encouraging to see how many brilliant, empathetic people there are working towards solutions. My summer also got me thinking about ways I can apply the skills I’ve picked up during my PhD to global development problems in health and energy once I graduate.”
We’re very happy to have Sarah back in lab and to have her regale us with tales of her experience and research!