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Drexel Engineering Receives Obama Singh grant

July 09 2012

An educational initiative, jointly funded by India and the United States, has paired Drexel University with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi to create a resource for assessing the human health risks of microbial contamination.

The three-year project, which is one of eight Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative grants, will draw on I.I.T Delhi’s expertise in microbial contaminants in air, water and toxicology, with Drexel’s background in microbial risk assessment and human health.

“Both countries have serious concerns with microbial water quality, including the many rivers and lakes in the U.S. that do not meet standards for fishing and swimming and rural communities in India that lack safe drinking water,” said Dr. Patrick Gurian, a professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering and one of Drexel’s leaders on the project. “Microbial risk assessment offers a common set of knowledge and techniques to address these varied problems.”

The partners will collaborate on a course curriculum development-based project entitled Resource Building for Ecosystem and Human Health Risk Assessment with Special References to Microbial Contamination.

"Since microbial contamination and water-related illnesses are a major concern in India--particularly in infants and children under 5-- these research activities will provide an important step toward quantifying potential risks, improving unsafe practices, as well as the development and implementation of a range of interventions and water treatment to improve public health," said Dr. Shannon P. Márquez, an associate professor in Drexel’s School of Public Health and the director of global public health initiatives.

This project’s funding, approximately $250,000, will provide for exchange visits between the two institutions. This will allow faculty members to jointly develop new curricula, teach classes and identify collaborative research opportunities. The curricula that are developed through the exchange will be included in an online repository of information via an online wiki tool. This will serve as an international repository of knowledge in the quantitative microbial risk assessment field that will enable continued communication and collaboration.

“Over the past several years U.S. researchers in microbial risk assessment have been working to compile an information repository,” Gurian said. “Now this effort will benefit from the Indian team’s knowledge of environmental monitoring and transport and become a resource for risk assessors throughout the world.”

The Drexel team consists of co-director Gurian, senior co-director Dr. Charles Haas and Dr. Mira Olson of the College of Engineering’s Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering Department. Márquez, Dr. Arthur L. Frank and Dr. Hernando Perez from Drexel’s School of Public Health are also part of the team, as well as Dr. Joan Rose from Michigan State University.

“Both institutions will incorporate knowledge from the other into their ongoing course offerings,” Gurian said. “In addition, each institution will become familiar with the other’s expertize and be able develop collaborative teams for future research efforts.”

For more information about the Obama Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative Grant visit this website: