Computer Science Aids WHO

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CATEGORY: Academics
TYPE: Videos
RELATED PROGRAMS: Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC), Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science

By | Annabelle Nichols ’15

“Opportunities abound for web developers, and this experience will open up possibilities for internships and jobs.” 

Neglected Tropical Diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), affect more than a billion people. They include diseases such as dengue, leprosy, rabies, and those commonly known as "sleeping sickness," “elephantiasis,” or "river blindness." I worked on creating a website that will help countries affected by these diseases through analyzing data, thus promoting better financing and programming that can reduce their incidence.

Last spring Christy Hanson, Institute for Global Citizenship dean, proposed to WHO a project to research the impact of preventive chemotherapy and other measures on controlling neglected tropical diseases. Once WHO approved the project, Hanson contacted computer science professor Libby Shoop for help.

Professor Shoop, in turn, recruited three students—Sibu Ngobese ’14, Paul Rice ’14 from Hamline University, and me—to spend the summer prototyping and creating documentation for future implementation. But once we got started, we weren’t content with stopping at a basic prototype.

Five weeks into our summer project, we had finished building the front-end of the website and had started working on the back-end, or database, side. By summer’s end we had created a complete—if still slightly buggy—website. Because there was still much to be done before its release, all three of us decided to continue working throughout the school year.

Now it’s on a Macalester server, we are continuing to debug it, and we have started an extensive test plan. In combination with students from Macalester’s Institute for Global Citizenship, we presented the project at Mac’s International Roundtable, which focused on global health. We also recruited computer science majors Ivana Marincic ’15 and Brooke Boatman ’16 to help with the website’s design.

Opportunities abound for web developers. I believe this experience will open up internship and job possibilities for us after graduation. Being a computer scientist doesn’t always mean developing algorithms or processing large data. Computer scientists can and do work with life-saving organizations that make a huge impact on the world.

PUBLISHED: 11/15/2013