Shah Lab announces 2019 seed grant winners

The Shah Family Global Innovation Lab has announced its winners for the 2019 Seed Grant Awards. The lab supports a community of faculty, staff, students, and global partners to respond to bottleneck challenges in international development through engineering innovations and market-driven approaches.
Manu Shah, namesake of the Shah Family Global Innovation Lab, addresses attendees of the I2D Expo.

“Building on Manu Shah’s vision of global ethical obligations, we believe that we can leverage Purdue Engineering’s strength in research and innovation by working with our partners to tackle critical developmental challenges,” said George Chiu, assistant dean for Global Engineering Programs and Partnerships and professor of mechanical engineering.

The 2019 winners of the seed grant award are making strides in cervical cancer screening, drinking water treatment in rural areas, fortified flour to reduce childhood and maternal malnutrition, and evaluation of retrofit methods in seismic areas.

“These innovations are currently being piloted in partnership with the communities in Kenya, Rwanda, and Nepal to incorporate socio-cultural perspective and to make the technology acceptable, replicable and scalable,” said Pallavi Gupta, assistant director of programs with the Shah Lab. “Through seed grant awards, the Shah Lab aims to support innovations that have the potential to achieve significant improvements in development outcomes and help improve the lives of disadvantaged communities” added Gupta.

2019 Shah Family Global Innovation Lab Seed Grant Winners:

Members: Jacqueline Linnes, PI and assistant professor, and Emilie Newsham, graduate student, both in Biomedical Engineering; and Sulma Mohammed, Co-PI and associate professor of cancer biology, Department of Comparative Pathobiology.

Project: Rapid assay for sensitive and specific cervical cancer detection

About the project: In partnership with AMPATH, the team is developing a highly sensitive rapid paper-based immunoassay for a key cervical cancer biomarker – Valosin Containing Protein (VCP). The technology for such cervical cancer screening is only available through laboratory intensive cytology procedures (e.g. PAP smears) or poorly sensitive visual inspection techniques. This new paper-based assay will provide an affordable platform for cervical cancer screening and control programs in high-risk populations whose disease would have otherwise be missed. “Shah Lab’s seed grant will support us in developing the assay platform and will also support our efforts in understanding the barriers to adoption of such technology in low-resource clinics,” said Dr. Linnes.



Members: Martin Okos, PI and professor, and Margaret Hegwood, graduate student, both in Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Project: Engineering process design for improved fortified flour production in Rwanda

About the project: In collaboration with Elyse Habumukiza (CEO and founder of Ingabeyacu Social Enterprise, LLC.), University of Rwanda and the Rwanda Agriculture Board, the team’s goal is to reduce childhood and maternal malnutrition through improvements in food processing methods, specifically fortified flour through predictive computational modeling.

 “I met Elyse at the Scale Up conference at Purdue in fall 2018, and we have been working together to tackle malnutrition challenges in Rwanda since then. For me, it’s one of the first times I feel like I can truly apply my degree in biological engineering to development work. Shah Lab’s seed grant will help us in designing and integrating novel process designs into the current Ingabeyacu system,” Hegwood said.



Members: Ayhan Irfanoglu, PI, and associate professor of Civil Engineering; and Santiago Pujol, Co-PI, and professor of Civil Engineering; and Prateek Shah, graduate RA, Civil Engineering.

Project: Comprehensive evaluation of retrofit methods for stone masonry buildings

About the project: The project targets buildings made of stone masonry and mud mortar, which are commonplace in Nepal and in many areas around the world. These buildings are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes. A series of methods to strengthen stone masonry buildings is currently being used in Nepal but more data is needed. “Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) support in Nepal and the seed grant from Shah Lab will allow us to collect field data on the stone masonry buildings affected by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Using the information we gather, we will build a database and share our findings with the engineering communities in Nepal and around the World,” Irfanoglu said.



Members: Chad Jafvert, PI, Lyles Family Professor of Civil Engineering and professor of Environmental and Ecological Engineering, and John Howarter, Co-PI, associate professor of Materials Engineering and Environmental and Ecological Engineering.

Project: A network of drinking water treatment and monitoring in rural schools in Kenya

About the project: In partnership with John Mayo (founder of Maji Safi International), the team is designing technologies for producing drinking water from surface water sources in rural areas. The team has developed drinking water treatment technologies in partnership with communities in Colombia, Kenya, and India. “The seed grant from the Shah Lab will support us in designing an inexpensive cell phone-enabled water quality monitoring device. We aim to construct five prototype CT meters and deliver them to schools in rural Kenya where the team’s water treatment systems already exist, and to collect data on a daily basis via cell phone connectivity,” Jafvert said.