Category Archives: News

10/15/2015 – Duke Undergraduate Engineering Students Developing Prototype Tick Collection Robot (TickBot)

Duke undergraduate engineering students Andrew Buie, Austin McKee and Logan Rooper are collaborating with Duke Global Health Institute Professor Greg Gray, to solve a common global health problem: researchers or other individuals who collect ticks in the field are often at major risk of exposure to the many diseases ticks are known to carry. When Dr. Gray contacted the Duke Robotics department last spring about the possibility of creating a robot that will help to capture ticks without putting researchers at risk, Andrew, Austin and Logan thought this “sounded like a very interesting proposal”. Hence, the students decided that they would use their electrical computer engineering and computer science knowledge to design a 3-wheeled ground prototype robot, they are calling TickBot that will be programmed to automatically deploy a tick collection device keeping human collectors out of harm’s way. Andrew, Austin and Logan are working to complete the TickBot prototype this fall in order to soon begin field testing.

We caught up with the TickBot team to find out more about this important project.

What are the challenges that you are facing in building the TickBot and how will you overcome them?

Tickbot presents several difficult challenges. First, we have to build a ground robot capable of driving on off-road, bumpy and unpredictable terrain. We designed the robot with very powerful high-torque motors, large wheels for climbing over obstacles, and a relatively low center of mass to keep it stable. Another big challenge is the design of the tick collector instrument- a device that automatically captures and stores ticks safely. We are using 3D printing prototypes for this device currently.

Have any of you ever created something in the past that was a solution to a certain problem or is this the first time you are working on such a project?

Our team has previous experience working on problem-driven engineering projects. We are all three part of Duke Robotics club, where we are collaborating to build an autonomous underwater vehicle designed to solve a specific set of challenges at a competition. Our team also worked on a project two years ago that was similar to this one- the ECE 110 Integrated Design Challenge. We worked together to build a robot capable of maneuvering itself, taking sensor readings, and communicating.

What are your future expectations for these kinds of innovative solutions?

In the future we would like to write fully autonomous software to control the TickBot. Our big picture vision for this project long term would be having the robot set up at a regular monitor location capable of surveying, extracting the ticks, recharging itself, and storing collected ticks in containers organized by collection time. A researcher could then collect these containers of ticks at weekly or monthly intervals and be completely isolated from any risk of infectious diseases.

Has being part of this project motivated you to want to learn more about One Health?

Absolutely, we’re all very interested in the work One Health is doing and excited about the international network they’ve created. We’d like to thank Dr. Gray for reaching out to us with this project, the Pratt School of Engineering and in particular Dean Jim Gaston for supporting our project, and One Health for their support of the project.

Duke One Health Tick Collection Robot (TickBot)

11/3/2015 – Leading Chinese Wuxi CDC Administrators Visit Duke University to Explore New Collaborations in Research and Training

On November 3rd, 2015 the Duke One Health Team hosted administrators from the Wuxi City Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Scheduled activities included a lunch at Duke’s Commons Restaurant with Dr. Greg Gray, DGHI Masters students from China (Yudong Qian, Jiayang Hong) and the USA (Laura Pulscher). Wuxi CDC visitors then met with various faculties from DGHI, the Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine and Scientific Affairs, and Family Health International 360 Inc. to discuss current research and possible collaborations. Wuxi CDC visitors also toured the Duke One Health Research Laboratory located in the Alexander H. Sands Building.

That evening, a reception was held for Wuxi CDC visitors at the home of Dr. Greg Gray. Various faculty, graduate and undergraduate students were also in attendance.

The reception enabled students to meet and interact with the Wuxi CDC administrators, communicate their interests and foster new networks. One of the Duke graduate students attending the reception said, “An evening with honorable guests, great food, and amazing people is perfect for me”. Xia Ling, who is head of the Wuxi CDC Laboratory Department said, “I am very happy to meet [these] very smart students and teachers here”.

With three thousand years of history and 4.5M people, Wuxi City is one of China’s most prosperous areas. Its CDC is ranked among China’s top municipal CDCs for its research and public health leadership. Wuxi City CDC is collaborating with the Duke One Health Team in a 5-year NIH-funded R01 grant (Gray PI) studying swine influenza transmission in confined animal farm operations in China. Recently, a Wuxi City CDC delegation also visited Duke Kunshan University (both institutions reside in Jiangsu Province) with a goal of further developing collaborations.

Having considerable governmental funding, the Wuxi CDC can support both research and training engagements. They are interested in training opportunities at Duke University for their staff, especially the 3-week Duke One Health Training Program. With their outstanding laboratory capacity and public health infrastructure, they are willing to host Duke graduate students and faculty in conducting research projects. This visit by the Wuxi CDC administrators highlights the strong collaborations between China and Duke, as part of the Duke One Health Network.

9/25/2015 – DKU Global Health Masters students interested in Duke One Health

Pictured above from left; Ted Tao, David Wambui, Emma Wang, Yumjirmaa Mandakh, Prof. Gregory Gray, Shuai Shao, Wenting Huang, Smily Long, Prof. Chee-Ruey Hsieh

Duke Kunshan University (DKU) is a Sino-American partnership of Duke University and Wuhan University offering a range of academic programs for students from China and throughout the world. DKU aims to be a leader in the future of higher education drawing influence from both Chinese and American traditions. Their academic programs are designed to address societal needs through a curriculum based in the liberal arts tradition and a commitment to problem-based learning that challenges students to apply their knowledge during the learning process. The Duke Master of Science in Global Health has partnered with DKU to create the DKU MSc-GH, which is a unique program that emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration, a research experience, and mentorship from expert faculty. The partnership between Duke and DKU enables students who successfully complete the requirements of the program to receive a Master of Science degree from Duke University.

In the fall of 2015, DKU welcomed 7 individuals as its first class of global health masters students. Duke Global Health Institute Professor Gregory Gray had to the opportunity to visit DKU to meet with these students and lecture on One Health.

Students expressed great interest in One Health and are considering participating in the Duke One Health Training Program courses at Duke Campus in the summer 2016 semester. This program will be available to first year DGHI masters students and DGHI undergraduates (with special Department Chair permission) who may take one or more of the four Duke One Health courses listed here:

  • One Health: Introduction to the One Health Approach – GLHLTH 731 (2 credit hrs)
  • One Health: Public Health Laboratory Techniques – GLHLTH 739 (1 credit hr)
  • One Health: An Introduction to Entomology, Zoonotic Diseases, and Food Safety – GLHLTH 735 (3 credit hrs)
  • One Health: An Introduction to Environmental Health – GLHLTH 732 (3 credit hrs)

Professor Chee-Ruey Hsieh, a Research Professor at the Duke Global Health Institute and an expert in health economics and applied microeconomics, is also collaborating with Professor Gregory Gray in research grants, highlighting the collaborative nature of the Duke-DKU partnership.

Duke One Health is another great opportunity for connecting passionate and driven global health students at DKU and Duke University in research and academic activities. As quoted by Ted Tao, a global health student at DKU, “we are very excited to know that we have an opportunity to work on common goals with students on the other side of the ocean.”

9/8/2015 – Duke One Health Postdoc Team Conducts Novel Influenza Surveillance Training for Rural Healthcare Workers in Mongolia

As part of a five year training grant funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Fogarty International Center, one US and two Mongolian postdocs from the Duke One Health Team traveled to Mongolia in July 2015 to carry out a One Health-themed research project aimed at better understanding zoonotic influenza transmission among humans and animals. In a partnership with the National Centers for Zoonotic Diseases (NCZD) in Ulaanbaatar and the diagnostic company Quidel Inc., the postdoc team will implement and evaluate a novel zoonotic influenza surveillance response system that will be operated in several rural aimags (provinces) in Mongolia where influenza transmission is thought to be common. The surveillance strategy will include the placement of new, easy-to-use modern influenza A and B virus detection units (Sofia System by Quidel Inc.) in three rural NCZD field laboratories.

The goal of this project is to demonstrate that it is possible to provide rapid diagnoses of human or animal influenza in rural settings with an interdisciplinary approach such that human, public health and veterinary health officials may more rapidly respond with antivirals (for humans), seasonal influenza vaccine (for humans), or equine influenza vaccine (for camels or horses).

With assistance from Quidel’s Field Application Specialist, the postdoc team recently hosted rural healthcare workers at NCZD in Mongolia to conduct training on the Sofia Influenza A+B System. Trainees were first given presentations outlining the project’s background, objectives, design, and sample collection methods, then were provided hands on training in how to use the new platform. Overall, the training was a success, with attendees gaining valuable knowledge in how to conduct novel influenza surveillance.

If shown to be a successful model, this project could lead to the placement of these relatively low cost Sofia diagnostic units (future costs $500/each) in each of Mongolia’s 21 provinces. Establishing such a surveillance system would be very innovative for Mongolia and permit the advance placement of stockpiles of influenza outbreak interventions: human seasonal vaccine, equine vaccine, and influenza antiviral drugs for severe human influenza cases.


11/6/2015 – The Duke One Health Team Participates in Phlebotomy Training at Duke University

The Duke One Health Team participates in various national and international research projects involving humans and animals. Some of these projects utilize the skills of phlebotomy. Phlebotomy is the practice of drawing blood from patients, which is then processed in a laboratory setting to be used later in diagnostic or research testing.

On November 6, 2015, the Duke One Health team attended the phlebotomy training course offered by Duke University’s Clinical Research (DOCR). During this training, participants learn about the process for safely completing a venipuncture (blood draw using a vein), including the supplies needed, the acceptable veins to use, the labeling process of tubes for Duke and other labs, and potential complications. Following the lecture portion, participants were given the opportunity to practice actual blood draws on each other under the supervision of course instructors.

By the end of the training, each team member had completed 3 blood draws. A total of 10 supervised blood draws, verified by a supervisor, are required for non-clinically licensed Duke Personnel to perform venipuncture as part of a research study. This training proved to be valuable to the graduate and undergraduate students who participated from the Duke One Health Team, as they will likely use these phlebotomy skills in research during their time at Duke University.