Ghana Trip to Study Tuberculosis: Day 14

by Kaila Helm, Biological Basis of Behavior ’20; Kathleen Givan, Bioengineering and Political Science ’20; Katharine Cocherl, Bioengineering ’20; Hope McMahon, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering ’18; and Dave Pontoriero, Biotechnology MS ’18

Ghana 14.1
A set of classrooms within the campus of Achinakrom Senior High School (ACHISS), a rural high school in Kumasi.

David Issadore, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania teaches an engineering course ENGR566 – Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics. As part of this course, he and Miriam Wattenberger from CBE, have taken nine Penn students, most of them majoring in Bioengineering, to Kumasi, Ghana, to study the diagnosis of pediatric tuberculosis. While in Ghana, these students are blogging daily on their experiences.

Ghana 14.2
Dr. Miriam Wattenbarger tutoring a class on soil conservation.

Today was a day of reflection. To our great sadness, two of our fabulous leaders, Dr. Issadore and Dr. Ocek, left early this morning. We then split into teams to work on our projects for the remainder of the early afternoon. Given our newfound knowledge of the Ghanaian healthcare infrastructure and the standards of care for tuberculosis-related symptoms, our designs were altered to optimize their value. It was interesting to pull up our old classwork from Philly and realize how much it needed to be edited.

Ghana 14.3
Penn student Jason Grosz discusses the math curriculum with a teacher of Achinakrom Senior High School (ACHISS).

Following our intense project meetings, the group shared a lunch of ground nut soup and rice balls, one of our favorites. The advantage of cooking food ourselves is that we can tolerate the spice level and learn how to cook another delicious meal ourselves. We then left to do our community service at the rural high school we visited last week, Achinakrom Senior High School (ACHISS). Each APOC student led a class on a topic of interest to both him- or herself and the class. The focus of these classes spanned mathematics, science, and English. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the Ghanaian education system and talk to more of the students about their day-to-day lives, while exposing us to the problems faced with both cross-cultural communication and teaching.

Ghana 14.4
Penn student David Pontoriero tutoring a classroom filled with high school students attending Achinakrom Senior High School (ACHISS), a rural high school in Kumasi.

After returning home, we enjoyed a relaxing evening. One highlight was trying a traditional Ghanaian snack, mashed fante kenkey, which was prepared by our trip leader, Nana. (We love you Nana!) We ended the night with a group ab workout, a roundtable discussion, and yet another fun-filled team-bonding activity. It was a good day!

Ghana 14.5
A group of students studying French at Achinakrom Senior High School (ACHISS).

BE Alumni Among Biomaterials Society Leaders

Penn has one of the most distinctive graduate programs in the country, and is proud to graduate the first Ph.D. in Bioengineering in the United States. With such a history, our alumni have succeeded as professors, entrepreneurs, policy leaders, and industry pioneers. One recent example of this Penn tradition  is leadership in national organizations.

At this moment, several faculty in the department (Drs. Susan Margulies, Beth Winkelstein, and Dan Hammer) hold significant positions within the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), a cross-cutting national organization for Bioengineering.

Withing the field of biomaterials, the preeminent international organization is the Society for Biomaterials (SfB). Dedicated to the advancement of biomaterials science, the SfB was created more than four decades at nearly the same time the Bioengineering department was established at Penn. Many of our alumni are now part of the senior leadership in the SfB, including the following.

President: David Kohn

leaders kohn

President-elect: Andrés García

leaders garcía

Member-at-large: Helen Lu

leaders lu

In fact, of the three officers elected this year, two were from Penn (Andrés and Helen).  We also have strong alumni representation across the various committees within the SfB. We extend our congratulations — with great pride — to our Penn family.

Ghana Trip to Study Tuberculosis: Day 13

by Danielle Tsougarakis, Bioengineering ’20; and Kate Panzer, Bioengineering ’18

Ghana 13.1
The majestic ram that was given to King Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II as a greeting gift.

David Issadore, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania teaches an engineering course ENGR566 – Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics. As part of this course, he and Miriam Wattenberger from CBE, have taken nine Penn students, most of them majoring in Bioengineering, to Kumasi, Ghana, to study the diagnosis of pediatric tuberculosis. While in Ghana, these students are blogging daily on their experiences.

Today we had the honor of meeting Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, the current Asante (also spelled Ashanti) king. The Ashanti Region is one of Ghana’s 10 administrative regions and expands across the southern part of the country. Once a large empire, the Ashanti kingdom now serves as a state union. After getting off the bus, we walked through the scenic palm tree-lined palace grounds, observing beautiful peacocks roaming the gardens. We entered the historic Asante museum and toured through generations of leaders, seeing sculptures of past kings, ancient artifacts, sacred Kente cloths, and more. Afterwards, we gathered outside the king’s palace, awaiting his presence. Many guests were dressed in their finest traditional African garb. We donned our vibrantly colored dashikis and other newly acquired traditional clothing. Groups of guests went up to the king and presented him with various gifts. Our group brought some high-quality Coca-Cola and Malta beverages, while other groups garnished him with bottles of wine, spirits, and even a large majestic ram. We all had the opportunity to individually bow to the king and shake his hand.

Ghana 13.2
The APOC crew visiting the Asante museum in Kumasi during our opportunity to meet the king. Dr. David Issadore is centered as he signs a book to document our visit (Left to right: Jason Grosz, David Pontoriero, Salim [KNUST student], Professor Ellis, Kaila Helm, Hope McMahon, Dr. David Issadore, Danielle Tsougarakis, Ethan Zhao, Dr. Miriam Wattenbarger, Benjamin [KNUST student], Kathleen Givan, Katharine Cocherl, Kate Panzer, Nana Yaa, Dr. Ocek Eke).
Following our royal visit to meet the king, we returned to KCCR and attended to our laundry and assignments. Some of us went for a run before dinner and got caught in a torrential downpour. We have come to know that such rapid onset of rain is quite common in Ghana, particularly during the rainy season. Despite the quick change in weather, the rain was cool and refreshing as we ran throughout the expansive campus.

Ghana 13.3
The APOC crew posing at the Golden Tulip hotel in Kumasi. (Left to right: Dr. Miriam Wattenbarger, Dr. David Issadore, David Pontoriero, Danielle Tsougarakis, Benjamin [KNUST student], Uncle Ebo, Hope McMahon, Kaila Helm, Ethan Zhao, Kathleen Givan, Katharine Cocherl, Jason Grosz, Kate Panzer, Nana Yaa)
In the evening, we had our own feast fit for royalty at a fancy hotel called the Golden Tulip (shout-out to Dr. Eke for the special connection). The restaurant in the hotel reminded us more of a Western-style arrangement, with a wide variety of international food, including salad, noodles, squid, and fruit, along with American pop music playing lightly in the background. Even dessert was served, including caramel flan, red velvet cake, and cheesecake, which is a rare sight in Ghana.

Margulies Named BME Chair at GA Tech/Emory

Margulies
Susan Margulies, Ph.D.

Susan S. Margulies, Ph.D., currently professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, has been named the Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech/Emory University and the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Injury Biomechanics. Her appointment begins August 1.

Dr. Margulies’s history at Penn goes back to 1982, she arrived at Penn to earn a master’s degree in the bioengineering department, followed by her Ph.D. in 1987. In 1993, she returned to Penn as an assistant professor, with promotion to associate in 1998 and full professor in 2004.

“At GT-Emory BME I will lead 72 faculty and 1,500 students, and look forward to creating impact in a new environment,” Dr. Margulies says. “As a Penn alum and emeritus faculty member, my ties here run deep. I look forward to keeping in touch.”

Dr. Margulies’s has deep roots at Penn indeed, and her accomplishments are broad and distinctive. They include:

  • Creating new faculty mentoring programs across the university, including the Penn Faculty Pathways program
  • Originating the Penn Forum for Women Faculty, a key campus resource for discussion and collaboration
  • Chairing the Faculty Senate
  • Teaching a broad number of courses spanning Introduction to Bioengineering through to Pedagogical Methods in Engineering Education
  • Establishing many new research initiatives that extended into Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and significant relationships with industry
  • Activity with several national leadership positions

On Dr. Margulies’s departure, David Meaney, the department chair, said, “We will miss Susan’s wisdom and insight, but we wish her the very best in her next step.”

Ghana Trip to Study Tuberculosis: Day 12

by Kaila Helm, Biological Basis of Behavior ’20; and Hope McMahon, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering ’18

Ghana 12.1
During the seven-hour drive from Mole National Park to Kumasi, students take the opportunity to catch up on their Zs.

David Issadore, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania teaches an engineering course ENGR566 – Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics. As part of this course, he and Miriam Wattenberger from CBE, have taken nine Penn students, most of them majoring in Bioengineering, to Kumasi, Ghana, to study the diagnosis of pediatric tuberculosis. While in Ghana, these students are blogging daily on their experiences.

This morning we ended our three-day trip to Mole National Park. For breakfast, we had omelets and toast with some spread for bread and jam paired with our usual combination of coffee, tea, or Milo (Australian chocolate milk). After packing up the bus with water in hand, we set out for another long car ride (but not before seeing some elephants swimming in the lake and baboons leisurely walking around the property). On the way back to Kumasi, we stopped at a rest stop to use the washroom and have another delicious Ghanaian meal. Some ate jollof rice and chicken; others were more adventurous with goat and fufu with peanut soup. After our long journey, we arrived back to KNUST, pleasantly surprised by the petrichor and rainbows after a brief burst of rain.

A few of us decided to take a walk around campus, stopping by a convenience store and walking around the Guss Hostel. When we arrived back at KCCR, we soon learned we would be joining Dr. Ellis for the evening. After greeting Dr. Ocek Eke, we all ran to our rooms to quickly change. We headed to dinner. There we tried different combinations of smoothies, with a fútbol game projected on a screen in the background. We ate a lot: chicken kebabs, gizzard, liver, joloff rice, fish, and even some French fries. To end our jam-packed day, we headed back to KCCR, greeted at the door by a praying mantis.

Ghana Trip to Study Tuberculosis: Day 11

by Jason Grosz, Bioengineering ’19; and Ethan Zhao, Bioengineering ’19

Ghana 11.1
Penn students have a close encounter with two friendly elephants in Mole National Park. (Left to right: Jason Grosz, Kate Panzer, Hope McMahon, Kaila Helm, Danielle Tsougarakis, Kathleen Givan, Katharine Cocherl, Nana Yaa, Ethan Zhou, David Pontoriero, Benjamin)

David Issadore, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania teaches an engineering course ENGR566 – Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics. As part of this course, he and Miriam Wattenberger from CBE, have taken nine Penn students, most of them majoring in Bioengineering, to Kumasi, Ghana, to study the diagnosis of pediatric tuberculosis. While in Ghana, these students are blogging daily on their experiences.

Today we set out on a 7 a.m. morning safari drive in Mole National Park.  We rode on seats built on the roofs of Jeeps and drove along dirt roads dodging trees and spotting animals, such as cobs and wart hogs.  A safari guide accompanied us on the roof to give directions to the driver, and the guide carried a large rifle in case an encounter with an animal went south.  The highlight of the safari was running into two elephants right outside a building complex in the park. We saw two young males, one of which visited so often that park employees had named it Nash, and they were feeding on the wild mint plants that grew in the park.  The guides told us that there were many such frequent visitors and that many of the elephants were named, a testament to how cordial the relationship between the park and the elephants was.  They suspected that the elephants were just as curious of us as we were of them — as soon as we left, the elephants left the building complex as well.  By the time the safari was over, it was around 11, and after lunch, we jumped into the pool as a reprieve from the blistering 100°F weather.

Ghana 11.2
Local members of the Bmognorie village in Mole perform a traditional dance.

After lunch we visited a traditional African village named Bmognorie near Mole National Park. The village had a population of around 420 people who all lived in mud huts. Polygamy is practiced in the village, although monogamy is more common, and most families have around ten children. Our tour guide told us about life in the village and demonstrated how the villagers make shea butter, which can be used as a skin cream. He also said that sick villagers must travel on the back of a motorbike or bicycle for 30 km to reach the nearest clinic. The nearest hospital was 40 km away. After the shea butter demonstration, we watched and participated in traditional Ghanaian celebratory dances. Most of the dances featured everyone arranged in a rotating circle with complicated foot movements.

After the dances, we played with some of the children in the village. The children’s favorite game was to quickly roll bicycle tires with sticks for as long as possible. Although we tried to play with them, we were not nearly as talented and could not roll the tires for as long as the children could.

Ghana 11.3
A young boy plays a popular game within the village of Bmognorie in Mole. From our observations, this particular child is the reining champion of bicycle tire rolling.

Ghana Trip to Study Tuberculosis: Day 10

by Kaila Helm, Biological Basis of Behavior ’20; and Hope McMahon, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering ’18

Ghana 10.1
A sheep spotted relaxing atop a speeding van as we travel from Kumasi in the south to Mole National Park in the north.

David Issadore, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania teaches an engineering course ENGR566 – Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics. As part of this course, he and Miriam Wattenberger from CBE, have taken nine Penn students, most of them majoring in Bioengineering, to Kumasi, Ghana, to study the diagnosis of pediatric tuberculosis. While in Ghana, these students are blogging daily on their experiences.

Today we took a trip up north to Mole National Park. It was a little over a seven-hour drive from KCCR in Kumasi, but it went quickly as we drove past many communities. We were able to pick up food from vendors carrying it along the road. We picked up some of our favorites, like plantain chips, bananas, and groundnuts, and we even tried some new foods, like fried cheese.

Ghana 10.2
A sleeping selfie taken as we embark on our 7-hour bus ride from Kumasi to Mole National Park. (Left to right: Kate Panzer, Jason Grosz, Katharine Cocherl, Ethan Zhao, Kathleen Givan, Dave Pontoriero)

Once we arrived in Mole, we were greeted by baboons, which like to stay around the motel. We had to be careful with any food that we brought because they could chase us for it. After a brief dip in the pool, we enjoyed a nice dinner overlooking the terrain below us.

Ghana 10.3
The beautiful view of Mole National Park from the Mole Motel. (Left to right: Kate Panzer, Kathleen Givan, Katharine Cocherl, Kaila Helm, Danielle Tsougarakis, Hope McMahon)

We ended the night with another round of speed friending. By now, we had gotten to know each other to the point that leading questions weren’t necessary to carry conversations. After a few hours, we decided to retire for the night. When it became dark, we were amazed at how dark the sky was and how visible the stars were. We all went to bed, excited about the opportunity to go on a safari adventure tomorrow.

Ghana Trip to Study Tuberculosis: Day Nine

by Danielle Tsougarakis, Bioengineering ’20; and Kate Panzer, Bioengineering ’18

Ghana 9.1
Our group at the expansive Adum Market in the heart of Kumasi. (Left to right: Katharine Cocherl, David Pontoriero, Ethan Zhao, Dr. David Issadore, Benjamin [Ghanaian KNUST student], Jason Grosz, Danielle Tsougarakis, Hope McMahon, Kathleen Givan, Kaila Helm, Genevieve, Dr. Miriam Wattenbarger, Kate Panzer, Nana)
David Issadore, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania teaches an engineering course ENGR566 – Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics. As part of this course, he and Miriam Wattenberger from CBE, have taken nine Penn students, most of them majoring in Bioengineering, to Kumasi, Ghana, to study the diagnosis of pediatric tuberculosis. While in Ghana, these students are blogging daily on their experiences.

Today, we visited one of the largest markets we have ever seen, the Adum Market in the heart of Kumasi. There, you can find almost anything you can imagine, from fresh produce and meats to clothes, jewelry, and other trinkets. The market seems to go on forever, with many twists and turns that can easily make a tourist lost. One of our most enjoyable purchases was the Ghanaian cloth, with hundreds of vibrant colors and patterns to choose from. Later in the day, a seamstress took our measurements and clothing orders so that we could get handmade clothes with our chosen cloth.

Ghana 9.2
Students explore the large selection of Ghanaian cloth. (Left to right: Hope McMahon, Kathleen Givan, Kate Panzer)

After a few hours of diligent bargaining at the market, we switched shopping scenes to the Kumasi City Center Mall, which was built a few months ago. Wide sections of the mall were partially open to the outdoors, welcoming us, as well as a nice breeze, into its various stores and hip social scene. We explored this more commercialized setting complete with a large supermarket, quite comparable to a Walmart. Many in the group invested in Ghana’s famed Golden Tree chocolate bars. The rich, creamy treats did not disappoint and served as the perfect snack after a full day of exploring.

Center for Curiosity Partners with Bioengineering

by Perry Zurn and Dani Bassett

Do not stop to think about the reasons for what you are doing, about why you are questioning. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reasons for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity.

–Albert Einstein1

This haunting passage prompts a series of difficult questions. Should we ever worry about where our curiosity goes? Is it true that curiosity is an end in itself? Or, are its justifications so obvious to us as to go unquestioned? Have we lost our sense of mystery? What makes curiosity holy? Einstein himself did not study curiosity, nor could he revolutionize the field of curiosity studies, which is just coming into its own today. But he does capture the compulsion of curiosity and its tantalizing promise.

Curious 1
Kushal Sacheti, Founder and Director of the Center for Curiosity

The Center for Curiosity was established in New York in 2014 by Kushal Sacheti, a diamond merchant who was formerly an engineer. Its mission is to advance both the academic study of curiosity and the public practice of curiosity. A year after its founding, the first of its satellite centers was established at the University of Pennsylvania, in the School for Social Policy and Practice, under the leadership of Dean John Jackson, Jr. It is here that Mr. Sacheti’s dream of uniting engineering and curiosity came alive.

Given her work on the network neuroscience of human learning, Dr. Danielle Bassett, Associate Professor of Bioengineering, was one of the first faculty spotlighted in Penn’s Center for Curiosity seminar series. Her talk, “Flexible Brain Network Dynamics During Learning,” so perfectly represented the Center’s mission that she was quickly appointed to its advisory board. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Bassett invited the Center’s two postdoctoral fellows, Dr. Arjun Shankar and Dr. Perry Zurn, to lead curiosity workshops at the 2016 Penn Network Visualization program. This program provides young artists the opportunity to understand and creatively reimagine network science. Dr. Zurn’s seminar on structural models of curiosity, coupled with Dr. Shankar’s workshop on the affective elements of curiosity, inspired program fellows to explore curiosity not only in network science, but also in their own artistic praxis.

Curious 3a
Dr. Arjun Shankar, Center for Curiosity, Postdoctoral Fellow
Curious 3b
Dr. Perry Zurn, Center for Curiosity, Postdoctoral Fellow
Curious 4
Dr. Danielle Bassett (left) and Dr. Susan Engel (right) at the Curiosity Across the Disciplines Symposium, December 9, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind Dr. Bassett’s Network Visualization program is a passion for thinking between the arts and sciences and a conviction that they are richer enterprises together. An even broader commitment to interdisciplinarity energizes Penn’s Center for Curiosity. Last December, Drs. Zurn and Shankar organized the Curiosity Across the Disciplines symposium. This day-long event explored the concept of curiosity across major academic disciplines (history, medicine, ecology, neuroscience, psychology, education, anthropology, comparative literature, ethnic studies, political philosophy, and film). As presenters (including Dr. Bassett) reflected on their fields’ contributions to curiosity studies, as well as the role of curiosity in their own scholarship, a deeper, shared conversation emerged about how curiosity can help us to collectively navigate the scientific, educational, and political challenges of our times.

The collaboration between Penn’s Center for Curiosity and the Department of Bioengineering has really only begun. This fall, Drs. Zurn and Bassett are co-organizing a symposium on The Network Neuroscience of Curiosity. Speakers will include Dr. Danielle Bassett, Dr. David Danks (Carnegie Mellon University), Dr. Jacqueline Gottlieb (Columbia University), and Dr. Celeste Kidd (University of Rochester). And, as a long-term project, they have started a conversation about reinvigorating the Bioengineering curriculum with an emphasis on student curiosity and creativity. Sharing Penn’s commitment to community outreach, moreover, the Center for Curiosity and Department of Bioengineering are also in conversation with Westtown School about building an art- and science-centered curiosity initiative there.

If indeed one cannot help but be curious about life and its mysterious design, that journey is perhaps best undertaken together—Einstein’s fabled solipsism notwithstanding. This exciting new partnership at Penn is yet another step in that direction.

1 Albert Einstein, Statement to William Miller, as quoted in LIFE magazine (2 May 1955); reprinted in Joseph S. Willis, Finding Faith in the Face of Doubt: A Guide for Contemporary Seekers (Quest Books, 2001), 58; and William Hermanns, Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man (1983; Brandon Books, 2013), 138.

Ghana Trip to Study Tuberculosis: Day Eight

by Kathleen Givan, Bioengineering and Political Science ’20; and Katharine Cocherl, Bioengineering ’20

Ghana 8.2
Students taking a tour of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) ICU. (Left to right: Katharine Cocherl, David Pontoriero, Kaila Helm, Hope McMahon, Benjamin [Ghanaian KNUST student])
David Issadore, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania teaches an engineering course ENGR566 – Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics. As part of this course, he and Miriam Wattenberger from CBE, have taken nine Penn students, most of them majoring in Bioengineering, to Kumasi, Ghana, to study the diagnosis of pediatric tuberculosis. While in Ghana, these students are blogging daily on their experiences.

Ghana 8.1
The vision statement, mission statement, and core values of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) (click to enlarge).

We started our day by returning to KATH, although the clinical visits focused on HIV. We were lucky enough to see two patients, both heartbreaking and encouraging in their own ways. We were then shown around the sprawling complex that is KATH. The wards range from pediatrics and psychiatry to an elevated ward exclusive to those who can afford the price. We even got to see the oncology ward and speak to the head of the department. Interestingly, cancers such as skin and lung, which are prevalent in the U.S., are relatively rare in Ghana. However, cancers such as breast and cervical cancer account for 50% of the cases that they see. We finished our visit with a trip to the emergency room, which was somewhat oxymoronic, considering the grim conditions within the pastel walls.

We then had hoped to once again teach our students at the rural high school where we volunteer. Unfortunately, it looked too much like it was going to rain, so we were forced to turn back, since the children who must walk long distances to and from school were released early. For dinner, we headed over to a restaurant with live music and dancing. It was a nice emotional relief from our enlightening but taxing first week. The tilapia got rave reviews, and we learned that Ghanaian pizza tastes startlingly like cinnamon buns. We ended the evening by breaking out our middle school dance skills and having the Ghanaians show us up. All and all, a great start to a jam-packed weekend!

Ghana 8.3
Students enjoy a dinner of grilled tilapia and Alvaro (a popular soda in Ghana). (Left to right: Hope McMahon, Kathleen Givan, Benjamin [Ghanaian KNUST student], Priscilla [Ghanaian KNUST student], Danielle Tsougarakis, Katharine Cocherl, Kaila Helm)