Public health meets business practice
Over the past year MIT alumna Tina Stutzman has worked with Ecovec, a Brazilian biotechnology start-up, on an intelligent dengue fever monitoring system. Her Biological Engineering background combined with interest in public health has been a great fit for innovating to reduce the burden of dengue fever epidemics in Brazil. Her prior internship in Brazil, too, has influenced her current work. “Brazilian culture has shown me the value in working with groups and having many creative brainstorming sessions to solve problems," she says. “One characteristic I noticed is the ability of Brazilian researchers to seek partnerships with other groups around the world.”
Tina first interned in Ecovec’s labs through MISTI in the summer of 2011. When she returned to Brazil after graduation, Tina began developing international research and business partnerships. “One of my motivations to return to Brazil was to be surrounded with people so highly motivated to make Brazil, and the world, a better place through developing innovative technology companies,” she says.
Bota pra fazer
On returning to Ecovec, Tina connected with researchers who were creating advanced models of dengue dynamics that could potentially be implemented to improve Ecovec’s dengue monitoring system. She next performed interactive client studies to better understand the user’s experience and identify underlying needs of the municipal vector control departments. Finally, she helped develop the technology roadmap to align future R&D projects in the company. The progress was arduous but rewarding, she says: “I have definitely learned how to Bota pra fazer! -- or in English, Make it happen!”
As a result of Tina’s work, Ecovec now has a portfolio of projects that will advance dengue monitoring and control while empowering cities to make vector control decisions based on real-time data.
After her year in Brazil, Tina was not quite ready to return to the U.S. She felt her work was not finished and decided to stay with Ecovec for another year as an R&D Project Coordinator. This year, Tina has lead several new projects including dengue risk forecasts for the population, epidemic prediction models for early warnings and integrated maps for targeted vector control.
“Before my MISTI experience, I was planning on following a traditional career path and working with a large consulting firm in the U.S.,” Tina explains. “However, my experience with Ecovec in Brazil motivated me to work on applying technology to solve public health problems.”
The MIT-Brazil Program has sent two students to intern under Tina, continuing the tradition of scientific exploration meeting business development.