Three Notre Dame seniors win second prize in sickle cell disease challenge

Author: Tammi Freehling

Madeline Zupan, Katherine McIntyre, and Roland Rebuyon

A team of two Notre Dame science seniors and one Notre Dame engineering senior has been awarded the second prize in the Sickle Cell Disease Challenge for Undergraduate Students sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. The Notre Dame team, comprised of Madeline Zupan, Katherine McIntyre, Roland Rebuyon, and mentored by Professor Kasturi Haldar, includes individuals specializing in pre-professional studies in science, mechanical engineering, and science--business. This award “culminates the team’s hard work not only just this semester, but for the past four years, said Madeline Zupan, team captain. “We have learned not only to strengthen our own personal skill sets in science and engineering, but also to work productively in teams to address challenges that national organizations such as the National Institutes of Health must confront daily. Should the launch prove successful, it is a platform that is replicable for all other 7,000 rare diseases that exist in the United States. This is a powerful and effective tool that can inspire others to engage in important discourse about rare or neglected diseases.” 

The prize consists of $5,000 plus travel expenses to attend the Annual Sickle Cell Disease Clinical Research Meetings in Bethesda, Maryland this August. The team has the opportunity to present and demonstrate their winning entry titled “Snap Out of Sickle Cell: Informing and Involving America with a Targeted Social Media Campaign.” The project will leverage Snapchat, a popular social media platform for sharing images and messages, to disseminate information about sickle cell disease. Team members designed geofilters (graphics that overlay images) that will offer useful facts and information about sickle cell disease. The team is proposing to utilize their sickle cell disease geofilters on June 19, World Sickle Cell Awareness Day. “We created the idea of using Snapchat as a tool to engage and inspire the next generation of researchers to improve the lives of those living with Sickle Cell Disease,” shared Katherine McIntyre, team member. “According to our demographic research, 92 percent of college students use Snapchat everyday, so we found it an intuitive way to reach our intended audience.

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