Notre Dame alumna Annette Ruth is one of twelve Notre Dame researchers recently selected by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to receive a brand new Research and Innovation Fellowship Program grant. Ruth will travel to Bogota, Colombia in May to work on a project entitled, “Zebrafish as an animal model to study Trypanosoma cruzi motility” at La Universidad de los Andes.
T. cruzi is the flagellate protozoan responsible causing Chagas' disease in the Americas. The mechanism and progression of T. cruzi infections in living hosts are poorly understood, so Ruth will investigate the motility of the parasite inside larval zebrafish. Zebrafish larvae are a good model organism for this type of research because they are transparent, enabling the use of advanced microscopy techniques. Using fluorescence-labeled parasites, Ruth will study the migration of T.cruzi in the zebrafish host and observe colonization of the parasite in organs such the heart, gastrointestinal tract and brain, to elucidate the clinical progression of the disease. Ruth's work will be advised by Katherine Taylor, Ph.D., director of global health training for the Eck Institute for Global Health.
In 2011, Ruth received a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and a Master of Science in Global Health in 2012 from Notre Dame. Developing a passion for global health issues as a student, Ruth has worked on international global health projects on three different continents. “I had trained in basic research in the lab as an undergraduate, but I wanted to figure out the bigger picture of infectious disease,” she said. As a student in the global health program, Ruth performed fieldwork in Haiti with Catholic Relief Services where she helped to monitor and evaluate cholera prevention programming and created a socioecological mathematical model of the transmission of the disease.
Annette Ruth evaluates cholera in Haiti
After earning her master’s degree, she moved to London to work at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine studying the epidemiology of unipolar depression with respect to the distribution and access to mental health care services in central India. The project also sent her to Maharashtra, India for a year to conduct fieldwork.
After returning to South Bend last fall, Ruth served as the campaign coordinator for the on-campus ND Unite to Fight Ebola campaign. In collaboration with the Eck Institute for Global Health, Kellogg Institute, the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD), and student groups across campus, Ruth helped raise more than $25,000 to purchase medical supplies and personal protective equipment to prevent the transmission of Ebola from patients to healthcare workers. The supplies were purchased and shipped to Liberia in November by the Hospitals Missions Sisters Outreach.
Notre Dame is one of six universities awarded a grant from the U.S. Global Development Lab to offer research and innovation fellowships to its graduate students. Focused on science, technology, and social sciences, the program aims to solve development challenges through innovative research projects in Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Senegal, or South Africa. The research sites working with USAID to offer these opportunities are locally based organizations that have applied for graduate-level researchers to assist them in growing innovative solutions for global development challenges, with the hope of making a positive impact in communities around the world.