Duke senior wins Rice 360° global health design competition

Keynote speaker Tore Laerdal called on students to save lives

By Emily Mooney
Special to Rice News

Undergraduates from Columbia University, George Mason University and Duke University took the top prizes March 24 at the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health’s annual student design competition.

The seventh annual competition at Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative featured student teams that had designed technologies to address health needs in under-resourced settings. The competition, the best-attended to date, drew 120 students from four countries and 19 universities, and Rice 360° more than doubled the number of international applicants. The competition featured teams from the University of Ghana, the University of Malawi and the University of British Columbia. There was also an intercollegiate team made up of students from Rice and the University of Malawi.

Julia Sroda Agudogo

Duke University senior Julia Sroda Agudogo took top honors March 24 at Rice 360°’s annual Global Health Design Competition.

Top honors went to Julia Sroda Agudogo, a senior biomedical engineering major from Duke. Her one-woman team, TOpS Lab, captured first place with its design for speculum-free cervical imaging. Agudogo’s low-cost design addressed the fear many women have of painful and invasive cervical cancer screenings by focusing on user comfort. The technology could potentially be used for self-colposcopy exams and promises to be both less expensive and less painful than existing technologies.

NjaKnow, a four-person team from Columbia University, took second place with its optical filtering glasses for diagnosing neonatal jaundice. Low-resource settings typically lack equipment to diagnose and treat jaundice. NjaKnow’s simple, cost-effective glasses would allow clinicians to objectively diagnose jaundice severity by examining the yellowing of the whites of a newborn’s eyes.

Team NjaKnow

Team NjaKnow

George Mason’s TB ASSURED earned third place with its rapid, point-of-care tuberculosis diagnostic test. Their technology, an electrical, paper-based immunoassay, was designed to provide a low-cost, analytically sensitive TB diagnostic from urine samples.

Houston-based nonprofit Caring Friends sponsored cash prizes for the top three teams on the condition that the teams donate prize money to a philanthropic organization working in the same area that the team intended to impact with its technology.

NjaKnow and Clemson University’s Hand Crank Health tied for best poster award. Hand Crank Health’s design addressed clinicians’ inability to monitor vital measurements in locations that lack stable electricity. The Clemson team’s robust patient monitor is the size of a water bottle and powered by a hand crank.



The competition also included a keynote address by Tore Laerdal, executive director of the Laerdal Foundation and a force in global health who has dedicated his career to saving babies’ lives on a global scale.

Laerdal became Rice 360°’s inaugural Innovation and Leadership in Global Health Award honoree.

Rice 360° Director Rebecca Richards-Kortum said, “To celebrate Rice 360°’s 10th anniversary year, we wanted to recognize and choose someone who exemplifies what can be achieved through innovation in global health, and Tore is just that.”

In his address, Laerdal said, “Global health innovation is about having an impact and having better implementation. The greatest opportunities for saving lives involve better implementation of what we already know. Effective implementation requires collaboration, and collaboration allows us to be better life savers.”

Design competition sponsors included Rice 360° and the Lemelson Foundation.

–Emily Mooney is assistant director for communications and development at Rice 360° Institute for Global Health.

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.