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Fellowship Alumni

Dr. Jacqueline Thomas - 2008 Sir Keith Murdoch Fellow

August 2104: Biography up-date

Jacqueline Thomas Lab - Newsletter 2.jpg

Photo: Jacqueline working at the US EPA labs 2010

(1)    Introduction of yourself;
During my high schooling I was fascinated by agar plates and different coloured bacterial colonies.  Hence, I went on to complete a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in microbiology at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).  At the conclusion of my first degree in 2007 I was looking for a way to apply my microbiology to the help those most in need. Improving water and sanitation was the perfect career path. I then went on to complete a PhD in environmental engineering again at UNSW. My research focused on pathogen re-growth in drinking water and was undertaken in collaboration with the Water Research Centre UNSW and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supported by American Australian Association. Since my PhD I have worked with remote Aboriginal communities in Australia as part of my work with the NSW Health Department.

(2)    Overview of the research undertaken under the AAA Fellowship;
My PhD research was specifically looking at the ability of bacterial pathogens to regrow within amoebae in reuse and potable water systems. This research is particularly important, as reuse water must be used more extensively to contribute to solving our water shortage problems. An opportunity presented itself to undertake a period of research with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio though my primary supervisors. I was awarded an American Australian Association fellowship late in 2008 and undertook one year of research at the EPA in 2010. The time at the EPA allowed learning a range of molecular microbiological methods and to learn from my fellow scientists.

(3)    Where you are today – the work you are undertaking in Tanzania;
I found may way to Tanzania via an invitation form an Australian guy called Dale Young who had started an water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) NGO called MSABI (www.msabi.org). Working with MSABI was a great experience as they work closely with the local communities to provide the right affordable WaSH technologies and assist the behaviour required to adopt them. One example is the ceramic filter pot for household level water treatment. MSABI produces these simple locally made ceramic pots that can cheaply treat drinking water.
Now in 2014, I work for a Tanzanian not-for-profit research institute called the Ifakara Health Institute:  www.ihi.or.tz
This research institute is the largest of its kind in East Africa. My position here is to start a research group on WaSH. I won research grants from the Canadian Government to look at health impacts of treatment technologies such as the ceramic filter pots. Through research findings we can help shape policy and practice in Tanzania. If we show how effective these pots are at reducing diarrhoea and associated deaths then this can translate into the government and community members adopting them more widely. My research also looks at how to treat faecal sludge from pit latrines which is a huge problem. Problems with poor sanitation result in more deaths than dirty drinking water alone.

(4)  Timeframe in Tanzania
I plan to work in Tanzania for at least the next 2 years. I will then return to Australia to commence more research in South East Asia or the Pacific.

Photos

Doing field work in Tanzania with the team

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Teaching a family about water