Five Huck Researchers Featured In Penn State's "Impact" Campaign

The Huck Institutes is well-represented among this collection of exciting work being done by members of the University community.

A man inspects an "Eave Tube" used to intercept and kill mosquitoes CREDIT: Matthew Thomas
A man inspects an "Eave Tube" used to intercept and kill mosquitoes CREDIT: Matthew Thomas

Five Penn State faculty members associated with the Huck Institutes have been featured as part of the University's "Impact" campaign, which seeks to demonstrate the wide range of positive effects the University has on Pennsylvania and the world.

Nina Jablonski, Evan Pugh University Professor, is re-imagining how we look at skin color, furthering understanding of its effects on health, and working to counter ignorance around the concept of race.

“I’m hoping this research gives people the appreciation that their bodies are the products of evolution,” said Jablonski. “We’ve undergone evolutionary change just like the bodies of other creatures. And this evolution has implications for our health.”

Steven Schiff, Director of the Huck's Center for Neural Engineering, is developing models to predict disease outbreaks in the developing world, a complex task that involves understanding of historical health and population data and the incorporation of factors like climate and meteorological predictions.

“We have demonstrated that it is feasible to predict epidemic disease outbreaks from retrospective seasonal and geographical case data and have shown that we can take climate factors into account in our predictive models,” said Dr. Schiff. “But such predictive strategies have never been used in treatment of individual patients. We believe our approach to predictive personalized public health has the potential to substantially improve patient outcomes.”

At the Huck's Center for Pollinator Research, Professor Christina Grozinger and her team are implementing creative approaches to protecting bee populations in Pennsylvania and beyond.

“Honey bees are really critical pollinators," said Grozinger. "If we can understand how they’re responding to these different stressors and find ways to make them respond better and buffer them, then I think we’ve done something really important, not only for agriculture but our ecosystems.”

Nita Bharti, Lloyd Huck Early Career Professor, is collaborating with others in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics to predict where healthcare assets will be needed and best deployed, using satellite imagery to track population changes like seasonal migrations.

“These are areas where vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles persist," Bharti said. "They are also places where well-timed interventions may do the most good.”

Malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases are thought to be among the greatest killers in human history. And while scientists are still at work to create vaccines or gene drives which could immunize those at risk or eradicate the vectors, Matthew Thomas, professor of Agricultural Sciences and Huck Scholar in Ecological Entomology, has developed a low-cost practical solution that might potentially save millions of lives.

“Eighty percent of transmissions happen at night when people are in their homes, so if you could stop mosquitoes from getting into the house then you will have taken personal protection to the level of the household,” Thomas said. “Equally, if you could kill mosquitoes at the level of the household then you can get this community benefit by stopping mosquitoes from coming back the next day or flying next door. That’s what is different about this technology. You just go to bed and you’ll be protected.”

To see more ways in which the Penn State community is serving the Commonwealth and the wider world, visit the Impact homepage.