Meet the SDG3 researchers: Nistara Randhawa

Welcome to our Meet the SDG3 researcher collection of blogs. We interview a series of academics and practitioners working in various fields to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Here you can find other items from this collection, grouped with the tag ‘SDG3 researchers“.


Please tell us a bit about yourself and your research.

Having loved horses since childhood, I pursued a veterinary degree from HPAU, India, and followed it up with a master’s degree in veterinary surgery and radiology.

During this period, a friend lent me the documentary An inconvenient truth and it opened my eyes to the effects of humanity on our environment. He put into perspective the shrinking tea gardens near my beautiful university town, Palampur, nestled in a valley dominated by the Dhauladhars (a large Himalayan mountain range). In addition to global warming and increased construction, I have been at the forefront of anthropogenic changes in this region.

The One Health concept, while not new, is increasingly recognized for its collaborative approach to issues that cross human, animal, plant and environmental health.

This led me to join the Indian Youth Climate Network and be a youth representative at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009 in Copenhagen. No binding agreement was reached at this summit and it made me think about what I could do as a vet to make positive changes around me.

My research led me to the Masters program in Preventive Veterinary Medicine at the University of California at Davis, which introduced me to One Health, a concept that, while not new, is increasingly recognized. for its collaborative approach to issues that cross humans, animals, plant health and the environment.

A doctorate in epidemiology followed, and during this whole process I had the chance to work on a wide variety of projects, starting from the effects of organochlorines on California sea lions, at monitoring bats in Tanzania and the creation of a new geospatial network using satellite data to model the spread of infectious diseases. I love coding and GIS so being able to merge them with my research and learn a wide variety of tools along the way is very satisfying.

Be part of USAID’s emerging pandemic threats – TO PREDICT project, the Evaluating Zoonotic Viral Sharing in South Tanzania (VISHA) project funded by DTRA, and currently USAID One Health Workforce – Next Generation project gave me the opportunity to contribute to research in these fields.

What about your team, your collaborators and your special influences and mentors?

I owe a lot to my mentor, Dr. Jonna Mazet, for his invaluable advice and support throughout my journey. In addition to some excellent colleagues at One Health Institute, UC Davis DataLab (formerly the Data Science Initiative) was a useful place to meet, collaborate with, and learn from a diverse set of researchers on campus. Professor Duncan Temple Lang, also a Base member R, has helped advance my computer interests and skills.

As the global OHW-NG liaison for the One Health University Network in Southeast Asia (SEAOHUN), I am currently working with a diverse and inspiring team from across South East Asia to help strengthen their One Health staff for more effective disease surveillance and control. All of this makes me realize that the sum of our work is both constructed and influenced by the contributions of others and cannot be easily achieved without the contribution of a myriad of collaborators.

My real mentors, starting with Dr. SP Tyagi during veterinary school, at Dr. Jonna Mazet during my MPVM and PhD course, and finally Dr. Duncan Temple Lang, computer genius par excellence, have been my inspirations so far. From them, I learned that you can be brilliant in your field while being a kind and supportive human being.

With Mr. Alphonse Msigwa and Amani Zacharia as we make our way to our field site in Udekwa, Tanzania.

Highlights of your career?

My field trip to Tanzania, where we attached GPS trackers to bats and determined their movement patterns. This work took me to Morogoro, Udekwa and Illovo, three very different places in Tanzania united by the warmth of the local people, beautiful landscapes and delicious ugali.

Download data from E-obs GPS loggers affixed to bats.

Here I was able to accompany the VISHA team as they sampled bats to learn more about the viruses they were shedding, and I worked alongside them to affix GPS loggers to some of the bats. mice that we captured and released (after a good portion of mango juice). Drs. Zikankuba Sijali (alias Dr. Popo; “bat” in Swahili), Brian Bird (alias Dr. Ndege; “bird” in Swahili), Chris Kilonzo and Mr. Alphonse Msigwa and Amani Zacharia made up the team with which I have worked. And what an incredible team it was!

Drs. Zikankuba Sijali (aka Dr Popo; bat in Swahili), Brian Bird (aka Dr Ndege; bird in Swahili), Chris Kilonzo and Mr. Alphonse Msigwa and Amani Zacharia.

Another highlight is a data conference we helped organize in 2019, for attendees representing the fields of veterinary and human medicine, social sciences and laboratory technology and from 12 countries: Cambodia, Ghana , Guinea, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone. , Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Myanmar and Vietnam. We introduced them to tools and methods to understand, visualize and analyze their data, but more importantly, I connected and was inspired by the participants themselves.

With some of the PREDICT data conference attendees.

They include (but are not limited to) the inimitable Dr. Ricky okello, who, as a gorilla doctor, monitors the health of mountain gorillas habituated in Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks, Uganda; Dr. Veasna Duong, working with the Institut Pasteur in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and dr. Ohnmar Aung, the national PREDICT coordinator in Myanmar.

An R programming tool, epicontacts, to which I contributed with other members of the R Epidemics Consortium (RECON), is used for outbreak response around the world. It was developed during a hackathon to create free and open-source resources for real-time epidemic surveillance.

How does your work relate to Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG3)?

As part of the One Health Workforce – Next Generation project, our work focuses on the following SDG3 targets and indicators:

  • Target 3.3: By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
  • Target 3c: Significantly increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of health personnel in developing countries, particularly in least developed countries and small island developing States
  • Target 3d: Strengthen the capacity of all countries, especially developing countries, in early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks

Other SDGs impacted by our work include gender equality; Industry, innovation and infrastructure; and life on earth.

What is the most pressing research question in your field and your hopes for progress in the future?

My most pressing hope for progress in the future is that we all realize how interdependent life on earth is and take concrete steps to preserve our natural environment to promote not only human health, but also animals. , plants and the environment. health. We need to make significant progress in the way we live and interact with nature.

In addition, I hope that the focus will be more on the development of free, open-source, high-quality scientific software both to inform the public health response to infectious disease outbreaks and to contribute to other areas of science, including conservation, as well.

Please describe the challenges and obstacles you have encountered in your career.

As an introvert, putting myself “outside” with my work and my thoughts, for example through this same article, is sometimes difficult for me. The resulting human connections and interactions, however, can be very rewarding and ultimately contribute to a greater sense of fulfillment. As with all research, finding and learning the right tools in the right amount of time – these skills are starting to build on their own, however. Thus, over time, the learning slope improves. What helped me was that I really enjoyed this learning process.


Here you can find other items from this collection, grouped with the tag ‘SDG3 researchers“.

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