In addition to departmental requirements, all WCH IGERT Trainees will be required to take 5 newly developed courses in 4 semesters:
Course 1: Present and Future Climate. This course team-taught by members of the Earth and Planetary Sciences faculty at JHU, will provide students with a rigorous, quantitative introduction to the processes that govern Earth’s climate system. Topics include the global energy balance, the hydrologic cycle, atmospheric and ocean circulations, climate sensitivity and change, and future climate projections. In contrast to traditional graduate-level atmospheric science courses, Present and Future Climate is designed for students who do not necessarily have a background in Earth Sciences or Meteorology. Lectures and exercises draw the link between climate processes and climate impacts, and students will learn how climate predictions and uncertainties apply across disciplines of environmental and health sciences. IGERT students with a strong Earth Science background will learn how to tie their technical expertise to socially and policy relevant climate information needs. They will also have the opportunity to complete advanced problem sets and a quantitative term project that exercises these linkages. Students that lack a background in Earth Sciences will benefit from lectures and readings that assume scientific literacy but not detailed subject knowledge. The course will challenge them to complete quantitative exercises but will culminate in an interdisciplinary term paper that allows them to draw conceptual linkages between physical climate processes and their health or water related research interests.
Course 2: Water Quality and Treatment. The goal of this course is to introduce students to the theory and concepts necessary to understand the factors that affect water quality and to design unit operations and processes for water and wastewater treatment, including sedimentation, coagulation, filtration, adsorption, disinfection, biological treatment, sludge handling and disposal. Students will be introduced to the organic, inorganic and biological contaminants that affect water quality, the relevant water quality regulations that ensure water safety, and appropriate treatment techniques for remediating contaminants. Students will apply this understanding toward the quantitative design and sizing of engineered facilities for water and wastewater treatment. Using a team-based semester project, students will learn to collaborate within interdisciplinary teams and share technical information and ideas with others. Background information will first be delivered via lectures and presentations, followed by open-ended problems, and culminating in the team design project. To the extent possible, the design portion of the course will include green, sustainable design options.
This course will appeal to engineers and non-engineers, as the design of sustainable solutions for remediating the world’s deteriorating water sources is of interest to the IGERT students in engineering, science, and public health. The course structure is appropriate for students of any science-related background, and the interdisciplinary team format for the semester design project will take advantage of the diverse science backgrounds of the students in the IGERT cohorts.
Course 3: Population and environmental dynamics influencing human health. The overall goal of this course is to recognize and better understand the complex dynamic relationship between human populations, health, and the environment. Students will be introduced to theoretical and practical approaches in demography, economics, epidemiology, and ecology/earth science to identify areas where they coalesce and/or impede synthesis of research and policy. The three objectives for the course are: (1) to better understand how population, health, and environment factors interact from theoretical and practical perspectives; (2) to recognize the diverse vocabulary used across disciplines for overlapping ideas and to understand the derivation and interpretation of data from both centric and peripheral disciplinary perspectives; and (3) to introduce practical applications for analyzing data from disparate sources to model impacts on human health.
This new course will appeal specifically to students from outside public health who are interested in applying their skills in a public health context, as well as to public health students who wish to apply techniques outside of public health to study risks to health. It is explicitly designed to bridge the divide between the steadfast practices of a particular discipline by providing a forum for students with diverse training to learn skills in a truly interdisciplinary context. Students will learn how to obtain and interpret data derived from different disciplines through case studies, descriptions of papers, and class projects. Class projects will involve an in-depth research or policy analysis of published or ongoing studies that involve interactions of humans, health and the environment. Examples for which we have complete datasets include a study of the relationship between extreme rainfall events and waterborne disease outbreaks between 1948 and 1994 (Curriero, Patz et al. 2001); time series data from remotely sensed land use images, daily climate, and human malaria infections for the northern Peruvian Amazon (Pan 2010); a study of the relationship between Anopheles larvae distribution and density with land use and local ecological factors (Vittor, Pan et al. 2009); and longitudinal data on childhood diarrhea and nutrition in the Peruvian Amazon (Kosek, Yori et al. 2008). These and other rich data sources will provide students with a broad understanding of how health and environmental data may be combined, thus allowing them to ask poignant questions.
Course 4: Infrastructure Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis. This course will give an overview of the infrastructure systems that form the basis for health, security, and economic prosperity in the developed world and give a synopsis of some of the most pressing infrastructure challenges in the developing world. The focus will be on quantitative modeling of infrastructure performance, sustainability, and resilience for supporting management and policy decision-making. This course will consist of a mix of seminar discussions, student presentations and lectures on specific topics. After taking this course, students should be able to define the main types of infrastructure systems and the roles they play in modern society; run and explain basic pipe flow and power flow models; explain the major hazards facing infrastructure and model their impacts; simulate infrastructure performance in the face of a given hazard on the basis of the physical/engineering flow models; use graph theoretic approaches to approximate infrastructure performance; optimize systems configuration and post-disaster restoration.
While based on fundamental engineering principles, this course will be accessible to students from other departments in the IGERT program. Infrastructure models will be covered starting from first principles rather than assuming past training and familiarity with the models. The assigned literature reading and discussion will also be selected to be highly interdisciplinary, covering the engineering, public health, public policy, international development, and basic science aspects of infrastructure design and management.
Course 5: Capstone in practical approaches to water management in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Amazon Basin, and Nile River watershed. This capstone offers an entirely new approach to teaching at JHU, because it will integrate field measurement studies with laboratory and modeling studies, where the emphasis is on practical applications. This capstone course will synthesize and apply skills learned in the courses on climate science, water treatment, public health, and systems analysis to real-world problems with real data. The course will examine practical challenges of water management in arid, tropical and temperate zones. These watersheds also encompass markedly different socio-economic contexts, with different sets of management solutions.
JHU has ongoing projects in all three watersheds. A series of six introductory workshops, two sessions for each location, will introduce existing data and familiarize students with current problems. For their capstone projects, students will work as a team to develop comprehensive and complementary research questions, thus strengthening their ability to work on teams that are diverse in demographics and discipline. Students will help formulate relevant research questions and methods of data collection and analysis, which will be followed by four weeks of data collection and analysis in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, easily accessible at the JHU campus. This field based approach will complement the existing laboratory training courses at JHU.
Example projects for the Chesapeake Bay watershed include interpretations of water quality measurements taken at various discharges to tributaries, including suburban and urban storm water discharges, effluents from wastewater treatment plants with varying degrees of nutrient removal, and effluent from agricultural drainage ditches at different times of the year and from fields with different land management practices. Students will develop projects in which they choose from among a variety of methods to answer relevant research questions for the watershed. Some will gain experience surveying tributaries or features of the storm water system and monitoring nutrients using automatic samplers and point measurements with submersible probes, and they use these data to identify spatial and temporal variability. Others will analyze the chemistry and ecology of sediment cores, correlating land use and climatic shifts with the sediment data, while still others will link environmental conditions to microbiological surveys of pathogens, and potentially link these to existing human health data sets currently being gathered by the JHU Global Water Program. All students will estimate the water and nutrient balance throughout the watershed using the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model to look at different future climate and land use scenarios. Finally, students will present their findings in a formal presentation at an on-campus seminar with invited participants from local government agencies and advocacy groups that have a history of collaborating with JHU, such as the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Prior to their international travel, students will be prepared by the JHU Center for Communications Programs (CCP) to be aware of cultural sensitivities, community practices and behavior, and issues of communication as they link with local communities. Participatory development requires dialogue a symmetrical, two-way process of communication and CCP will prepare students to engage with their specific local partners. Half of the students will travel to the Amazon and half to the Nile Basin for four weeks of continued data collection.