Math + mosquitoes
Growing up in Tanzania, Samson Kiware suffered through the pain and fever of malaria more times than he can count. Now the doctoral student is taking his revenge on the disease with two unlikely weapons: math and mosquitoes.
Kiware was studying computer science and mathematics at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., when he met Dr. George Corliss, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering. Their chance meeting at church led to Kiware’s internship with the College of Engineering’s GasDay Lab, which helps predict natural gas demand for utilities across the country.
Corliss encouraged Kiware to pursue graduate studies at Marquette. That’s when Kiware realized he could put his passion for mathematical modeling to work in the health field and “do something that can benefit my country,” Kiware says.
“Malaria is treatable, but a lot of people die because they don’t have access to treatment,” he says.
One of Kiware’s research projects is to develop models for a system in which mosquitoes kill their offspring by transferring insecticides to their breeding sites.
For environmental and cost reasons, it’s not feasible to spray insecticide everywhere, and “who knows their homes better than mosquitoes?” Kiware asks. His models will help guide field trials for the technique and eventually predict its impact on malaria elimination. If it works well, the approach could be applied to other malaria-prone parts of the world.
Kiware is working with the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, and his research is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Marquette’s Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science; and the GasDay Lab. He is splitting his time between Milwaukee and Tanzania while finishing his doctorate.
“If you’re trying to come up with the models, you have to make sure they will work in the field,” Kiware says.
After he finishes his degree, Kiware will continue his research in Tanzania. At some point, he hopes the threat of malaria will subside so he can move on to research other health issues.
“The goal,” he says with a smile, “is to work myself out of this job as soon as possible.” — NSE
According to the World Malaria Report 2011, most deaths occur among children living in Africa, where a child dies every minute from malaria.