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Research Team

Evan A Thomas, PhD, PE, MPH is an Associate Professor and Director of the Sweet (Sustainable Water, Energy and Environmental Technologies) Laboratory, and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University. Evan works at the interface of engineering, environmental health and social business, with professional experience working in government, industry, non-profits and academia. Evan holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder, is a registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) in Environmental Engineering in the State of Texas, and holds a Masters in Public Health from the Oregon Health and Science University.

At Portland State, the SweetLab develops and implements cellular and satellite based "Internet of Things" sensor technologies designed to improve the collection of, and action on, data in global health programs. We deploy and study high efficiency cookstoves, water pumps, household water filters, sanitation systems, pedestrian footbridges and other developing world appropriate technologies. The SweetLab has projects in India, Nepal, Indonesia, the Philippines, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti and other countries.

We are also engaged in applied unmanned aerial vehicle research, developing and conducting autonomous environmental impact assessments domestically and internationally with drone-derived imagery. Similar to our sensor work, drone-derived image analysis has enabled us to increase data collection in data-scarce regions in developing countries, allowing us and our partners to actively respond to environmental and human health risks including deforestation and air and water quality measures. 

Our research and practice has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Foundation, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID), the Gates Foundation, and others.

Evan is also a social business entrepreneur engaged in global health programs. Evan was a founding volunteer with Engineers Without Borders-USA in 2002, which led to co-founding Manna Energy Limited in 2007. Manna was acquired by DelAgua Health in 2013. In 2012, Evan co-founded SWEETSense Inc., an Oregon technology company co-owned by Portland State University and Manna. Evan is currently the Chief Operating Officer of DelAgua Health, a social enterprise working with the Government of Rwanda Ministry of Health to implement a water treatment and improved cookstove program.

In this capacity, Evan has been responsible for conceptualizing, designing and operating a $35 million dollar nationwide public health intervention in Rwanda in partnership with the Government of Rwanda (www.delagua.org/projects/rwanda). Our program has to-date reached over 1.6 million people across over 350,000 households with cookstoves, and 102,000 of these households with water filters. We are presently operating in over 7,500 villages. Over two years, our program design demonstrated a 46% reduction in the prevalence of diarrhea in children under 5, a 73% reduction indoor air pollution when behavior change messaging is implemented, and a nearly 28% reduction in personal exposure to particulate matter. Epidemiologically derived estimates on morbidity and mortality impact suggest over a hundred averted deaths in children under 5 each year, and 6,000 averted disability-adjusted life-years every year the program maintains similar performance.

Prior to joining PSU, Evan worked as a civil servant at the NASA-Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for six years. At NASA, Evan was a principal investigator and project manager in the Life Support and Habitability Systems Branch working on concepts for sustainable Moon and Mars spacecraft. These included microgravity fluid management technologies and water recovery systems spanning the range of technology readiness from research and concept development through operational spacecraft hardware flying on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station.

 

 

 

Corey Nagel, PhD, RN, MPH is an Assistant Professor of Public Health (Epidemiology) at Oregon Health & Science University. He has substantial training in advanced statistical methods and machine learning and has experience analyzing sensor-derived data from hand-pumps, latrines, and cookstoves employed in public health interventions in developing countries. He is currently the recipient of a fellowship from the John A Hartford Foundation to apply machine-learning and data mining techniques to the prediction of health and functional outcomes. Dr. Nagel's work with the SweetLab includes experimental design and data analysis of programs and studies deployed in developing countries.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Engineers

Zdenek Zumr earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering and MS in Electrical Engineering from Portland State University. He is a full time engineer in the SweetLab, focusing on the custom design and production of sensors for developing world applications. Zdenek was born in the Czech Republic and raised in Switzerland where he acquired professional FEAM certification in electronics. He worked as a contract technician and project manager on international projects for Swiss companies in Europe, South America and the Middle East. During a ten year sabbatical from technology he earned a Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, practiced and taught Chinese Medicine and published an instructional workbook for students.

 

Zak White earned his BSCE from Portland State in 2012. He is a full time staff engineer in the SweetLab, working on the testing and deployment of technologies in developing countries. 

 

Students

Nick Turman-Bryant is a PhD student at Portland State University. Nick graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Puget Sound in 2005. Mr. Turman-Bryant graduated with honors in Mathematics and received a minor in Comparative Sociology. Prior to the start of his current graduate program Mr. Turman-Bryant worked for eight years with a non-profit called Tierra Nueva based in Washington State and Central Honduras. In his previous program at the Schatz Energy Research Center he was able to participate in and contribute to some of the most current and relevant research related to service delivery in developing communities.

 

 

Taylor Sharpe is a Mechanical Engineering BS/MS student at Portland State University.  His duties in the lab include rapid prototyping, machining, and research.  Along with his work in the SweetLab, his outside projects involve the application of engineering practices to the fields of physics education and school building energy efficiency.

 

 

Kwasi Boateng is a PhD student in Engineering and Technology Management at Portland State University. His work in the SweetLab focuses on experimental design and data analysis. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Bedell is a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering at Portland State University. Her research in the SweetLab includes environmental impacts assessments in Rwanda and Oregon. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarita Sanchez is a graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Portland State University. Her work in the SweetLab is focused on data analysis algorithms and interpretation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katie Fankhauser earned a degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Kansas in 2013. Katie is a full time program manager for DelAgua Health working in Rwanda, while pursuing a Masters in Public Health within the OHSU / PSU School of Public Health. Her research in the SweetLab includes enviornmental impacts assessments in Rwanda and Oregon.