Students Pursue Research That Could Help Save Lives

NYUAD students team up to build a water filter device for a common jerrycan used in many rural African communities.

Giving back to local and international communities runs deep in the hearts of students at NYU Abu Dhabi — from every day volunteer work in the UAE to building houses for families in Thailand.

The spirit of service to others inspires many students to combine passion for the greater good with academic and intellectual ingenuity to create Capstone projects aimed at making a difference in communities around the world.

Disease awareness

The ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 prompted Mikahanidjo Koulibaly to explore the level of awareness of Ebola in rural Sierra Leone. In particular, she wanted to figure out if owning a mobile phone would help people become more educated about what was happening. 

"I was motivated to work on research that would contribute to improvements in the field in the long run," said the native of Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.

"As a West African this is a very important topic to me. If another Ebola outbreak emerges we will be the most affected region."

Koulibaly concluded in her research that having access to a mobile phone is crucial for disease awareness because it allows for faster communication. It's an important finding because "NGOs and governments need to know that a lot more should be spent on network coverage and telecommunication," she said.


Safe water

Abdullah Mahomed, Nkosikhona Msimanga, and Eder Munyampenda from Durban, Zimbabwe and Rwanda respectively, came together as student mechanical engineers to build a potentially life-saving water filter for rural African communities.

Villagers did not have adequate access to clean water and traveled for hours to collect water that is not perfectly clean ... this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Class of 2016 students
A plastic water filter device is fitted to a jerrycan to produce clean water.

Their idea was born during a trip to Rema, Ethiopia with the Engineers for Social Impact program. “We found that villagers did not have adequate access to clean water and traveled for hours to collect water that is not perfectly clean. We felt that this is a problem that needs to be addressed," they said.

The project took advantage of the unique internal structure of plant xylem that makes it suitable for filtration. In the end, the students built a two-piece plastic filter system that can be permanently attached to a common jerrycan.