Master of Science in Global Health Student Presents at ASTMH Conference

Master of Science in Global Health student Gwyneth (“Wyn”) Sullivan, ’14, was recently invited to present an abstract at the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s annual conference in New Orleans. On November 4, Sullivan spoke at the conference and answered questions about her work in the laboratory of Zainulabeuddin Syed, PhD, Eck Institute for Global Health member and Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences.

Sullivan’s research is on the olfactory system in Culex, a genus of mosquitos. Members of the Culex pipiens complex transmit West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis, and a group of parasitic infections called filarial diseases. 

“The work I presented is on the mosquito olfactory system,” Sullivan said. “I analyzed chemical attractants elicited from their eggs that attract females to lay eggs in the same bodies of water. Doing this, I found some differences in both behavior and chemical composition between different members of the Culex pipiens complex and their geographical location.

“This work contributes to understanding more about the evolutionary history of the Culex pipiens complex as well as has implications for baited trap design to monitor and control mosquitos globally,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan and post-doctoral Diego Echeverri-Garcia, PhD, won an internal competition by the Eck Institute for Global Health. The prize covered transportation and expenses for the conference. Bernard Nahlen, ’75, MD, suggested the honorarium he would have received as speaker at the Paul P. Weinstein Memorial Lecture be used to host two competition winners.

Sullivan began research as a sophomore in Syed’s lab. She received a research fellowship under the College of Science’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and graduated in 2014 with a double major in biology and peace studies. Her interest in disease transmission and global health made the Master of Science in Global Health program a natural next step for her. The program includes two semesters of academic study and research on campus and about 6 weeks of research at an international site, culminating in a Capstone project. Currently, she is continuing her work with the Syed laboratory, and she will be using techniques similar to those learned during her undergraduate work for her Capstone project in Belize.

She plans to use her Notre Dame education and experience in medical school and beyond. “Next year I will be in medical school,” Sullivan said. “I hope to one day work in the field of global health as an infectious disease specialist. As many pathogens and parasites are transmitted by insects, my research in vector biology has definitely helped to spur my interest in this.”

The Eck Institute for Global Health recognizes health as a fundamental human right and endeavors to promote research, training, and service to advance health standards for all people, especially people in low-and middle-income countries, who are disproportionately impacted by preventable diseases.