Merel van Cooten is a master student in Health Sciences at the VU Amsterdam.

How did you hear about 510:

Having had different internships in an academic environment, I wanted to do something else for my master internship. That was why I specifically searched for an internship at an organization such as the red cross; a place where your findings can be used immediately. The academic environment can sometimes be very far away from the real practice. So, when I saw a summary of the 510 project at our university’s website, I directly decided to email and that’s how I ended up here, 5 months later.

What project are you currently working on?

I am currently writing my thesis for the EPI-project, where my focus is to study the impact of population movement on the spread of dengue in the Philippines. The majority of the dengue cases is asymptomatic, which means that individuals can unknowingly act as a reservoir and spread the virus to other areas. Having knowledge about the movement of people in a country might help in containing outbreaks of this infectious disease, and maybe also others.

510’s purpose is ‘improve speed, quality and cost-effectiveness of humanitarian aid by using data & digital. How are your skills helping 510 reach its purpose?

I think I can especially use my research skills to improve the response to epidemics of infectious diseases. For example, I helped with gathering data during the measles outbreak in the Philippines. Being able to see what factors can influence the spread of measles might improve the quality and the speed of the response to the epidemic. Even though a majority of the data is incomplete or not completely accurate, every piece of information can be helpful in improving the response to measles.

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