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Curiosity, Frugal Science and Global health: Opportunities and Challenges



Manu Prakash, Stanford University

Date and Time

February 8, 2016 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


CISAC Central Conference Room, Encina Hall, 2nd Floor, 616 Serra St, Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: Somebody once said, “What a damn fool can do for a dollar, an engineer can do for a nickel.” Thinking about cost as an engineering constraint brings new life to ideas. This is what makes the difference between an idea influencing a hundred people or a billion. With our planet literally teeming with problems (ecological, health and social), it’s time to take cost constraints into serious consideration. As physicists, we like to make stuff. We use these skills (and field work) to design solutions for extremely resource constrained settings, specially in the field of global health. I will discuss our current work from field diagnostics to high-throughput vector ecology and hands on science education and talk about it’s implication in a global context. I will also discuss outcomes, and lessons from a global experiment - Foldscope (a 50 cent origami microscope); where we shipped 50,000 origami microscopes around the world (130+) countries enabling curious users to discover and explore the microscopic world surrounding them. 

About the Speaker: Manu Prakash is an assistant professor in bioengineering. He leads a curiosity driven research group, focused on technological interventions in extreme resource-poor settings, tackling global public health problems. A physicist and a prolific inventor, his inventions include a 50 cent “print-and-fold” paper microscope, a $5 chemistry lab, a computer that works by moving water droplets in a magnetic fields, and Oscan, a 3-D printed smartphone add-on that helps diagnose oral carcinomas responsible for 40% of cancer-related deaths in India. Professor Prakash has been distinguished as a Frederick E. Terman Fellow (2011-2013), a Pew Scholar (2013-2017), a top innovator under 35 by MIT Technology Review (2014) and in the Brilliant 10 by Popular Science (2014). Born in Meerut, India, Prakash earned a BTech in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur before moving to the United States. He did his master’s and PhD at MIT before founding the Prakash Lab at Stanford.