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SOAR 2018 Nathaniel Rhoads ’19

Nathaniel Rhoads ’19

“Socio-Economic Analysis of Satellite Observations to Predict Cholera”

Major/Minor: Economics, Theory and Policy track; minor in mathematics
Hometown: Saylorsburg, PA
Project Advisor: Dr. Sonia Aziz

Describe your project.

My project consisted of investigating and analyzing primary survey data collected in Bangladesh concerning the value people place on a cholera vaccine, not only in general, but also in regard to an early warning system that would be based off the aforementioned satellite observations. I investigated possible relationships between demographics, people’s behaviors and their knowledge of cholera, and the value they place on a vaccine for themselves and their child.

How did this project come about?

Having worked with Dr. Aziz as a teaching assistant for her Intermediate Microeconomics class, as well as having taken both her environmental and natural resource economics classes, I was familiar with her work concerning cholera in Bangladesh. She came to me with the idea doing a SOAR project based off her work, and the project sort of started with a literature review of an article on the cost of delivery of a cholera vaccine in Bangladesh I did for her natural resource economics class. My involvement with the project continued from there.

What is the best part about working with Dr. Aziz? What valuable insights does she bring to your project?

Since my work is based off of Dr. Aziz’s research, she is able to provide many valuable insights to my project. She is able to provide insightful advice concerning the fieldwork, as I was unable to do research in the field in Bangladesh this summer, but she is well familiar with the field. I especially valued her honesty when it came to constructive criticism and compliments as well. I specifically remember showing Dr. Aziz my SOAR presentation and her saying that it was not up to my usual caliber of work. We presented during the first week of SOAR presentations so we both expected a number of edits after the first round. I took that feedback into account and, despite little time, the final product was “objectively, very good.”

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What was your biggest obstacle?

Due to the international nature of the research, Dr. Aziz had to travel to the field in Bangladesh twice during the project. During the first trip, communication remained relatively reliable. During the second trip, however, circumstances outside of our control presented time lags in communication. This affected how we stayed in contact and also delayed feedback I would get on certain parts of my project. Despite the time lags, we were able to accomplish goals within the timeline we had set out.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

There are many different ways in which you can conduct academic research, and it can even depend on your area of study. I always thought of research as collecting data and analyzing it. However, you can also have research that strictly concerns theoretical models.

What was the result of your project?

Using an OLS regression, I found several interesting significant relationships. For example, awareness is significantly negatively correlated with a person’s value of the vaccine, and water treatment is significantly positively correlated with the person’s value of the vaccine. However, it is important to note that I plan to refine these results during my honors project this year. I also hope that my honors project will yield further results, especially in regards to the early warning system.

Overall, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian College?

I am thankful that I was awarded this opportunity, as it allowed me to pursue an interest in economic research while also introducing me to the basics of research, such as presenting it to peers and an interdisciplinary audience. Students should definitely take advantage of the SOAR program, as it is a great introduction to academic research and can serve as a testing ground of sorts for a potential future honors project. It also allows students to work with professors who can often open the doors to great future research opportunities.

Do you plan to expand upon your research?

My honors project will be an extension of my SOAR project, with several additions, including my own theoretical model for averting behavior with respect to cholera and a further analysis of the data.