ASU honors graduate wants to use data and education to empower communities


May 12, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Pratik Nyaupane sees a nexus among soccer, spirituality and business, with fan fervor and the complexity of worker’s rights coming into play. Pratik Nyaupane Photo courtesy of Pratik Nyaupane Download Full Image

This week, Nyaupane received a bachelor’s degree in informatics from the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, a minor in political science, and with honors from Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University.

He entered ASU as a New American University Scholar and was on the Dean’s List every semester since his sophomore year. He graduated summa cum laude and was named the Outstanding Graduate in his degree program.

Nyaupane focused on soccer pilgrims and migrant workers’ rights in undergraduate sports-related research projects.

“One of my most exciting moments (at ASU) was when I took a Global Intensive Experience program and we studied sports, politics and culture in Catalonia,” he said.

In Spain, Nyaupane worked with his professor, Jeff Kassing, on researching the behavior of so-called soccer pilgrims from the United States who travel internationally to matches, immersing themselves in the sport in a way that is akin to spiritual believers participating in a ritual.

Nyaupane and Kassing co-authored an article titled “I Just Couldn’t Believe I Was There: An Exploration of Soccer Pilgrimage” in the International Journal of Sport Communication.

The article pointed out that the pilgrims “socially constructed the social atmosphere, the sacred nature and the authenticating capacity of soccer pilgrimages.”

While soccer pilgrims are the very visible face of soccer fandom, migrant workers are the hidden face of struggle associated the sport.

Nyaupane got to see this side of soccer when he conducted his honors thesis research on human rights abuses of migrant workers in Qatar in preparation of 2022 FIFA World Cup. He studied the exploitation of Nepalese migrants, who, along with workers from Bangladesh and India, are refurbishing the Khalifa Stadium and surrounding sports facilities. These workers are subjected to unsafe working conditions, forced labor and substandard housing.

We caught up with Nyaupane to get his thoughts about his undergraduate experience at ASU and his future plans.    

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My passion lies in advocating for social justice and equality in marginalized communities, and I wanted to be able to do that with an informatics degree. When I met Dr. Kirk Jalbert, he introduced me to the world of civic informatics and using technical knowledge as a tool for justice. I work as a research fellow at the Civic Science for Environmental Futures Collaborative, headed by Dr. Jalbert, where we study environmental justice movements and how technology and data empower communities to mobilize and organize in order to protect the environment.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I didn’t really know what to expect coming into ASU. Many students start off their undergraduate degrees knowing they want to be a doctor or lawyer or work for some dream company. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of several research projects, including conducting my own research as a Barrett honors student. I also completed my thesis on the ongoing human rights crisis affecting migrant workers in Qatar in preparation of 2022 FIFA World Cup. Through Barrett funding and resources, I went to Nepal to conduct field work and talk to migrant workers and government officials to collect data for my study. My research experiences at ASU really opened my eyes to the world of research and how important it is to ask difficult questions and then to work to solve them in hopes of finding answers and sharing your discoveries.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I grew up in the Valley and regularly attended ASU football games with my family. My father is an ASU professor, and my mom is an ASU alum. I always knew that I wanted to be a Sun Devil, and I’m so glad I did!

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I am so glad that I got to work with many smart and scholarly faculty members as an undergraduate student. I can’t name a single professor because all of the professors I did research with have taught me so much and I appreciate their lessons in research, hard work and dedication to contributing knowledge to society. Dr. Kirk Jalbert, Dr. Jeffrey Kassing, Dr. David Siroky, Dr. Pauline Cheong, Dr. Uttaran Dutta and Dr. Gyan Nyaupane have all had a significant impact on me and my passion for research.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Take classes in areas outside of your discipline. If you are a science major, take a policy course. If you are a business major, take an art class. If you are a political science major, take a computer science class. It is so important that we share knowledge and learn from each other. ASU offers thousands of interesting and fun courses, so take advantage of them!

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: One of the coolest places to be is near the Memorial Union. There are always so many interesting and amazing clubs and organizations that table in that area. I was a part of NextGen America at ASU and Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) just because I went up to the tables and asked about them. It is a great way to get involved and meet people with similar interests.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I will be pursuing grad school. Specifically, I hope to be doing research and studying technology and social impact. I plan to enroll in a graduate program in the near future, and I am very excited to continue learning and growing as an individual!

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I believe education is the single most important resource that we can invest in for our communities. Unfortunately, many marginalized communities have been intentionally stripped of funding and resources to inhibit their liberation. Technology is such a powerful tool, and we must use it to empower communities rather than perpetuate the digital divide and the big data divide. I would invest in interdisciplinary education to empower and connect people all around the world.

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College

480-965-8415

PhD grad uses math to fight malaria, dengue and COVID-19


May 12, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Enahoro Iboi was recently honored as a recipient of the 2020 Graduate Research Award from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. He is graduating this week with his PhD in Applied Mathematics from Arizona State University. Enahoro Iboi Enahoro Iboi’s research is focused on the use of mathematical modeling techniques to better understand the transmission dynamics and control of the diseases caused by mosquitoes, such as malaria, dengue and Zika, as well as other infectious diseases, such as the recent COVID-19. Download Full Image

Iboi was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. His father worked as forklift driver at Cadbury Nigeria PLC while his mother was a petty trader. His father died just one month after Iboi began his master’s study at Ohio University.

“My late father loved education so much that he wanted me to get a doctorate degree in mathematics,” said Iboi. “He was unable to complete his high school education, but he always dreamed of me and my siblings attending college. He was not the richest but made sure we had the best education with the little resources he had.”

Iboi developed interest in mathematics while attending high school in Lagos State and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Benin, Nigeria. He was then offered financial support as a teaching assistant during his master’s program in mathematics at Ohio University in the U.S.

As his interest grew stronger in applied mathematics, Iboi wanted to study for his PhD at a university with excellent faculty and a strong track record in research.

“Arizona State University was my first choice because of its curriculum and the research expertise of its faculty,” said Iboi. “I got accepted to the PhD program here at ASU, and my expectations were exceeded. My experience at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences has been awesome, and it has made a lifelong impact on me.”

Iboi’s research is focused on the use of mathematical modeling techniques to better understand the transmission dynamics and control of the diseases caused by mosquitoes, such as malaria, dengue and Zika, as well as other infectious diseases, such as the recent COVID-19.

His first research project at ASU was modeling the transmission dynamics of dengue fever in a population. His work was motivated by the approval of the Dengvaxia vaccine for use in 11 countries, including Mexico and the Philippines.

Iboi developed a novel mathematical model, of the form of a 27-dimensional deterministic system of nonlinear differential equations. Some of the notable features of his model included the inclusion of the dynamics of all four dengue serotypes, the effect of local changes in temperature, and the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine.

“Iboi did what I thought was practically impossible,” said Abba Gumel, Iboi’s PhD adviser and Foundation Professor. “I never expected that such rigorous results could be obtained for such a model with high dimensionality of 27 state variables and nonlinearity.”

Using data from Oaxaca, Mexico, the model simulations showed that the community-wide use of the vaccine would significantly reduce dengue burden, but it would not lead to the elimination of the four dengue serotypes unless other anti-dengue control measures were also implemented.

Iboi’s study further showed that the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine in people without prior dengue infection may induce increased risk of severe disease. This later result was corroborated by clinical data collected in the Philippines, and French pharmaceutical company Sanofi had to withdraw its vaccine from further use in humans.

Ibai’s strong interest in mathematical epidemiology has been reinforced by recent statistics that malaria is prevalent in 31 countries and caused 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths in 2018. Malaria is concentrated in the African region, accounting for about 90% of cases and mortality, with the majority of deaths in children under the age of 5.

“These figures are just one more factor that persuades me that my choice of research in mathematical biology was the right one,” said Iboi.

“Iboi contributes both in terms of the design of totally new, realistic and insightful mathematical models and in their detailed rigorous analyses,” said Gumel. “He also parameterizes these models using available data, including ecological, climatological, epidemiological and demographic, to derive realistic simulations, which can then be used to influence public health policy.”

In recent weeks, Iboi has shifted his focus to the novel coronavirus. He is co-author on two recently published papers, including one that suggests ending social distancing early could trigger a devastating second COVID-19 wave. He has a productive research record, with 10 articles already published, as well as an additional paper submitted and one more in progress. He has been invited to present his research results in many national and international conferences.

“Enahoro Iboi is very deserving of the 2020 Graduate Student Research Award,” said Al Boggess, professor and school director. “His research will continue to have significant impact in controlling diseases like dengue fever and malaria and, most recently, COVID-19.”

We asked Iboi to share more about his journey as a Sun Devil.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: When I published my first manuscript while at ASU.

Q: What do you like most about mathematics?

A: How mathematics can be used to solve global issues, such as cancer, malaria, COVID-19.

Q: What is something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I learned so much while teaching the Pathways Pre-Calculus MAT 170. It changed my perspective of teaching that is more focused on students’ learning outcomes.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I would like to stay in academia and have received multiple employment offers, including tenure-track and post-doc positions at private liberal arts colleges and Ivy League universities.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Abba Gumel taught me to be very hardworking, dedicated in all I do, and most importantly, to be a good person in life.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school?

A: Stay focused, study hard and pray.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Wexler Hall.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time for fun?

A: I watch soccer.

Q: What do you think is most misunderstood about math by the general public?

A: That mathematics is boring and difficult.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Help fund research and development to eliminate malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

480-727-2468