From Bangladesh to the Bay Area

Publication Date: 
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Water, Health & Development

Shahjahan Ali, a research investigator with the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (, studies environmental enteropathy, an illness spread by long-term fecal exposure, which can cause intestinal inflammation and growth stunting in children. He has worked closely with Stanford Water, Health & Development (WHD) researchers as part of an ongoing large-scale trial of individual and combined water, sanitation, hygiene and nutritional interventions in rural Bangladesh – WASH Benefits. He recently visited Stanford, where he attended the Global Research Convening and global public health classes taught by WHD researcher Stephen Luby. Ali discussed his visit and ongoing research.

What do you find most compelling about your work/field/current project? 

The field work for the biological sample collection is a big challenge in rural Bangladeshi communities. But my team has done excellent job of building rapport with community members and enhancing their knowledge by explaining the objectives of the research study.

What brought you to Berkeley and Stanford?

I have been working for WASH Benefits for four years, and I have mentored three undergraduate students from the University of California at Berkeley, who have worked with WASH Benefits. I applied for a faculty travel grant from UC Berkeley’s Minority Health & Health Disparities International Research Training (MHIRT) initiative. The principal investigator for WASH Benefits in Bangladesh is Steve Luby (Stanford professor of medicine and WHD researcher).

What is the most important/surprising thing you learned in Steve's class, Practical Approaches to Global Health Research? 

The most important part of Steve's class was the practical examples of the study designs such as randomized control trial in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The practical examples were very helpful for me to understand and get the clear concept of those study designs.

How did the experience influence your research?

The experience really influenced my research in learning how to better manage time and increase productivity. I also learned a lot from meeting Stanford researchers in person.

What is your next big research challenge?

I am working on writing a manuscript. It is a really big challenge for me since it is my first time authoring a research paper. It is about the difficulties we have faced during field implementation of the environmental enteropathy assessment, how we addressed them, and the specific recommendations for similar field-based biological specimen collection studies.

What was your biggest surprise about the Bay Area and American culture?

The natural beauty and weather was the biggest surprise for me. One thing I liked very much: people rarely use car horns on the street. In Dhaka, drivers use the horn very frequently and loudly.