Abhishek Karna

I come from Bathnaha, a rural village in south-eastern Nepal in the Mithila region. I am a Karsh International Scholar, Huang Fellow, and Global Fellow at Duke, and I intend to pursue a purely academic career in Physics. My primary goal to join Planet Lab was to identify and apply interdisciplinary skill sets that I have acquired from my rigorous Physics and Mathematics training to devise visualization tools, analysis frameworks, and required math to create meaningful results with environmental datasets. However, learning that there was an ongoing project in my home country Nepal, I got completely hooked on the three-fold idea of: learning open-ended skills, serving the Nepali society on a relatively untouched topic of planetary health, and meaningfully collaborating with scholars from diverse backgrounds. Till now, I must sincerely scream that my experience has been GREAT!

With Planet Lab, I work with the air quality PM2.5 analysis to identify transboundary air pollution trends along the transect between the Gangetic plains to the Tibetan plateau. I have developed algorithms that take in sensor data placed at different sites in the region and perform specific statistical analysis to generate significant data visualization necessary to assess pollution trends important for policy makers and stakeholders. Additionally, being a local from Nepal, I engage in culturally-relevant discussions about the lab’s ongoing field work in Siranchowk, Gorkha to assess planetary health metrics so that any kind of interviews/surveys or health camps can be appropriately and usefully done. In the upcoming days, I will be working with much complicated meteorological data to perform back trajectory analysis and peak shaving to assess the transboundary pollution, the source of pollution, and the temporal trends of air pollution in different regions.

I truly value the space that Prof. McAdoo has created for me to engage in and learn from such an amazing group of interdisciplinary scholars coming from all areas like environmental engineering, computer science, linguistics, data science, political science, global health, biology. Physics, etc. After every meeting, I come out with new mental tools to think about critical issues that do not have a clear inductive or deductive answer as I learn in Physics and Mathematics courses. Instead, the discussions and decisions in such a new and emerging field of Planetary Health, we have to integrate multi-faceted ideas to build both the foundations and the structures to assess some of the most critical & challenging problems of environment, health, and resilience that our world faces today. All in all, I am just very humbled and grateful to be a part of this team and to be able to contribute to the broader impact this lab will create in the lives of people all over the world.