Headshot of Nicola Dell
Headshot of Nicola Dell


Nicola Dell

University of Washington


Research Summary:

My research focuses on how technology can improve the lives of under served populations in low-income regions. Specifically, my PhD work explores the technical, user interaction and deployment challenges of integrating mobile, camera-based systems into resource-constrained environments in developing countries. I have designed and evaluated mobile systems that use computer vision algorithms running on commodity smartphones to assist health workers in two application domains: automatically interpreting diagnostic tests for infectious diseases, and automatically digitizing data from paper forms.

What impact does your research have?

The goal of my research is to alleviate some of the challenges currently faced by remote health workers in low-resource settings. To evaluate my work, I have spent substantial amounts of time working with health workers in sub-Saharan Africa to ensure that my systems are usable and appropriate under the constraints experienced in low-resource settings. My findings highlight the feasibility, benefits and challenges of using commodity smartphones to aid the delivery of health and information services to underprivileged populations, and will be useful for researchers and practitioners interested in improving the lives of people living in remote settings.

How did the Facebook Fellowship help support this?

The Facebook Fellowship provided me a year where I had freedom to focus on my research. It allowed me to spend time traveling to Africa to deploy some of my work with health workers in a variety of different hospitals and clinics. I have also been able to attend several top-tier conferences to present the results of this work to the research community. In addition, being a Facebook fellow has helped my research to receive more attention and become better known, both within the research community and outside.

What are the next steps for you in your research?

I’m starting the final year of my PhD and will be graduating in a few months. In the future I hope to continue doing research into how technology can be used to improve the lives of people in low-resource environments.