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Traveling World to Understand Malnutrition

Circumnavigators Award recipient to compare grassroots programs in eight countries

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Elizabeth Larsen, a junior in Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will travel in her role as the 2014 Circumnavigators Travel-Study Award winner to eight different countries this summer to investigate childhood malnutrition.

Offered jointly by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Chicago Chapter of the Circumnavigators Club, the $9,000 award funds a 10-week global summer research trip. The recipient must visit at least five countries on three continents.

Larsen, an economics and global health major, plans to model a global nutrition initiative after studying the effects of eight community programs. Her project “Tackling Childhood Malnutrition: A global study of scaling up grassroots approaches to catalyze world progress” will compare the successes and failures of malnutrition programs in Guatemala, Peru, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Uganda, Rwanda and Cameroon.

After attending the 2013 GlobeMed East Africa Forum in Uganda and researching a nutrition recuperation program in Guatemala last summer, Larsen decided to apply for the Circumnavigators grant.

“Her project is both ambitious and tightly focused,” said Jana Measells, a coordinator of the Circumnavigators Travel-Study Grant and an advisor in the Office of Undergraduate Research.

“She makes excellent use of an impressive network of connections she has developed through her work with GlobeMed.”

Northwestern students founded GlobeMed in 2007 as a way to improve the health of people living in poverty by connecting U.S. undergraduates with grassroots organizations throughout the world.

The Circumnavigators Club Foundation was established in 1964 as a philanthropic and educational organization to enable members of the Circumnavigators Club to provide financial support to programs that further the Club's mission of improving international relations through friendship and understanding.

The Foundation partners with a small number of universities across the country to offer the scholarship. Northwestern partially funds the grant and, therefore, is able to award it each year.

The rigorous selection process of the grant motivates students of varying majors and backgrounds to submit sophisticated independent research project proposals.

“We strongly encourage non-winning applicants to revise their proposals to apply for summer undergraduate research grants, Fulbright scholarships and other opportunities,” Measells said.

The selection committees were impressed by the lifesaving potential of Larsen’s project and her previous academic, research and travel experiences.

Larsen is a student in the Honors Program in Medical Education, an integrated B.A./M.D. program with the Feinberg School of Medicine. She was also the first undergraduate student ever to win an award from the Global Health Initiative, a fund that supports Feinberg students abroad.

“Northwestern has proven to be a university full of endless opportunities,” Larsen said. “From the professors that are always willing to advise and mentor students, to the research office on campus that provides endless support on ideas, proposals and applications, there is seemingly no limit to what students can pursue.” 

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