Interview with Prof. Patrick L. Gurian :: Gian Course at IITD

Aimed at training students and teachers to a proven curriculum in microbial risk assessment, Prof. Patrick L. Gurian, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering at Drexel University conducted a GIAN course at IIT Delhi.

The Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), an initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) is aimed at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs, internationally to encourage their engagement with the institutes of higher Education in India so as to augment the country's existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reform, and elevate India's scientific and technological capacity to global excellence.

Prof Gurian has extensive experience in the field of quantitative microbial risk assessment. He is currently principal investigator of a 2.5 million US dollar project on water quality in buildings which is analyzing microbial risks due to the grown of opportunistic pathogens in building plumbing systems.

In an interview with Dr Vanita Srivastava he spells out the details of the course and the relevance of quantitative microbial risk assessment in the current time.

Can you brief a little about the course that you have conducted? What was the basic aim behind this course?


The course covered quantitative microbial risk assessment. Humans are exposed to pathogens in innumerable ways, including swimming, eating, drinking, or even breathing. Quantitative microbial risk assessment provides estimates of the probability that different activities will result in infection and illness. Understanding these risks helps us judge when the risks are small enough that we can accept them, and when we need to take action to protect ourselves from these risks.


What were the different modules of the course?


The course had two main components. The first covered a set of mathematical approaches that allow us to estimate probabilities of infection and illness when human are exposed to different doses of microorganisms.
The second dealt with how we may make decisions about what risks to accept and what risks to try to reduce.


How was the response? What more needs to be addressed?


We will conduct a formal assessment at the end of the course but the students have been dedicated and put in substantial extra time working on case study problems outside of class.
It has been very rewarding to work with such a motivated group of scholars. Preliminary feedback suggests that reviewing basic statistical concepts was successful in getting students from a range of different backgrounds up to speed on the mathematics used in the class. In the future we will work to develop a common scenario to which we can apply the examples given in the class so that students get an integrated picture of how the different methods are used together.


How important is quantitative microbial risk assessment in the current time?


Quantitative microbial risk assessment has become an important part of regulatory policy making. In the United States, quantitative microbial risk assessments are required for major regulatory actions that are intended to protect the food and water supply from microbial contamination. Right now the students in the class are using microbial risk assessment to address a number of issues relevant to India, such as whether upstream pollution in the Yamuna River may present a risk for downstream drinking water supplies and agriculture, and whether the use of treated wastewater to suppress dust presents a hazard.