The Nomadic Scientist

Hello everyone! My name is Bilguudei (Billy) Naranbaatar. I am a fourth year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology. I am also from Mongolia, a country that is almost entirely open steppe, and populated by a still nomadic people. One of my main goals in studying in the United States is to help advance Mongolia in any way possible, by alleviating pollution, fighting desertification, improving education, etc. Thus, when I came across your lecture on the Foldscope while perusing through TED talks, I saw an opportunity for its use in Mongolia. I got in contact with Dr. Prakash, to share my ideas. The following is an excerpt of what I envisioned for the use of Foldscopes in Mongolia.

“There are several possible uses that I can currently see for Mongolia. First is, of course, educational. Many of the schools in Mongolia, even Universities and private colleges in the capital, lack the equipment necessary to provide each and every student with the resources to fully explore the world around them in a microscopic scale. If any, they have very few microscopes, enough for only one or two students to use at a time, not counting the professors that would likely reserve them for their own research. However, with the Foldscope, every student can have their own microscope, to explore the microscopic world as they see fit.

I remember when a friend of my mothers, a high school teacher, brought me a light microscope, it made me fall in love with science. I was looking through the window into the microscopic world every chance I got. I want students in Mongolia to have the same opportunities. I want them to explore through their own eyes, not just through pages in a book, and this is just for schools in the city. In the countryside, children tend the herds, ride horses, milk cows, and if they’re lucky, go to school in the small nearby village. They learn to read and write, but they are never given the opportunity to fall in love with science or math or whatever other subject they may find their passion in. With the foldscope, the potential uses in this kind of environment are endless. I could just imagine it: young children, herding sheep and cattle, stop near the lake to water the herd and notice something interesting on the ground, a unique type of grass, a small fungus, or even just a seemingly normal patch of mud. They then pull out their foldscope and analyze the sample on the spot, learning through their own exploration, asking questions – with hopefully teachers to answer them (but that’s another issue altogether). My country could be filled with nomadic scientists, learning and exploring the world around them without having to forego their traditional lifestyle.

Aside from their educational use, there are of course medical uses, veterinary uses, and uses in general research. The foldscope could especially be of great use in on-site field research trips like this to remote locations in Mongolia, where electricity is scarce and light, durable equipment is necessary. The difference between on site analysis of samples and off site with significant delays can be night and day, especially when viewing live samples.”

Thankfully, my ideas resonated with Dr. Prakash and I was given several foldscopes as samples to spread and share in my country, last summer. Though I didn’t have as much time as I had hoped to use the foldscope in the countryside of Mongolia, I did manage to get a few good images and used it for some alarming research. I will be sharing these images and findings soon! I also have a few interesting ideas on possible improvements and other applications, that I will be sharing in upcoming posts! I am excited to be a part of this community and look forward to sharing ideas and conversing with all of you!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    Welcome to Foldscope community @Billy. So wonderful to read your thoughts – and I can;t wait to see what you did and share your aspirations, results and challenges. This open sharing is what makes us a strong community; and I would love to see images/pictures context.

    Also; search and look through content on foldscope community website carefully – thousands of posts from far away communities that you will find inspirational – as an example; see this from Madagascar:


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