Sara Amirpour Haredasht
Creating prediction tools to better understand disease outbreaks in livestock farms

Note: Sara Amirpour Haredasht was a Keller Pathway Fellow in 2017/18. This interview was conducted in fall 2017.

Sara Amirpour Haredasht is a postdoctoral scholar developing new, model-based monitoring and prediction tools to understand infectious disease dynamics. Her recent research involved modeling the spatio-temporal dynamics of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome cases at the farm level, using geographical distance and pig trade network matrices.

In a nutshell, describe your project or venture.

I am a postdoc scholar in the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology. I am working on developing new, more real-time, model-based monitoring and prediction tools to better understand spatial-temporal dynamics of disease outbreaks in livestock farms based on the real-time measured data, such as livestock trade network and diagnostic lab reports. I also support—with my expertise—the analysis and visualization of data, model validation activities and the development of guidelines and training materials for technology transfer.

What’s important about your research or project—and where do you hope to take it?

The developed models and risk maps can provide the foundations to build a syndromic surveillance system using real-time information to early-detect changes in the number of infected animals or farms in specific locations and time periods. This is useful in informing producers and veterinary practitioners of improved management practices and interventions that minimize and prevent disease outbreaks. This will save producers and the livestock industry millions of dollars annually.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

I have the privilege to work with real-time data and problems. The visualization tools and models that I am developing will be used as a decision-making tool for livestock producers and stockholders.

What was the most important thing you learned at the Entrepreneurship Academy?

Building a great interdisciplinary team and network is the most important thing that I should do as an entrepreneur. I also learned how to pitch my idea, and how to communicate the details of my product to potential customers or investors.

What is the most unexpected advice you received from a mentor?

To narrow my idea down and test it in a limited, well-defined scale before expanding it.

Do you have a project/venture in mind for the Big Bang! Business Competition? How do you expect participation in the Big Bang! workshops and  competition to help you as an aspiring entrepreneur?

I think the Big Bang! workshops will help me to communicate my ideas and potentially increase the visibility of the project that I am working on. This platform will ultimately provide me the opportunity to expand my network and to learn about entrepreneurship in a supportive community.

The Keller Pathway Fellowship Program specifically supports women, cross-disciplinary researchers, and other underrepresented, university-based entrepreneurs. Do you have any insight, experience or concern you’d like to share?

I am an immigrant scholar and female scientist. I am proud that the Keller fellowship program recognizes researchers from different backgrounds and encourages and trains female scientists for leadership roles.

How will your experiences as a Keller Pathway Fellow help you to change the world?

The fellowship program is helping me understand the skills and abilities that I need to develop to become a successful entrepreneur.