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MIT Sloan faculty members win grants for work on food supply chain, water contamination, mercury in rice

Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab supports research projects

July 9, 2015

A new grant series will support three MIT Sloan-based research projects examining global food and water security.

Each project will receive $200,000 as part of the first round of funding from the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab. Nine grants in all—totaling $1.8 million—were announced this month.

Finding fail points in the global food supply chain

Retsef LeviRetsef Levi

Tauhid ZamanTauhid Zaman

Karen ZhengKaren Zheng

With both imports and regulation on the rise, how are companies to ensure the quality of their supply chains? This project from MIT Sloan’s Retsef Levi, Tauhid Zaman, and Karen Zheng seeks to determine which elements of food supply chains “are correlated with increased levels of disruption and safety risks.”

The project also seeks to “develop predictive models to … identify evolving disruption and safety risks” with the hope of informing future regulation and risk management.

Better water contamination tests for rural areas

Chintan VaishnavChintan Vaishnav

Today’s water field tests are not as accurate as lab tests and are not useful in some cases, such as detecting low levels of arsenic. Meanwhile, laboratory testing requires large water samples that are hard to transport.

So MIT Sloan’s Chintan Vaishnav is teaming up with faculty members in the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering to develop a new water testing technology. Their goal: allow water samples “to be preserved in a compact form” for easier mailing to laboratories. If it works, there may be a new, more affordable way to test water in rural and remote areas.

How much mercury is in your rice?

Valerie KarplusValerie Karplus

China is the world’s largest producer of rice. It is also the world’s largest mercury polluter.

Using environmental modeling and economic cost analysis, MIT Sloan’s Valerie Karplus will seek to understand how and where in China mercury contaminates rice and to “project future changes in [mercury] levels in rice grains.” The work, conducted with Noelle Selin of the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, could inform policy decisions and strategies to minimize risks.


See all nine grants from the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab.