Alumni Funds Help Build High-Tech Lab

Students participate in a GIS class taught by Jeffrey Shaffer, research assistant professor of biostatistics.

When you walk into the new SPHTM multi-function lab, it doesn’t immediately look much different from any other school computer lab. But take a look at the access grid or participate in a video conference, and you begin to see just what is so special and unique.

The technology behind the scenes is truly cutting edge, says Fran Mather, director of academic information systems. The multi-function lab was partially funded through Annual Fund donations.

The room was designed with multiple purposes in mind. For starters, it provides a location for advance computing, permitting students and faculty to conduct and participate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) computing and advanced biostatistical and epidemiology classes that require what Mather calls “crunching power.”

It’s the video conferencing that puts the uniqueness of this space on display. The custom-designed access grid makes seamless video collaboration possible, whether it’s happening across the street or around the world.

So far, this advanced video collaboration has been used among Tulane buildings, including 1440 Canal Street (Tidewater), the J. Bennett Johnston building on Tulane Avenue, and the Tulane National Primate Research Center on the North Shore. The possibilities, however, are much wider in scope. With the video conference system, it will be possible to collaborate in real time with other local schools, such as Louisiana State University, as well as schools and offices in areas around the world where Tulane conducts research.

Plans are underway for a new journal club developed by Tulane’s Office of Global Health to take advantage of the technology in video conferences with deputy director Valerie Paz Soldan, research assistant professor of international health and development who resides in Peru. Professor Donald Krogstad may also use the technology in conjunction with his ICEMR grant.

The video collaboration could also be useful in a public health emergency, permitting faculty and public health officials in New Orleans to interact with professionals in other areas to discuss emerging threats and share resources in real time, says John Gerone, director of innovative technology, who helped design the wireless system.

The conferencing component consists of three video cameras and three servo-mounted projectors, which are all operator controlled. Through this system, it’s possible to not only deliver a lecture or speaker presentation, but the operator can also deliver rich media to the receiving site at the same time.

“This new multi-function room allows the school to take the next step in collaboration and cooperation, using heavy-duty, next-generation technology,” says Mather.

“Donations to the Annual Fund really make a difference,” says senior development officer Tatine Frater. “As the multi-function room demonstrates, these funds don’t just go into the general operating budget. They are used to directly impact students and help faculty in their day-to-day work.”


For information on how you can contribute to the Annual Fund, contact Tatine Frater at or visit


About Tulane University SPHTM

Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is the oldest school of public health in the country and the only American school of tropical medicine. Our mission is to advance public health knowledge, promote health and well-being, and prevent disease, disability, and premature mortality. This is accomplished through academic excellence in education of public health professionals, rigorous scientific research of public health problems, creative partnerships to advance the practice of public health, and innovative service to the local, national, and international public health community.
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