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Sarah Newell, M.Sc. Health Systems
Ph.D. Student, McMaster University - Hamilton, ON, Canada

Sarah Newell
For Sarah Newell, MSc 2014, research has always been a passion of hers. As a student at the Telfer School of Management, she spent her time researching on the resilience of communities in the face of natural disasters and how ontology engineering methods could be used to help prepare them better in these crises. “This program provided me with an opportunity to think about problems in healthcare that was beneficial for my future,” she says. Sarah is now finishing her PhD in Health Policy at McMaster University.
Her Thesis
The body of Sarah’s work, with the help of her supervisor, Dr. Tracey O’Sullivan and co-supervisor, Dr. Wojtek Michalowski, looked at how we, as a society, could represent the knowledge about community resilience to a disaster by using ontology engineering methods and the benefits of using this data. The ontology that was built used First Order Logic which allows a computer to infer information based on the statements contained in the model. In other words, the ontology represents the concepts and relationships which make up community resilience to a disaster. When data is attached to these concepts, such as the degree of social connectedness within a community, a computer could then generate an overall level of resilience for a community given various indicators, as well as the impact on community resilience of changing the values for these individual indicators.
Some of the benefits that this work could bring to researchers, according to Sarah, is that researchers could use this information to represent their own research results as well as to identify gaps which could define areas for future research in the field. Also, community decision-makers, she says, could utilize the data gathered by the tool and model the impacts of various interventions in order to allow these decisions to be evidence informed.
Thanking Telfer
What matters to Sarah is being able to have rich learning opportunities that pushes her to try and research new things. “Using ontology engineering as a method for my MSc thesis pushed me outside of my comfort zone and as a result I learned far more,” she says. “I am currently pursuing my PhD and continuing to not only use this methodology but also my approach to learning.”
Furthering Research
Sarah is presently pursuing the Water without Borders joint graduate program at McMaster University and the United Nation University INWEH. Her thesis plans involve examining how climate change and other natural forces affect fishing communities in Arctic, Atlantic, and Caribbean communities.

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