Frugal Science and Global Health

Somebody once said, “What a damn fool can do for a dollar, an engineer can do for a nickel”. Thinking about cost as an engineering constraint brings new life to old ideas (physics). This is what makes the difference between an idea influencing a hundred people or a billion! With our planet literally teeming with problems, it’s time to take cost constraints into serious consideration. As physicists and engineers, we know how to make stuff.  We use these skills (and field work) to design solutions for extremely resource constrained settings, especially in the field of global health.  Our work in this area extends from field diagnostics to hand on science education.


  • Foldscope – low-cost microscope
  • Oscan – device to allow smartphones to scan oral cavity for cancer
  • Punchcard microfluidics – chemistry kit in a $5 device
  • Vector-parasite ecology (VectorChip, Abuzz) – detecting and identifying mosquito species
  • Paperfuge – low-cost centrifuge