Population Health

Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship

Image of student engaged with a virtual reality headsetThe Population Health Initiative, in partnership with the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, CoMotion, the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance and the School of Public Health, offers a Social Entrepreneurship Fellows Program in which students explore how best to deploy social enterprise models for innovations that are developed by University of Washington researchers.

The program supports graduate fellows from different disciplines to work on a range of different projects. Students from a range of disciplines are encouraged to apply, including business, engineering, social work, law, public policy and public health.

Each fellow will have primary responsibility for one of the projects, but fellows will work as a team, with each fellow contributing their disciplinary expertise to all four projects. Fellows will be guided through a structured workplan by program faculty and staff, and will also have access to mentors and subject matter experts.

Summer 2023 projects

The projects for the summer 2023 cohort are being developed by UW researchers to benefit disadvantaged populations and improve population health. All innovations are seeking novel ideas for how they can be financially sustainable while ensuring that the societal impact of their work remains as important as any potential revenue generation.

EquinOx: Addressing Racial Discrepancy in Pulse Oximetry

Oxygen saturation (SpO2) is one of the top five vital signs used to make treatment decisions about a patient’s health. Traditionally, finger pulse oximeters are the most common method used to measure oxygen saturation. This method of pulse oximetry uses photoplethysmography to measure oxygen saturation through the use of two wavelengths of light to measure hemoglobin in the blood based on the absorption of red and infrared lightwaves.

The problem with this method is that it does not account for barriers, such as darker skin tones, that prevent the transmission of light between the light-emitting diodes on the pulse oximeters and hemoglobin. As a result, there are significant racial discrepancies in pulse oximetry that often lead to inaccurate readings in darker skinned patients. This is a significant problem because inaccurate SpO2 readings can potentially lead to delayed care, additional medical complications, as well as premature death. Since traditional pulse oximeters are used universally for all patients, they do not attempt to address inaccurate readings due to skin tone.

The objective of this project is to develop a way to reduce the effects of skin tone on the accuracy of pulse oximetry, so that all patients receive equitable, reliable, and efficient care. Currently, the team is working to develop new pulse oximeter algorithms to address this critical problem. Alongside the engineering design, research, and clinical trials, a social entrepreneurship graduate fellow will support the team on customer discovery interviews, market analysis and explore sustainability.

Culturally Responsive Technology Based Developmental Screening Tool

Early developmental screening is inconsistent across diverse communities. It is imperative to assess if children aged 0-5 years are meeting milestones throughout their infancy to youth. Washington State and King County are interested in creating a new development screening tool that is consistent, culturally responsive and accessible.

This project team is creating a clinical intervention for developmental assessment in primary care settings and a technology tool with an approach called “No Wrong Door” where families are able to receive services from a network of locations to have several access points. In particular, community health workers have shown to be a place of trust and accessibility amongst many communities. A fellow will investigate how this tool can be implemented amongst community organizations, clinics and other locations. Students would conduct customer discovery interviews, complete a market analysis and identify sustainability models.

Exercise RX

Physical inactivity is a major public health crisis, cited by the World Health Organization as the fourth leading risk factor for death worldwide. Roughly 80% of Americans do not meet the US Physical Activity Guidelines and COVID-19 has compounded the inactivity problem globally. Regular physical activity helps prevent and manage over 40 medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Research shows that physical activity counseling by physicians increases patients’ activity.

However, physical activity is rarely assessed or prescribed in clinical settings because it is not as simple as prescribing a pill. In response, this project team developed ExerciseRx, a software platform that evaluates patients’ activity levels, identifies barriers, develops customized exercise regimens and tracks activity. Patients will receive feedback, motivational nudges and updates to their care team’s plan based on their progress. ExerciseRx will ultimately support healthcare teams by integrating with existing electronic health records (EHR) workflows, sending clinical decision hooks, automating exercise prescriptions and aggregating user-friendly activity data.

A fellow will explore a go-to-market strategy for ExerciseRx to make it available to as many providers and patients as possible. Students would conduct customer interviews, analyze the market and develop a market strategy to maximize its impact.

SkinVAX: Low volume intradermal delivery adaptor technology for malaria vaccine

There is an urgent need to develop effective malaria vaccines. Malaria, spread by mosquitoes, causes 600,000 deaths every year and an estimated 240 million infections. Infants and children under the age of five are disproportionally killed by malaria, carrying eighty-five percent of the mortality burden mainly residing in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Promising next-generation malaria vaccines can achieve up to 100% efficacy, completely preventing malaria infection and halting further spread of malaria by mosquito. However, these vaccines currently require three to four intravenous (IV) immunizations. IV injections face many burdensome technical challenges and no licensed vaccine uses IV administration. The ability to deliver the vaccine by standard administration routes (e.g., intradermal) would greatly improve accessibility to this life-saving next-generation malaria vaccine.

This project team discovered that the key to successful skin administration was to mimic a mosquito bite by injecting the vaccine in ultra-low volumes. Skin vaccination in general is simple, but difficult to administer correctly with standard syringes and ultra-low volumes. To their knowledge, there is no device on the market that achieves ultra-low volume skin injections. The goal of this project is to develop a technology that would not only obviate the need for IV delivery, but will also improve the feasibility and translation of malaria skin vaccination.

A social entrepreneurship graduate fellow will support the team on customer discovery interviews with health care workers, health ministries, and other stakeholders, conduct a market analysis and explore next steps for business development. In addition, a student fellow will also brainstorm other applications of this device outside of malaria vaccination and possible collaborators for further device validation across usages.

Scaling Emerging Solar Technologies to Pressing Climate Change Clean Energy Goals

Climate change has a significant impact on ecosystems and organisms and current proposals for carbon emissions are insufficient in solving this grand problem. About 97% of global solar cell wafer manufacturing, and 85% of the global supply of solar cells are manufactured in China where the life cycle impact is unknown. As a result, this causes supply chain issues, increases costs due to taxation and tariffs and negatively impacts the carbon footprint of global solar cell adoption because of additional transportation burdens.

Dr. Devin Mackenzie and his team at the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds are striving to identify and understand the grand impacts of emerging perovskites solar technologies towards accelerating the adoption of a clean energy future and battling climate change. The project team’s goal is to scale solar technologies to address pressing climate change and clean energy goals. This team is exploring a sustainable, economical, and distributed manufacturing pathway where U.S. environmental regulations are integrated and transparent in the manufacturing process.

A fellow will support this team in conducting research to explore the complete life cycle impact of these emerging solar cell technologies that have the potential to provide a lower carbon footprint alternative to any current solar panel technology, conducting customer interviews with key stakeholders, conducting a market analysis and exploring sustainable pathways.

Student eligibility

We will be offering fellowships to four graduate students. Students at the master’s and doctoral levels and professional students from all UW schools and colleges are eligible to apply. This eligibility includes international students.

Applicants must be enrolled in a degree-granting program at a UW campus (Seattle, Tacoma or Bothell). Students who are expecting to graduate in Spring 2023 are not eligible to apply.


Fellows will be compensated up to $10,000 over a 10-week period, working approximately 30 hours per week. These roles are not benefits eligible.


  • Application period opens on February 13, 2023.
  • Applications will be due by 11:59 p.m. (Pacific) on March 31, 2023.
  • Applicants will be notified whether they are invited to interview for the fellowship positions the week of April 3, 2023.
  • Interviews will be scheduled for the week of April 10, 2023.
  • Candidates will be notified by late April as to whether they were selected.
  • Fellowships are for a 10-week period over the summer, starting on June 20, 2023 and ending August 26, 2023.

Application instructions

All applicants must submit the following documents:

  • Recent CV or resume.
  • Unofficial transcript.
  • One- to two-page cover letter outlining why you are interested in the fellowship program and how your skills will enable you to contribute to the success of the project. The application should indicate if there is a specific project that you are particularly interested in.

Please combine the CV/resume, transcript and cover letter into a single .pdf file and upload your application to https://redcap.iths.org/surveys/?s=PPKJMA48YYC7WATY.

Select candidates will be required to participate in a 30-minute interview for the fellowship positions.

Review criteria

Applications will initially be reviewed by representatives of the Population Health Initiative, the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship and the Evans School. Select candidates will then be invited to interview for the fellowship positions. Candidates will be notified whether they have been selected for interviews according to the published timeline.

Interviews will last for 30-minutes and will be with a panel consisting of the faculty and staff who reviewed the applications.

Applicants will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated the analytical skills necessary to complete the project
  • Demonstrated interest in social entrepreneurship
  • Academic performance to date
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills (interviewing, writing and presentation skills)
  • Demonstrated experience working within in a team environment


Please contact pophlth@uw.edu with questions regarding this fellowship program.