Mary Beatrice Dias

Ph.D. Student
Department of Engineering & Public Policy
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213



About Me:

I was born and raised in Sri Lanka, where I completed my high school education and an additional two years of Advanced Level studies (according to the British system of education). In 2000, I moved to Upstate New York in the U.S. to complete my undergraduate degree. Following college, I worked in the private sector for two years as an actuarial analyst in Philadelphia before moving to Pittsburgh for graduate school. My initial graduate research measured the effects of the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act and the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness Act on select agent research in the U.S. I currently conduct research in the field of Information Communication Technology for Development (ICTD), focusing on evaluating how technology affects under-served communities in different parts of the world. For this research, I work in collaboration with TechBridgeWorld, a research group based out of Carnegie Mellon University. I also volunteer as a student representative on TechBridgeWorld’s Executive Board.

Research Projects and Publications:

Examining The Cost and Effectiveness of the Automated Braille Writing Tutor

This research project is still in progress and is being conducted in collaboration with TechBridgeWorld. The purpose of this study is to analyze the cost and effectiveness of the Automated Braille Writing Tutor, which was developed by TechBridgeWorld to combat braille illiteracy in developing communities. As its name indicates, this device assists visually impaired individuals to learn how to write braille. The Braille Writing Tutor (BWT) has been field tested in several different locations around the world, including India, Tanzania, Zambia and Bangladesh. For this project, we will be analyzing data collected from the Mathru School for the Blind in Bangalore, India, where the BWT has been in use for over 4 years.


The PREval (Pilot Research Evaluation) Framework: Evaluating Pilot Projects in Information Communication Technology for Development (ICTD)
Mary Beatrice Dias, M Bernardine Dias, David Dausey, and Elizabeth Casman. Technical Report: CMU-RI-TR-11-02, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, February, 2011.

ICTD is a burgeoning field that has attracted increasing interest from researchers, sponsors and policymakers in the last decade. Much of the work being carried out in this area is at the pilot stage, where researchers explore potential technology solutions to challenges in developing communities across the globe. Although ICTD projects are now widespread, there is an evident lack of structure concerning how such projects are assessed; project outcome evaluations are often descriptive, rather than analytical. This document was created to offer a systemic approach to evaluating pilot-stage field projects in ICTD. Most currently employed evaluation methods do not cater to the unique aspects of ICTD, which combines development endeavors with efforts in technology innovation and adaptation. We developed an ICTD-centric, practical method for conducting more comprehensive pilot project evaluations. Our belief is that laying the foundation for evaluation of pilot-stage ICTD projects can benefit this emergent field of research in many ways. First, it would offer an opportunity to improve pilot studies, learn more from them and also make better decisions on how to scale them. Second, it can generate a standardized and more refined approach to reporting results of ICTD endeavors. Finally, it could improve the overall quality of work produced in the field of ICTD and thereby better serve the relevant developing communities.


Using Mobile Phones and Open Source Tools to Empower Social Workers in Tanzania
M. Beatrice Dias, Daniel Nuffer, Anthony Velazquez, Ermine A. Teves, Hatem Alismail, Sarah Belousov, M. Freddie Dias, Rotimi Abimbola, Bradley Hall, M. Bernardine Dias.
Poster presented at: ICTD 2010, the 4th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (London), December 2010.

This project was a product of the field research conducted during TechBridgeWorld's 2009 iSTEP (innovative Student Technology ExPerience) Summer Internship Program, which I participated in as the field research team lead as well as the monitoring and evaluation coordinator.

Although para-social workers carry the primary responsibility in providing essential services to the growing population of orphans and vulnerable children in Tanzania, they are often not paid for this work. Moreover, these para-social workers are unable to access governmental resources due to the lack of an efficient means of reporting their needs to relevant government officials in a timely manner. In this study we describe a text message (SMS) based solution that harnesses the prevalence of mobile phones coupled with several Open Source tools to empower these para-social workers. Specifically, we built a more efficient mechanism for reporting summary data on orphans and vulnerable children to relevant government officials in a cost-effective and efficient manner. As part of this research work, we reviewed related work, conducted a needs assessment process in the field, tested our prototype solution with potential users, and explored options for implementing and deploying this technology in the future.


Effects of the USA PATRIOT Act and the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness Act on select agent research in the United States.
M. Beatrice Dias, Leonardo Reyes-Gonzalez, Francisco M. Veloso, and Elizabeth A. Casman. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), vol. 107, no. 21, pp. 9556-9561, May 25, 2010.

Presented at: The Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas, December 2007.

The 2001 USA PATRIOT Act and the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness Act include regulations to prevent theft and misuse of dangerous pathogens and toxins. Under these regulations, any laboratory that possesses one or more of 82 named select agents must enforce and adhere to specific security measures. Many speculated that the new requirements would hinder research efforts involving select agents. In this research project a bibliometric analysis of the Bacillus anthracis and Ebola virus (two select agents) archival literature was conducted to determine whether negative consequences of the aforementioned Acts on US select agent research could be discerned. The most striking effect observed was not associated with individual authors or institutions; it was a loss of efficiency, with an approximate 2- to 5-fold increase in the cost of doing select agent research as measured by the number of research papers published per millions of US research dollars awarded.


Advisors and Thesis Committee Members:

Professor Elizabeth Casman (Thesis Committee Chair)
Professor David Dausey
Professor M. Bernardine Dias
Professor Mitchell Small
Professor Faheem Hussain

Education Background:

Bachelor of Arts with concentrations in Mathematics and Physics
Class of 2004
Hamilton College
Clinton, NY 13323

Work Experience:

Actuarial Analyst 
August 2004 – July 2006
CIGNA Group Insurance
Philadelphia, PA 19192