The emphasis of my research is identification of populations who are under-represented in large-scale household surveys, and development of tools and protocols to improve survey accuracy.

This work is particularly relevant in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where routine household surveys are used to set and evaluate policies, and track international targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals. Household survey methods were established in the early 1980s, but have not changed much since. My research is focused on methods to address decay in survey accuracy due to major social shifts that have modified household configuration and behaviors over the last four decades, including urbanization and increased mobility.


2016 – present    PhD Social Statistics, Department of Social Statistics, University of Southampton (Advisers: Nikos Tzavidis, Andrew Tatem and Tomas Bird)

2015 – 2016         MS Social Statistics, Department of Social Statistics, University of Southampton (Adviser: Nikos Tzavidis)

2009 – 2011         MS Public Health, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), (Advisers: Nancy Krieger and Marcia Castro)

2004 – 2008         BA Geography (Minor Geographic Information Systems), George Washington University (GWU), Summa Cum Laude (Mentor: Elizabeth Chacko)


01/2014 – 08/2015     Visiting Lecturer, National University of Rwanda-College of Medicine and Health Sciences-School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, Kigali Rwanda

07/2012 – 12/2013     Research Associate, Global Health Research Core, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA

07/2011 – 06/2012     Research Assistant, Global Health Research Core, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA

02/2009 – 08/2009     Junior Professional Associate, Spatial and Local Development Team, World Bank, Washington DC

06/2008 – 01/2009     GIS Officer, USAID|MeasureDHS Project, Macro International, Calverton MD

12/2007 – 03/2009     Contractor, Census Plus and State of Metropolitan America projects, Brookings Institution, Washington DC


Survey Methods

Thomson DR, Stevens FR, Ruktanonchai NW, Tatem AJ, Castro MC. GridSample: an R package to generate household survey primary sampling units (PSUs) from gridded population data. Int J Health Geogr 2017; DOI: 10.1186/s12942-017-0098-4.

Elsey H, Thomson DR, Lin R-Y, Maharajan U, Agarwal S, Newell J. Addressing Inequities in Urban Health: Do decision-makers have the data they need? Report from the Urban Health Data Special Session at International Conference on Urban Health Dhaka 2015.  Journal of Urban Health 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s11524-016-0046-9.

Teng JE, Thomson DR, Schiff A, Lascher J, Raymond M, Ivers LC. Using mobile health (mHealth) and geospatial mapping technology in a mass campaign for reactive oral cholera vaccination in rural Haiti. PLoS Neglected Tropic Diseases 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003050.

Thomson DR, Shitole S, Shitole T, Sawant K, Subbaraman R, Bloom DE, Patil-Deshmukh A. A System for Household Enumeration and Re-identification in Densely Populated Slums to Facilitate Community Research, Education, and Advocacy. PLoS One 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093925.

Thomson DR, Hadley MB, Greenough PG, Castro MC. Modelling Strategic Interventions in High Fertility, Low Resource Populations: A Cross-sectional Study of Idjwi, DRC. BMC Public Health 2012, 12:959.

Program Evaluation

Thomson DR, Drobac P, Murray M, Amoroso C, Basinga P, Condo J, Cyamatare FR, Farmer P, Farmer DB, Hirschhorn L, Mugeni C, Ngabo F, Niyigena P, Rich M, Stulac S, Manzi A, Habinshuti T, Niyonzima S, Karamaga A, Finnegan E, Binagwaho A. Impacts of District Health System Strengthening on Maternal and Child Health in Rural Rwanda 2005-2010. BMJ Public Health. Under review.

Ndenga E, Uwizeye G, Thomson DR, Uwitonze E, Mubiligi J, Hedt-Gauthier BL, Wilkes M, Binagwaho A. Assessing the twinning model in the Rwandan Human Resources for Health Program: Goal Setting, Satisfaction and Perceived Skill Transfer. Globalization and Health 2016; DOI: 10.1186/s12992-016-0141-4.

Ly J, Sathananthan V, Griffiths T, Kanjee Z, Kenny A, Gordon N, Basu G, Battistoli D, Dorr L, Lorenzen B, Thomson D, Waters A, Moore UG, Roberts R, Smith WL, Siedner MJ, Kraemer JD. Facility-Based Delivery during the Ebola Virus Disease Epidemic in Rural Liberia: Analysis from a Cross-Sectional, Population-Based Household Survey. Plos Medicine 2016; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002096.

Johnson AD, Thomson DR, Atwood S, Alley I, Beckerman JL, Koné I, Diakité D, Diallo H, Traoré B, Traoré K, Farmer PE, Murray M, Mukherjee J. Assessing Early Access to Care and Child Survival during a Health System Strengthening Intervention in Mali: A Repeated Cross Sectional Survey. PLoS One 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081304.

Drobac PC, Basinga P, Condo J, Farmer PE, Finnegan KE, Hamon JK, Amoroso C, Hirschhorn LR, Kakoma JB, Lu C, Murangwa Y, Murray M, Ngabo F, Rich M, Thomson D, Binagwaho A. Comprehensive and Integrated District Health Systems Strengthening: the Rwanda Population Health Implementation and Training (PHIT) Partnership. BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13(Suppl2): S5.

Thomson DR, Rich ML, Kaigamba F, Socci AR, Hakizamungu M, Bagiruwigize E, Binagwaho A, Franke MF. Community-Based Accompaniment and Psychosocial Health Outcomes in HIV-infected Adults in Rwanda: A Prospective Study. AIDS and Behavior 2013, DOI: 10.1007/s10461-013-0431-2. 

Research Capacity-building

Mukabutera A, Thomson DR, Hedt-Gauthier BL, Atwood S, Basinga P, Nyirazinyoye L, Savage KP, Habimana M, Murray M. Exogenous factors matter when interpreting the results of an impact evaluation: a case study of rainfall and child health programme intervention in Rwanda. Trop Med Int Health 2017: DOI: 10.1111/tmi.12995.

Ndayambaje A, Anderson R, Yoder C, Ewing H, Thomson D. Human Resources for Health midwifery in-service mentoring and episiotomy rate at Muhima Hospital, Rwanda. Rwanda Med J 2017; 74(2): 7-11.

Remera E, Boer K, Umuhoza SM, Hedt-Gauthier BL, Thomson DR, Ndimubanzi P, Kayirangwa E, Mutsinzi S, Bayingana A, Mugwaneza P, Koama JBT. Fertility and HIV following universal access to ART in Rwanda: a secondary analysis of 2010 Demographic and Health Survey. BMC Reproductive Health 2017; DOI: 10.1186/s12978-017-0301-x.

Thomson DR, Semakula M, Hirschhorn LR, Murray M, Koama JB, Ndahindwa V, Manzi A, Mukabutera A, Karema C, Condo J, Hedt-Gauthier B. Applied statistical training to strengthen analysis and research capacity in Rwanda. Implementation Science. Health Research Policy and Systems 2016; DOI: 10.1186/s12961-016-0144-x.

Mukabutera A, Basinga P, Thomson DR, Nyirazinyoye L, Atwood S, Iyer HS, Hedt-Gauthier BL, Ngirimana A, Murray M. Rainfall variation and child health: Effect of rainfall on diarrhea among under 5 children in Rwanda, 2010. BMC Public Health 2016; DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3435-9.

Mukabutera A, Thomson D, Hedt-Gauthier BL, Basinga P, Nyirazinyoye L, Murray M. Risk factors associated with underweight status in children under five: An analysis of the 2010 Rwanda Demographic Health Survey. BMC Nutrition 2016; DOI: 10.1186/s40795-016-0078-2.

Rwabufigiri BN, Mukamurigo J, Hedt-Gauthier B, Thomson DR, Ndahindwa V, Sayinzoga F, Sengoma JPS. Factors associated with postnatal care utilization in Rwanda. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2016; DOI: 10.1186/s12884-016-0913-0.

Kiregu J, Murindahabi NK, Tumusiime D, Thomson DR, Hedt-Gauthier B, Ahayo A. Socioeconomics and major disabilities: characteristics of working-age adults in Rwanda. PLoS One 2016; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153741.

Harerimana JM, Nyirazinyoye L, Thomson DR, Ntaganira J. Risk factors for acute respiratory infection among children under 5 years of age in Rwanda. Archives of Public Health 2016; DOI: 10.1186/s13690-016-0132-1.

Ndagijimana A, Mugenzi P, Thomson DR, Hedt-Gauthier B, Condo JU, Ngoga E. PrePex Male Circumcision: follow-up and outcomes during the first two years of implementation at the Rwanda Military Hospital. PLoS One 2015; 10.1371/journal.pone.0138287.

Thomson DR, Diallo A, Rubanzana W, Mutesa L. Correlates of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women during a Time of Rapid Social Transition in Rwanda: Analysis of the 2005 and 2010 Demographic and Health Surveys. BMC Womens Health 2015, DOI: 10.1186/s12905-015-0257-3.

Ndahindwa V, Kamanzi C, Semakula M, Abalikumwe F, Hedt-Gauthier B, Thomson DR. Determinants of fertility in Rwanda in the context of a fertility transition: A secondary analysis of the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey. Reproductive Health 2014, DOI: 10.1186/1742-4755-11-87.

Manzi A, Munyaneza F, Mujawase F, Banamwana L, Thomson DR, Ntaganira J, Hedt-Gauthier B. Assessing Predictors of Delayed Antenatal Care Visits in Rwanda: A Secondary Analysis of Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey 2010. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, DOI:10.1186/1471-2393-14-290.

Teaching Experience


Instructor, SUE Survey Planning Team Training. Survey for Urban Equity Project. HERD International, Kathmandu Nepal (Summer 2017)

Instructor, Population Survey Analysis Workshop. Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK (Summer 2016)

Instructor, Population Survey Analysis. University of Rwanda-College of Medicine and Health Sciences-School of Public Health, Kigali, Rwanda (Fall 2014, Spring 2015)

Instructor, Computing in Stata. University of Rwanda-College of Medicine and Health Sciences-School of Public Health, Kigali, Rwanda (Nov 2014)

Co-Instructor, Deliverable-Driven Faculty Research Seminar. University of Rwanda-College of Medicine and Health Sciences-School of Public Health, Kigali, Rwanda (Jun 2014 – Dec 2014)

Co-Instructor, Integrated DHS Analysis Training and Mentorship Opportunity. Co-sponsored by the Rwanda Ministry of Health, National Institute of Statistics-Rwanda, Rwanda Biomedical Center, Partners in Health-Rwanda, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Rwanda, University of Rwanda School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School: Rwinkwavu, Rwanda (May 2013 – Jun 2013)

Teaching Assistant, Harvard-Brazil Field Course in Infectious Disease. HSPH, Salvador, Brazil (Jan 2011)

Guest Lecturer

Improving accuracy and feasibility of population surveys in low-resourced countries with Gridded Population Sampling and OpenStreetMap Enumeration. University of Louisville, Louisville KY (Fall 2016)

Introduction to Spatial Methods for Public Health. HSPH, Boston MA (Spring 2013, Spring 2012, Spring 2011, Spring 2015)

Field Methods in Humanitarian Crises. HSPH, Boston MA (Spring 2013)

(Re)Mapping Health:  Interdisciplinary Workshop on Innovative Methods for Representing Spatial Data. Harvard Graduate School of Design, Boston MA (Jan 2013)

Posters & Presentations

Thomson DR, Ah Poe C, Regi S, Bird T, Tatem AJ. “GridSample: A Tool to Generate Survey Sampling Areas from Gridded Population Data when Census Data is Outdated or Inaccurate.” Presentation, International Conference on Urban Health. Coimbra, Portugal. Sep 25-30, 2017.

Thomson DR, Elsey H, Bhattarai R, Dhungel R, Gajurel S, Khanal S, Hicks J, Baral S.“Feasibility of survey methods aimed at better representing the urban poorest: Kathmandu, Nepal.” Presentation, International Conference on Urban Health. Coimbra, Portugal. Sep 25-30, 2017.

Thomson DR. “CDRs in Urban Settings.” Presentation, World Food Programme. The Hague, Netherlands. Mar 6-9, 2017.

Thomson DR, Bird T, Power D, Tatem A, Bengtsson L. “Understanding Urban Populations: Gridded Population Data and Methods.” Presentation, World Food Programme. Rome, Italy. Jan 24-25, 2017.

Thomson DR, Stevens F, Tatem A, Castro MC, Elsey H. “Gridded population sampling to better capture the urban poor.” Presentation, International Conference on Urban Health. Dhaka, Bangladesh: May 24-27, 2015.

Thomson DR, Harerimana JD, Mukabutera A. “Flipping classes to improve instructor-student mentorship in Rwanda.” Presentation, eLearning Africa. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: May 20-22, 2015.

Thomson DR, Stevens FR, Tatem AJ, Castro MC. “Selecting gold-standard population survey samples cheaper, faster, and easier for health system evaluations using gridded population data and satellite imagery.” Presentation, Global Symposium on Health Systems Research. Capetown, South Africa: 31 Sep – 3 Oct, 2014.

Thomson DR. “Rwandan HIV-Infected Adults Experience Sizable Psychosocial Health Gains in Community-Based Accompaniment Program versus Clinical-Care-Only Program.” Presentation, NIH Summit on the Science of Eliminating Health Disparities. National Harbor MD: 31 Oct – 2 Nov, 2012.

Subbaraman R, Shitole T, Thomson DR. “Community-Based Approaches to Studying Health in Urban Slums in India: Methods, Findings, and Policy-Level Response.” 90-minute Integrated Panel Presentation, NIH Summit on the Science of Eliminating Health Disparities. National Harbor MD: 31 Oct – 2 Nov, 2012.

Thomson DR. “Simple, Affordable Methods to Map and Analyze Health Data in a Densely Populated Slum.” Presentation, International Conference on Urban Health. Belo Horizonte Brazil: 1-4 Nov, 2011.

Thomson DR. “DHS GPS Coordinates: Methods for Mapping & Analysis.” Presentation, DHS User Group, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Cambridge MA: 23 Feb, 2011 and 21 Mar, 2012.

Thomson DR. “Frontiers: Survey Selection and Mapping on Idjwi Island.” Poster, Annual CGA Conference on Geospatial Collaboration. Cambridge MA: 6-7 May, 2011.

Thomson DR. “Expanded Surveillance to Better Address HIV/AIDS in Washington, DC and Beyond.” Presentation, ESRI Health GIS Conference. Denver CO: 18-20 Oct, 2010.

Bazemore A, Thomson DR. “Mapping Service Area and Penetration with HealthLandscape.” Presentation, National Association of Community Health Centers’ Policy & Issues Forum. Washington DC: 14 Mar, 2008.

Thomson DR. “Democratizing Health Data With HealthLandscape, A Free Online Mapping Tool.” Presentation, Towson University Geographic Information Systems Conference. Towson MD: 17 Mar, 2008.

Thomson DR. “Spatiality of Race and HIV/AIDS in Washington, DC.” Presentation, Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers. Boston MA: 19 Apr, 2008.

Thomson DR. “A Critical Look at HIV/AIDS Data Reporting.” Poster, American Public Health Association Annual Conference. Washington DC: 6 Nov, 2007.

Scholarships & Honors

2015 – 2019  Economic and Social Research Council, Doctoral Training Centre grant, Southampton

2011  Best Thesis Award, Department of Global Health and Population, HSPH

2011  Garreth Green Award for Excellence in Public Health Practice, HSPH

2009 – 2011  Charles Downer Scholarship, Harvard University ($25,000/year)

2008  Distinguished Scholar Award, GWU

2008  Golden Key International Honour Society

2008  Phi Beta Kappa

1999  Page, United States Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy’s office

1997  Page, Vermont State House, Representative Robert Rusten’s office

Professional Development

Spring 2018 Business 101, by Chris Haroun via Udemy.
Spring 2018 Learning to Learn, University of California-San Diego via Coursera.
Fall 2013 Designing Learning, MIT Media Lab.
Fall 2012 Library Test Kitchen, Harvard Design School.
Fall 2011 Humanitarian Logistics, MIT.