Five University teams will receive up to $25,000 before they leave to implement international research projects this coming summer.
According to a press release, 24 teams submitted solutions to global problems in September for the chance to win the President’s Award for Global Learning. Laurie Young, Texas Global’s director of special projects, said 11 finalists pitched their ideas in October, and UT’s international advisory board presented five of those teams with the award later that same month.
Young said each winning team focuses on a specific international region and consists of faculty members, graduate students and undergraduate students. She said choosing the winning teams was challenging because of the program’s competitive nature.
“There’s rarely programs that hit all levels and have them work together across disciplines,” Young said. “They’re working with people they wouldn’t have worked with otherwise.”
Junfeng Jiao, the faculty lead for the East Asia region team, said his team will travel to Japan for two months this summer. He said the team will research and test how autonomous vehicles affect the aging population.
“This is a very rare opportunity for students and faculty like myself to (go to) Japan and study this cutting-edge technology,” Jiao said. “All the stars have lined up. We want to make UT proud."
Jiao said there are many studies on autonomous vehicles, but few focus on meeting a vulnerable population’s needs.
“For the aging population, if you cannot drive, you have lost your mobility and lost your hope of life,” Junfeng said. “In order to help them, we have to keep their mobility.”
Public health sophomore Siddha Sannigrahi said the sub-Saharan Africa region team plans to travel to Kenya to research health care and why marginalized communities often aren’t included in the conversation. She said the diversity of her team’s expertise has given them a unique perspective into the factors that affect a person’s health.
“In a lot of countries, and maybe even here, we feel like we’re defined by our circumstance,” Sannigrahi said. “This project entails to go beyond that assumption. Community health care is so important not only to an individual’s health but to their life.”
Young said the three other winning teams’ projects focus on creating sustainable fashion accessories in Copenhagen, researching diabetes in Mexico, and creating a mobile app that trains health care providers in India to offer services for LGBTQ+ individuals.