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NYU Prague Conference on Refugee Crisis Includes Czech Minister of Human Rights and Equal Opportunities

Top experts and public figures gathered at NYU Prague to discuss the Europe’s most pressing issue at a conference entitled Tackling the Refugee Crisis in Europe. The Havel Classroom at NYU Prague was full to bursting to hear international experts discuss the topic, and an audience far beyond Prague participated via live streaming.
“As an American academic institution with numerous bases in Europe, NYU is in a unique position to open up this topic. We felt it was our responsibility to provide a space where ideas could be exchanged between academics from different cultures and professionals who are dealing with the issues directly,“ said Vanda Thorne, Assistant Director for Academics at NYU Prague, who organized the conference with Associate Director Thea Favaloro and NYU Prague Professor Salim Murad.
“Our crisis is a crisis of fear of the possible future – the idea of losing European values, though we don’t quite know which values we might lose,” said Czech Minister of Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Jiri Dienstbier. Fear is widespread in Europe and being used by many politicians to boost populist messages, he noted, and by a media to make sensational headlines.
panel with Minister Jiri Dienstbier
“Panelists were afraid of the word xenophobia, and they used the word fear instead,“ criticized NYU Prague student Ashley Sweeney, who spent part of her fall break volunteering on the Serbian border. NYU Prague Director Jiri Pehe challenged the panelists on their definintion of xenophobia – which, he noted, is defined as “fear of strangers.“ Minister Deinstbeir responded to the challenge by saying “I believe there is a difference between fear and hatred. But it may change very easily if we don’t offer good answers.“
The international voices included that of NYU’s Professor Rodney Benson (Steindhardt), author of an award-winning book comparing French and American migration. He joined leading political analysts Jacques Rupnik of Sciences Po in Paris and Muriel Blaive of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, as well as Arndt Freiherr Freyag von Loringhoven, the German Ambassador to the Czech Republic.
The conference was split into three panels, each looking at the issue from a different angle: the media portrayal of refugees, how the crisis has shaped concepts of national identity, and the governments’ role in communicating the refugee crisis to the citizens.
conference panel
The conference was not only for students at NYU Prague. NYU Prague invited other global sites to join us by screening the panels at other sites. “We want to make what we do here accessible around the world,“ said Martina Faltova, Assistant Director for Student Affairs at NYU Prague.
Videos of the conference have been posted on NYU Stream as well as the YouTube channel of the NYU Prague Institute for Democracy, Education and Culture. Please note that to access NYU Stream you must log in using an NYU Account (the YouTube videos do not require you to log in).
audience member asking a question
Tackling the Refugee Crisis in Europe – November 9, 2015
NYU Stream
Panel 1 : Media and Society (Chair: Salim Murad, Panelists: Rodney Benson, Tomas Lindner)
Panel 2: Nations and Borders (Chair: Jiri Pehe; Panelists: Jacques Rupnik, Arndt Freiherr Freytag von Loringhoven, Muriel Blaive, Jan Urban)
Panel 3: Government and Citizens (Chair: Pavel Fischer; Panelists: Minister Jiri Dientstbier, Jan Machacek, Simon Panek, Tomas Zdechovsky)

NYU Florence alumni Danielle Callegari gives a talk, The Politics of Pasta

hands and egg Appropriately for the week of Thanksgiving, NYU Florence alumni Danielle Callegari closed NYU Florence’s EXPO 2015: Food, Culture, Politics series with her talk The Politics of Pasta on 24 November.
When in 1932 the Italian Futurists published their cookbook, La cucina futurista, it was hailed as a radical and provocative avant-garde experiment, with its demands that Italians embark on a “crusade” against pasta and prepare explosive “simultaneous bites” to be consumed without forks or knives. However, widening our historical lens, we discover that the Futurist cookbook is in fact indebted to a long line of cookbooks before it, stretching back at least to the Renaissance recipe collection, and that it shares many characteristics with its textual ancestors. By comparing La cucina futurista with its historical predecessors in this strange and complicated genre, the Italian cookbook reveals itself to be not just a communicator of food culture, but also a path to fame and fortune, and even a tool for wielding political power.

Latest edition of PragueCast explores the theme “refuge”

<img alt="refugees at border crossing" src="http://wp.nyu.edu/global_dimensions/wp-content/uploads/sites/3335/2016/01/IMG_1762.JPG" width="640" height="426" /
The latest edition of the PragueCast is online! The theme is "refuge". It features an interview with a Syrian refugee in the Czech Republic, a look at NGOs helping refugees, what Czechs feel about Muslims and asylum-seekers, plus reportage from the Bapska-Berkasovo border crossing between Serbia and Croatia. Photos were taken by PragueCast member Ashley Sweeney at the Bapska-Berkasovo border crossing.
Listen/Like/Share here:
tents at border crossingref=aymt_homepage_panel
children celebrating birthday at border camp

Former NYU Sydney student Kevan Chu interviews NYU Sydney biology professor Sean Blamires, discussing spider silk research

Kevan Chu
My name is Kevan Chu, and I am a Biochemistry major in the College of Arts and Sciences. I studied abroad at NYU Sydney in the Spring of 2015, and took Principles of Biology II with Dr. Sean Blamires as a major elective and veterinary school prerequisite. Additionally, I had the pleasure of working in his lab at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), which not only helped develop my research and laboratory skills and techniques, but also broadened my horizons of Australian culture and wildlife.
Sean Blamires

Q. How did you first get involved in research on spiders?
It is actually quite complicated. Earlier in my career I worked on turtles and lizards, and crabs. My Masters project at Northern Territory University in Darwin was on nesting sea turtles. I then started a Ph.D. project on River Turtles at the University of Sydney. A year in, however, it was evident that, for reasons out of my control, it wasn’t going to be possible to do the project I wanted to do. I needed a project that I could do in a short space of time (as I’d wasted a year already). I noticed there was a large population of St Andrew’s cross spiders (Argiope keyserlingi) living on the University of Sydney campus. I therefore decided to do a project on their ecology on the University campus. One of the things I tested was how their web architecture varies when they feed on different types of insects. It was this that I examined more closely in my first postdoc at Tunghai University in Taiwan. I then started focusing more and more on variations in silk properties, leading to my research now concentrating very heavily on silk.
Q. What instruments are involved in your research?
Probably the coolest aspect of researching silk is the range of instruments you can use (additional to notebooks, rulers, computers, etc.) to measure silk mechanical properties, micro structures and so on. I use a motorized spooling machine to draw silk from live spiders. I also use highly sensitive tensile testing machines to determine silk mechanical properties. I am now using Atomic Force Microscopy to look at silk surface structure and mechanics at micro-scales. I am developing projects that use Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to examine the structures of silk proteins. I have ongoing projects with the Australian and Taiwanese Synchrotron Centres in which I use synchrotron (particle accelerator) derived x-rays to examine silk crystal structures. I intend to do spider silk genomic studies, too. In my work on spider body and silk coloration I use instruments such as a spectrophotometer to measure the intensity of light of different wavelengths emitted off objects.
Q. While I was assisting in your research, your lab used spiders of genera Nephila and Argiope. What is the reason behind this, and are there any other genera that you have worked with?
These genera, Nephila and Argiope, are commonly used in spider silk and web research because they: (1) are large bodied orb weavers so store a lot of silk that can reasonably easily be extracted, (2) keep well in the lab for a long time on standard diets, and (3) are often abundant on or near University campuses, at least they are in Sydney. These qualities make them good “model” organisms for research. If I am investigating how silk generally responds to diet or some another treatment I’ll use these genera. I have, however, used a variety of other spider genera in my research. To compare the silks of different orb weavers in Taiwan I also used members of the genera Cyrtophora, Leucauge and Cyclosa. A similar study in Australia also used Araneus, Eriophora and Phonognatha. I have used Latrodectus (widow spiders and redbacks) for various experiments and genetic analyses. I used a species of Parawixia for pesticide experiments in Uruguay. I have started projects comparing the silks of a range of spiders that don’t build webs, such as Dolomedes (fishing spiders) and Heteropoda (Huntsmen), web building and non-web building wolf spiders from Uruguay (genus Pavacosa, Agloctenus and Lycosa), and the Tasmania cave spider, Hickmania troglodytes.
Q. Have you come across anything unexpected or surprising in the course of your spider silk research?
Whenever I think I understand something it often turns out that I don’t. For example, I thought that the ratio of the two proteins expressed in spider silk varies with spider diet and this alone explains why silk properties vary with diet. It turns out, however, to be a lot more complex, and spiders seem to spin different types of silks on different diets regardless of the proteins expressed. Rather than being a form of disappointment, however, it’s these kinds of surprises that keep me keenly interested in the subject.
Q. Your research has taken you to other countries, such as Taiwan and the United States. Would you say your research has expanded your worldview? Is your work performed abroad similar to what you have done in Australia?
The answer to the first question is yes, definitely. When you work day-in-day-out in a foreign country, catching local transport, using local shops, etc., you realize that people the world over don’t differ much despite differences in geography, customs, language, and so on. You come to understand that society works best, and people are happiest, when things are fair. I don’t understand greed or discrimination at all.
The answer to the second question is also yes. There are, of course, some logistical and cultural differences that often mean going about things slightly differently, but the great thing about science, as opposed to other disciplines, is that it is unequivocally universal. There is one way of doing science the world over and it is independent from any beliefs, desires or prejudices. This is the reason it is so effective.
Q. We discussed that many aspects of Biology and Ecology can be taken for granted, but the importance of studying these subjects exists nonetheless. Can you elaborate on this?
Motivating students to understand and want to learn about Biology and Ecology is the big challenge for biology/science teachers, especially considering big cities and computers, television and social media are detaching us from nature. An important thing to stress is that humans do not function outside of working ecosystems. Even though we live in cities, we are still a part of nature. If we destroy ecosystems, we will die out like any other animal would, and some have done. I also think the innovations that will drive economies of the future will come from studying biological functions. An example might be buildings based on the thermoregulatory efficiency of termite mounds, or super performance materials based on the functional performance of spider silk.
Q. How can spider silk research be applied to other fields, such as materials science?
This question relates to the point made about studying nature to drive innovation. Spider silk is thought to be nature’s toughest fiber. Advances in silk cloning and electro spinning technologies could lead to spider silk-like materials being used commercially. These might include developing high performance ropes, bullet proof vests, bridge supports and cables. The electrostatic properties and anti-microbial properties of silk are being investigated, and these might find uses in robotics or surgery. I also think that studying spider silk protein and genetic structures will tell us a lot about and spider silk and web evolution and about evolution in general. It also seems that spider webs and silks have important interactions with insects in nature. The community dynamics of this would be interesting to investigate.
Q. What do you find most rewarding about your area of study?
Three of the most rewarding things I have already mentioned: the cool instruments you get to use, the opportunity to travel to different places, and studying something that will (at least should) drive future innovations, and future economies if harnessed and managed. I’d add to that the collaborations that I’ve established. I have met and worked with many great people from a range of professional and cultural backgrounds. I’ve found this very professionally and personally satisfying.
A bit more about Professor Blamires:
Dr. Sean J. Blamires (Ph.D., University of Sydney) is a DECRA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New South Wales and a National Science Council Fellow at Tunghai University, Taiwan. His major research interest is the evolution, plasticity and biomechanics of extended phenotypes. He uses spider webs and silks as models to understand how prey types, nutrients, and climatic variables induce variations at nano- to macro-scales. He has collaborative research links with the University of Akron, USA, and the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Centre, Taiwan, among others. He has published over 30 scientific papers in a range of journals, includingCurrent Biology, Biomacromolecules, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, and the Journal of Experimental Biology.

NYU Accra holds World Tour event celebrating the history and culture of Ghana

students and demonstration of story telling
On Friday, October 30, NYU Accra held an event for students entitled “World Tour.” The event celebrated the history and culture of Ghana. The World Tour theme was “Telling Ghana’s Story from Independence to Now: Ghanaian Folk Tales, Photo Exhibition, Musical Performance and Spoken Word.”
The program was comprised of three main components:
Ghanaian Folk Tales: A lecture and Demonstration of Ghanaian Folk Tales by some renowned Ghanaian Story Tellers led by Professor Esi Sutherland Addy. This lecture and demonstration enlightened students about the importance of Folk Tales in the Socialization of the Ghanaian.
Photo Exhibition: A Photo Exhibition of the Past and Present Ghanaian Presidents provided information on their time of reign, their achievements, and some of their popular sayings. Also exhibited were photos of some Ghanaian icons and trailblazers as well as some important symbols of national pride, accompanied by explanations of their significance
Cultural Display: A Musical Performance by a renowned Ghanaian xylophonist from the Bambu Center and Spoken Word by the well-known Ghanaian Artiste Chief Mormen.
The students and entire NYU Accra community had a wonderful time participating in this lively event!
demonstration of story telling
NYU students and staff cutting cake

Pheobe Chen Describes NYU Washington, DC’s Hall Congress

A Liberal Studies student who started her time at NYU in Washington, DC, Pheobe Chen describes the establishment of NYU Washington, DC’s student government – Hall Congress:
students with flags
NYU Washington, DC Hall Congress is the student government at NYU Washington, DC. Actively collaborating with students and faculty at NYU to create the best university experience, our large team helps us advocate on the behalf of the student body.
President- Addy Guo
Vice President- Jess Francis
Secretary of Community Engagement- Kennedy Hill
Secretary of Advocacy and Global Ambassador- Kevin Kim
Global Ambassador- Diane Rendon
Global Ambassador Shanghai- Shayla Alfonso
Global Ambassador Abu Dhabi- Zahra Urooj
Secretary of Communications- Gabriella Petroff
Secretary of Archives- Phoebe Chen
Secretary of Events- Anika Mian
Secretary of Special Events- Michael Leonetti
Secretary of Special Events- Tvisha Mehta
Secretary of Special Events- Nia Mirza
Wasserman DC Peer- James Pooler
students at computers
Throughout the fall semester, our team aims to host events around the themes of civic engagement, diversity and inclusion, and community engagement and development. Some events we have planned so far include the embassy events, NYU DC Olympics, Town Hall, Career Week, Trapeze Classes, International Horror Film Festival, and a variety of sports events including the Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils hockey. We also aim to invest some of our budget into improving the building as a whole, whether it’s purchasing another board game or providing drying racks in the laundry room.
Through these events, we strive to bridge the gaps between the NYU first-year LS residents and upperclassmen, as well as the NYU Georgetown, and John Hopkins students. Bearing this in mind, we also wish to prevent the question, “there is a NYU campus in Washington D.C.?” from ever being asked again. We aim to do so by providing media coverage at all these events as well as expanding our NYUDC name through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Email, etc.
students at sporting event

NYU Abu Dhabi Touched by Science

NYU Abu Dhabi student Tanya Bansal, Class of 2018, describes the Abu Dhabi Science Festival and NYU Abu Dhabi’s participation:
Abu Dhabi’s Mushrif Central Park has been transformed into an 11-day science extravaganza of more than 50 interactive workshops and exhibitions, fun experiments and performances to educate young minds about diverse topics in science like the environment, the human body, aerodynamics and outer space.
The Abu Dhabi Science Festival, now in its fifth year, aims to make science relevant to everyday life and stimulate academic interest in science, technology, engineering and math. A team of 12 passionate NYUAD students are running a series of interactive experiments and workshops at the festival from November 12-22 to show young people that science is fun and it’s everywhere.
“I think the Abu Dhabi Science Festival is important because it piques curiosities among children and their parents,” said Nouf Ali Al Hamly, NYUAD event coordinator. The festival is also a celebration of diversity, she added, because it blends local and international knowledge from exhibitors who come from all over the world.
NYUAD’s 40-minute genetics workshop called “From DNA to cells to…worms?” takes children into a discovery of the building blocks of an organism’s body. Children start by examining C. elegans worms that have been genetically modified at NYUAD labs, then compare them with normal worms to learn about disease. In the first few days of the festival alone, more than 500 people participated in the cells to worms experiment.
At the NYUAD ‘Cell-fie’ Station, young students extract cells from their own cheeks using a cotton swab and examine them under a microscope, while at the Kitchen DNA workshop, DNA is extracted from mashed up strawberries and saved inside a necklace for children to take home.
NYUAD biology major Khairunnisa Mentari Semesta, Class of 2018, said, “It’s a very rewarding experience to spread my love for science not only to little kids but also to adults who want to learn. It’s a great way for NYUAD students to give back and interact with the greater Abu Dhabi community.”
“You can touch and literally squish the science,” added Thinh Tran, biology major, Class of 2017. “We’re teaching children that science isn’t some scary equation. It’s something fun and can be found in simple kitchen ingredients.”
One mother at the festival remarked that NYUAD’s workshop was “probably the most impactful” because her children were visibly excited by knowledge and learning. “I felt like my children were really learning something new.”
The Abu Dhabi Science Festival is organized by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (TDC) under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Thoughts of NYU Community with Paris

After the tragic events in Paris on Friday, members from NYU’s global community kept our students, faculty, and staff at NYU Paris, and all Parisians, in their thoughts. Here is the message from NYU President John Sexton:
Dear NYU Community Members,
I know I speak for us all when I express my heartbreak, bewilderment, and grief at the terrible, senseless violence that shook France late yesterday.
Our thoughts, naturally, turn first to our own students, faculty, and staff in Paris. Since almost the first moments after the attacks, we began the process of reaching out to every student there to make sure he or she was safe. I am glad to report that all the students at NYU Paris have been located and are safe and secure. We have increased our safety presence in Paris, and will continue to closely monitor developments.
Yet even as reassuring word has come about our students’ safety, we remember that NYU has been part of Paris for nearly 50 years, through good times and hard times, and never in all those decades have our hearts been more filled with sorrow than today. We mourn the victims, and the sting of this loss is made all the sharper by coming less than a year after the attacks upon Charlie Hebdo and the supermarche.
When New York was attacked on 9-11, everyone in the world proudly became New Yorkers; today, we are all Parisians, bound by a commitment to persevere in the face of extremism, to show courage in the face of terrorism, and to find renewal in the face of tragedy.
We stand with the people of Paris today; they are in our hearts and prayers.
—John Sexton

Hack Shanghai – bilingual Hackathon hosted by NYU Shanghai

On November 7-8, the students of NYU Shanghai are hosted the first bilingual hackathon for top hackers from around the world. HackShanghai is the largest such event in China to date. The 250 participating graduate and undergraduate students were chosen from applications from over 100 universities, including Harvard, Tsinghua U, Peking U, MIT, and CalTech. The 24-hour marathon event was sponsored by 21 companies, such as ICBC, Goldman Sachs, IBM, DBS. A dozen startups will manned booths on location to engage with the students throughout the event. The top three teams were selected by twelve judges from, among others, NYU Shanghai, Fudan University, ECNU, and Goldman Sachs. The winners were also be recognized for their individual efforts with prizes from sponsors. It was an intense, exciting, and exhausting two days!