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Internship Mixes Computer Science and Economics to Help Boost Development in Ghana

Students from around the NYU global network get a unique opportunity each year to participate in an internship in Kumawu, a small town in Ghana, where they work with the local population on technology to help improve their lives and livelihoods. The internship is organized by the Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED) at NYU Abu Dhabi.

NYU Abu Dhabi’s First Airline Cargo Logistics Course Really Takes Off

NYU Abu Dhabi, Etihad Cargo partnership a “win-win”

There’s a flurry of activity behind the large glass doors of the Madrid meeting room in Etihad Cargo’s head office in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City. The bright afternoon light streams in through large picture windows as students from New York University’s degree-granting campuses — eight from NYU Abu Dhabi, three from NYU Shanghai, and one from NYU New York— prepare to present interactive applications and product prototypes to senior Etihad Cargo officials.

A mechanical whir occasionally punctures the chatter in the room as a small, box-shaped robot with Etihad Cargo emblazoned across the top in gold letters moves across white tables in the center of the room.

Etihad’s David Kerr, senior vice president of cargo, and Robert Fordree, head of cargo handling, are ready to see the student’s protoypes for the first time:

  • Cargie: a load-carrying robot capable of machine learning;
  • Paper Trail: an app to track airway bills and cargo documents (the industry still relies heavily on paper);
  • Viz360: a virtual training app; and
  • HoloCargo, a 3D-scanning and virtual reality system that can help loadmasters build pallets of boxes in a 3D environment.

The prototypes are the end result of an intensive four-week summer course taught at NYU Abu Dhabi by Christian Grewell, adjunct assistant arts professor of interactive media arts at NYU Shanghai.

Students enrolled in the Driving Genius course are taught the ins and outs of robotics, programming, and design principles, combined with the technical know-how needed to develop products that cater specifically to the airline cargo industry, which is where Etihad Cargo stepped in as a course partner. The students get to use augmented reality, virtual reality, and sensory technology and also learn how be entrepreneurs, drawing up successful business plans for their products.

“It’s about establishing a partnership where students gain everything they would from a traditional course including the opportunity to test their models in the real-world ‘laboratory’ of the organization,” Grewell said about partnering with Etihad Cargo. “When Etihad engaged with us, they engaged across every function of their business and at various levels in the organization. We came up with ideas for people not just in executive positions, but in-line level operational roles. That’s an invaluable experience for students when combined with the work we do in the lab and classroom.”

Learning on the Fly

Students were given access to Etihad Cargo’s warehouse operations so they could understand how things work and identify processes where efficiencies could potentially be improved. They were then split into three groups and tasked with designing and developing feasible tailor-made solutions using virtual technology.

With augmented reality and virtual reality technology becoming more affordable and accessible, students in the course are also taught to manage expectations — their own and the client’s — to figure out what works best for a company’s business model.

Back in the Etihad Cargo meeting room, Grewell observes as the groups demonstrate their prototypes, occasionally chiming in with words of encouragement or offering bits of trivia.

“They’ve worked really hard on these presentations and the quality of their work is outstanding,” he said. “Generally students have all these great ideas and prototypes but they struggle when it comes to presenting.”

There’s no visible hint of a struggle or even nervousness as the students confidently field questions from Kerr and Fordree about their work prompting the senior vice president, at one point, to remark that their insights were spot on and that “the (cargo) industry is pretty underinvested in technology. I like to think that in the future, we’re not an airline business but a technology company with airplanes and warehouses et cetera.”

A final round of applause brings the presentations to a close and the students heave a sigh of relief as everyone shuffles out of the meeting room. It’s been an intense few weeks but Grewell emphasizes the need for a course like this as a bridge between classroom learning and meeting real-world corporate expectations.

“I think this is a win-win for all parties when educators, students and organizations come together,” he concluded.

By Deepthi Unnikrishnan, NYUAD Public Affairs; This piece comes to us from NYU Abu Dhabi’s Salaam blog and is available here.

Groundbreaking Research on Drug Delivery to Cancer Cells at NYU Abu Dhabi

A new nanoparticle developed by scientists of the Trabolsi Research Group at NYU Abu Dhabi could change the future of how drug delivery systems are used in the treatment of cancer.

Nanoparticles are tiny microscopic particles that have diverse applications in various fields such as physics, chemistry, optics, and medical science while drug delivery systems are a breakthrough approach in biomedical engineering that enables doctors to direct highly potent drugs to specific disease-infected sites in the human body.

Research scientist Farah Benyettou collaborated with Ali Trabolsi, assistant professor of chemistry at NYU Abu Dhabi and head of the Trabolsi Research Group, to create a magnetic nanoparticle that can carry the chemotherapy drug Doxorubicin and can be guided straight to tumour sites.

“What we are trying to do is to use existing therapies like chemotherapy and thermal therapy but in a new way. The idea is to fight cancer at the same level that it develops in,” said Trabolsi.

Anticancer drugs have to be administered in high doses to make sure that the required dose reaches the tumour but these drugs also attack healthy cells because they can’t differentiate between them. This causes severe side effects. Drug delivery systems are safer alternatives. They even provide the option of controlling the amount of drug released at any given time while enhancing its absorption. This results in administration of lower doses.

Benyettou’s magnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles act like special vehicles that ferry the drug straight to the tumour and can be directed using magnets. When exposed to alternating magnetic fields, they absorb the energy and increase the temperature of the tumour thereby killing them using a combination of chemotherapy and thermal therapy. They can even be observed using an MRI.

These nanoparticles are also designed to release the drugs only in a particular environment — the more acidic environment of tumour cells — which means that they are harmless to healthy cells and are also eliminated naturally from the body once their job is done. The Trabolsi group has also employed a structure where several nanoparticles cluster together to create a porous ‘super’ nanoparticle that can ferry more medicine.

Cancer cells evolve to resist the very drugs that treat it. When these drugs try to diffuse into the drug-resistant cell one by one, which is how they usually gain entry, it triggers an ‘alarm’ and is denied entry. In vitro tests have shown that these magnetic nanoparticles are effective against doxorubicin-resistant cancer cell lines because they use a different method to enter these cells thereby cheating them into thinking that they are harmless.

“This is how these nanoparticles work so effectively against cancer cells. Almost like a Trojan horse,” explained Benyettou.

For Trabolsi, all of these properties combined with its affordability and “how relatively easy they are to prepare under 30 minutes” is evidence that they could change the way cancer treatment is approached.

This research was made possible by two grants awarded by the Al Jalila Foundation to the Trabolsi Research Group. Papers detailing the properties of this class of nanoparticles were recently published by Chemistry – A European Journal, and RSC Advances.

This post comes to us from NYU Abu Dhabi and was originally posted here.

NYU Abu Dhabi Chemist Helps Bring Digital Courseware to Schools in Kenya

Learning science is about to get a whole lot cooler for hundreds of high school students in Kenya. An international project co-led by an NYU Abu Dhabi chemist will deliver digital education materials such as interactive modules, online simulations, and even virtual chemistry experiments to many classrooms.

The idea for the project — Chemistry on Computers in Kenya — was born at the second Joint Undertaking for an Africa Materials Institute (JUAMI) conference held in Arusha, Tanzania.

“Computer learning in core scientific subjects like chemistry is uncommon in Kenya because internet service is unreliable and many teachers may have limited computer skills,” said Philip Rodenbough, NYUAD postdoctoral chemist who was also a member of the US Peace Corps in West Africa. “Chemistry on Computers in Kenya (CCK) will digitize science education and help improve digital literacy for both young people and teachers.”

Kenya’s government is already providing scores of tablets to elementary school students and funding more computer labs in secondary schools, Rodenbough said, but they need help establishing a digital curriculum. They have computers but nothing to put on them for students to learn.

CCK aims to develop at least three computer-based chemistry lesson plans this year and then encourage science educators to distribute them across their own personal networks. The project has the potential for a very large impact because “it’s easy for teachers to share digital materials” even beyond Kenya, Rodenbough added.

Along with Rodenbough, the project is co-led by PhD student and Kenyan chemistry teacher Agatha Wagutu at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Tanzania. The JUAMI conference was funded by the US National Science Foundation and the CCK project received funding and support from the Materials Research Society Foundation.

Andy Gregory, NYUAD Public Affairs; this post originally appeared here.

Two NYU Abu Dhabi Students Launch One “Priceless” Support Program For Local Families

Starting a community program from scratch can be daunting. NYU Abu Dhabi students Hannah Taylor and Sally Oh — founders of the Family Friends community initiative for those touched by autism — know first-hand the roller coaster ride that pilot programs often are; scary yet exciting, nerve-wracking but fun, and definitely worth it in the end.

The inspiration for Family Friends — a series of weekend workshops — came from Taylor’s two years of conversations and experiences with the autism community in Abu Dhabi, including an internship with the Autism Support Network (ASN) — Abu Dhabi. The need for Family Friends was born because ASN and its founder, Nipa Bhupatani, highlighted the importance of holistic support for those touched by autism spectrum disorder.

Like all new community outreach initiatives, Family Friends took on a shape of its own. The end product was a hands-on experience centered around mindfulness, poetry and music. ASN families came to NYUAD campus on Saturdays over the course of four weeks to spend time with NYUAD students and faculty, workshop facilitators, and to learn from each other. Beyond new social support, the families took home concrete lessons for how to improve their daily lives using mindfulness.

“Hearing that parents have found key social support through the Family Friends program and have learned mindfulness lessons that they use in their daily lives makes all of our efforts more than worthwhile,” said Taylor.

“So many people offered their time, care, and passion to Family Friends,” added Oh. “It would simply not have been possible without their selfless enthusiasm.”

Both Taylor and Oh hope the Family Friends program will grow in the years to come and help form a strong, closely knit, friendly, and comfortable community of allies in Abu Dhabi that offer support for autism.

Community Collaborators

  • NYUAD Office of Community Outreach
  • Anna Kaminski, mindful learning expert, workshop facilitator
  • Student volunteers Katie Sheng and Anastasia Karavan
  • Bahareh, poetry thera pist
  • Jim Savio and Goffredo Puccetti, NYUAD faculty

2017 has been declared the Year of Giving in the UAE. NYUAD’s Office of Community Outreach and student volunteers give back to the community in many ways, by contributing time, skills and knowledge to the community. We call this drive for social good NYUAD Heart.

This post originally appeared on the NYU Abu Dhabi Salaam blog, available here.

NYU Madrid Convenes Symposium on Islamic Spain at NYU Abu Dhabi

Around the table, from bottom left going clockwise, are: Professor Justin Sterns, NYU AD, Professor Sarah Pearce, NYU NY, Professor Ross Brann, Cornell University, Professor María López, NYU Madrid, Professor Almudena Ariza, NYU Madrid, Professor Mariano Gómez, NYU Madrid and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Professor Ana Echevarría, Universidad Nacional de Educacción a Distancia, Professor Marianeles Gallego, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, and Professor Robert Lubar, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU and Director, NYU Madrid.

On February 20-21, 2017, NYU Madrid convened a symposium in Abu Dhabi hosted by the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute. The symposium, Islam and Spain, featured talks and panels with four scholars from NYU Madrid as well as scholars from NYU, NYU Abu Dhabi, Cornell, and other institutions.

Islamic Spain is characterized as a uniquely productive cultural cooperation between the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Marking the 70th anniversary of the publication of Americo Castro’s España en su historia, the historiography that laid the groundwork for the understanding of medieval Islamic Spain, the symposium revisited key thematic issues from Castro’s work and reassessed them in light of the decades of scholarship that has evolved since. The goal was to explore the culture of Islamic Spain by focusing on specific intellectual, cultural, literary, and artistic developments, and moving away from the arguments surrounding the nature of medieval Spanish convivencia — the “living-togetherness” that Castro brought to light. NYU Madrid Site Director Robert Lubar organized the symposium, working closely with his faculty and the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute to hold the event.


NYU Abu Dhabi Scientists Develop a New Water Purification Method

1484831621273Efficient removal of contaminants like oil and toxic dyes from water sources is an issue of global importance. Oil spills can be devastating to both the environment and the economy because cleanup is costly and damage to the ecosystem is sometimes irreparable.

Marine oil spills are typically contained and removed using booms and skimmers, or chemicals are dumped into the water to break down the oil and speed up natural biodegradation — processes that can be expensive, time consuming, and not always 100 percent effective.

Toxic dyes — common water pollutants in the textile industry — tend to escape conventional wastewater treatment because of their chemical properties.

To address these problems, NYU Abu Dhabi scientists have come up with a new way to remove toxic contaminants from water they believe could be more efficient and less costly than current methods.

Dinesh Shetty, lead researcher and chemist at NYUAD, said CalP — a light brown powder — “offers a new way to remove toxins from water sources and can absorb up to seven times its weight of oil from an oil and water mixture.”

The basic material has been around for decades, he explained, but this is the first porous organic calix[4]arene-based polymer synthesized in the lab for the purpose of purifying water.

Inside the the Trabolsi Research Group chemistry lab in the Experimental Research Building at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Inside the the Trabolsi Research Group chemistry lab in the Experimental Research Building at NYU Abu Dhabi.

CalP Explained

Ali Trabolsi, NYUAD assistant professor of chemistry, said CalP is able to remove “oil from water so efficiently, in just minutes, because it has several distinct properties:

  • it floats, has high surface area, and low density;
  • it has pores both from calix[4]arene cavity and hypercrosslinked 3D structure that collect toxins inside;
  • the material is superhydrophobic which means it repels water and it has an excellent ability to absorb a range of pollutants.”

Lab experiments were conducted using two types of oil: used engine oil and commercial grade crude oil.

Its ability to absorb oil so quickly leads the researchers to believe that this process of removing contaminants from water is potentially more efficient than other similar methods because the results are “significantly higher than most absorbent materials reported to date, including commercial activated carbon.”

Further experiments using different types of dyes — anionic and cationic — had the same impressive results and are especially promising because dyes are chemically designed to withstand degradation.

In one test, about 80 percent of toxic dye poured into a glass of water was absorbed within five minutes and the rest was completely gone after just 15 minutes.

They have developed the first calix[4]arene based superhydrophobic, porous material that repels water and attracts oil and dye kind of like a sponge. They call it CalP.

1484831031526It’s Reuseable

Another distinct quality of CalP is that it can be washed and reused to absorb oil products over and over again with the same efficiency, potentially reducing the cost of cleaning large oil spills.

“It’s an important part of our discovery,” said Ilma Jahovic, NYUAD chemistry major and student researcher, “because we found it was very easy to regenerate the material” even after it was soaked in oil or dye. “We did multiple cycles and its efficiency was maintained.”

“Other similar materials can be reused but require cleaning at high temperatures and it’s expensive,” she explained, whereas this material requires only mild washing with diethyl ether, ethanol, or a light acidic solution.

What’s Next?

The next step in the research is to improve the absorption efficiency of oil products even further, and find ways to make production cheaper. CalP could also be used to further other areas of petroleum research such as gas separation to make cleaner fuel, added Jahovic.

The material is not yet practical for cleaning large oil spills, she stressed, because “we are only at gram scale” in the lab environment.

This post is by Andy Gregory, NYUAD Public Affairs, and originally appeared here.

NYU Abu Dhabi Student Wins Top Prize at UAE’s Young Arab Awards

1481087913789NYU Abu Dhabi student Dubai Abulhoul has already accomplished more at the age of 20 than many people do in a lifetime of academic pursuit and service to their communities.

She is a bestselling author and journalist, college senior who’s deeply involved in Emirati youth community initiatives, and will soon be studying for her master’s as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. And that’s not all.

She also won the top prize at the UAE’s 2016 Young Arab Awards — a celebration of young leaders ages 18-30 that recognizes outstanding achievements in science and medicine, entrepreneurship, sports, social media, journalism, and philanthropy.

Thomas Fletcher, NYUAD visiting professor and one of several panel judges, presented the first-ever Young Arab of the Year Award to Abulhoul at an event in Dubai and said, “We have chosen her … because she has been so successful in so many different fields:

  • An author of the first Emirati fantasy novel in English, a bestseller;
  • A humanitarian who has volunteered in the UAE and overseas;
  • A future leader — the youngest person on the Dubai Government’s list of the 100 most influential Emiratis;
  • A journalist who has published articles encouraging people to read more, to debate, and even to question their professors and I am one of them;
  • A citizen who is a member of the Emirates Youth Council and has worked at the UAE Mission to the United Nations and United States.”

Abulhoul, Class of 2017, is majoring in political science and currently researching the effect of gender roles and culture on political participation in the UAE as part of her senior Capstone project.

By Andy Gregory, NYUAD Public Affairs; This post originally appeared on NYU Abu Dhabi’s Salaam blog and can be accessed here.

How January Term is Redefining Education

This is a post from NYU Abu Dhabi. Although January Term originated with NYU Abu Dhabi, now other students in NYU’s global network, notably those from NYU Shanghai, have the opportunity to experience a January Term.

Education at NYU Abu Dhabi is not just about learning facts from textbooks and passing multiple choice exams. It’s an immersive experience for NYUAD students, who, each January Term choose hands-on classes in cities from Al Ain to Buenos Aires that challenge their perceptions of the past and enrich their visions of the future.

There are dozens of courses offered in J-Term that get students out of the classroom to learn about the world as it was before, and experience the world as it really is today, like Jazz or the Financial Crisis taught in New York City, Emirati Arabic in Al Ain, Museum History in Berlin, and these seven examples that span the globe. Note: course descriptions have been edited.


Oasis Coast and Mountain

Faculty: Steven C. Caton and Donald M. Scott
Course location: UAE and Oman

A course that challenges students’ perceptions of Arabian landscapes as being mainly desert by showing them three distinct habitat zones: desert oasis, maritime ports, and mountain farms all within 250 kilometers of each other across the UAE and Oman.

Students learn through observational site visits, direct encounters and interactions with local peoples and places through walking tours, interviews, photography and sketching.

Imagining the Renaissance City

Faculty: Jane Tylus
Course location: NYU Florence

Northern and central Italy’s bustling towns inspired many of today’s modern cities and also pioneered recognizably modern artistic, cultural, and engineering practices. Florence was a powerhouse of culture and industry and Siena the ‘Wall Street of Europe’ with the skyline to match.

Students spend three weeks getting to know these towns intimately. Explore downtown Florence, Siena, and the Tuscan countryside. Walk from the town of Fiesole (with its Etruscan ruins and Roman theater), to Monte Ceceri (from whose summit a student of Leonardo da Vinci’s tried to fly; good start, sad ending). Visit seats of government and Renaissance orphanages, climb towers for bird’s-eye views, prowl a crypt recently excavated under Siena’s cathedral, visit churches on hills overlooking Florence and the cells of monks, and walk the trail of the stonecutters to see where Michelangelo found his stone.


Coastal Urbanization

Faculty: John Burt
Course location: Sydney

Over 80 percent of the Australian population lives within 100 kilometers of a coast and virtually all major Australian cities occur on coastlines. As a result, Australia’s coastal environments have been substantially modified to suit human needs.

Using Sydney’s terrestrial, marine, and built environments as a natural laboratory for field research, students collect environmental data throughout the city and use geographic information systems (GIS) to examine the spatial patterns of human impacts to Sydney’s environment and compare their results with patterns observed in other coastal cities.


Faculty: Professor Michael Beckerman
Course location: Prague

Prague should have been destroyed during the Second World War, like other major cities in Europe, but somehow it wasn’t. Its remarkable survival allows us to explore Central European history and culture in the context of a completely preserved inner urban core dating back to the Middle Ages.

Class time includes walking tours around Prague, trips to museums, castles, theaters, classical concerts including Mozart’s Magic Flute and Janacek’s From the House of the Dead, and several excursions outside the city to the Eastern Province of Moravia, birthplace of Mahler and Freud, and to the UNESCO Heritage site of Cesky Krumlov.

Democracy and its Critics

Faculty: Philip Mitsis
Course location: Abu Dhabi / Athens

An examination of one of history’s most radical and influential democracies, ancient Athens.

Students assume historical roles in key decision-making institutions and debate questions about democratic procedures, the extension of voting rights, religion and free speech, foreign policy, etc., often in the very locations where these ancient debates occurred.

The Idea of the Portrait

Faculty: Shamoon Zamir
Course location: London

The course draws upon the rich resources of London’s museums and galleries to examine a wide range of portraits and self-portraits in painting and photography from different periods of history and from different cultures.

Students visit The National Gallery, British Museum, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Queen’s Collection, the Courtauld Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, as well as the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Creative Cities

Faculty: Arlene Davila
Course location: Buenos Aires

Latin America has been undergoing rapid urbanization and is increasingly recognized as a continent made up of “countries of cities,” yet the dominant Latin American image has been on indigenous or traditional communities, which are always imagined as rural and authentic, rather than modern and urbanized.

Buenos Aires provides an urban laboratory to explore culture in urban development, urban tourism, and the marketing and internationalization of tango. Guided tours and guest speakers enrich students’ appreciation of contemporary Buenos Aires.

Original post by Andy Gregory, NYUAD Public Affairs, available here.