This is the first of two posts focusing on a recent Health & Human Rights Dialogue on the Refugee and Migration Crisis held at NYU Florence. On March 26-27, 2018, a diverse and multidisciplinary gathering of scholars, students, activists, political and civic leaders, NGO representatives, and rights advocates gathered to discuss multiple aspects of the complicated health and human rights problems posed by the current refugee crisis in Europe and beyond. This was an especially compelling opportunity for students to engage with leading public health thinkers.
Diana Klatt, a first year GPH MPH student studying at NYU Florence who participated in and presented at the Refugee and Migration Crisis Dialogue, proposed practical initiatives to address the stigmas of migrants in Italy and the sociocultural barriers they face. She found the experience rewarding, saying, “I chose to come to Florence to get a different perspective on applications of public health. It is no secret that Italy is currently receiving many migrants and that Europe is experiencing a crisis. Having the opportunity to be here and to visit and meet with various organizations and camps has been invaluable. I came to CGPH for a career change and having this experience here for a semester has made me feel like I made the right choice to work in the global public health sector.”
Rory Curtin, a student in the Cross-Continental MPH program studying at NYU Florence also participated in the Dialogue and reflected on the importance of these kinds of conversations. “Improving health and human rights world-wide starts with increasing social awareness and cultural cohesion through initiatives that promote a migrant-friendly Europe. Particularly in this dialogue, it was pertinent that all parties from UN representatives, to university deans and students, to NGO workers, were collaborating. Europe should expect to see exponential growth in their migrant population, and we as academics, humanitarian aid personnel, and everyday citizens, need to be open and prepared for this. The concept of ‘safe third countries’ such as Libya has to de-bunked, and borders re-opened to ensure humane treatment of asylum seekers. Additionally, asylum procedures need to become less complex, expensive, and time intensive, to facilitate the migration process. Finally, Dublin III and other unreasonable EU deals should be discontinued and replaced with procedures for secondary movements and resettlement of migrants. Therefore, having all those who participated come together and generate the idea that a ‘society for health and human rights’ be established is incredible, and has the potential to shake things up!”
Rory also finds that NYU’s global presence “absolutely” facilitates these types of programs. “It’s important for students to not only experience other parts of the world, but become entrenched in politics, social issues, and therefore passionate about making a difference in our increasingly interconnected world. These sorts of programs are the result of otherwise disparate groups coming together, united by at least one thing, which is that education is a certain catalyst for change.”
The 2017-2018 Deans Service Scholars program is open to all NYU Shanghai students and allows selected scholars the opportunity to learn about community development and service through a progressive learning experience. This experience includes classroom interaction, direct service, and travel.
This year’s DSS program spanned the topics of health, education, environmental protection and community development in Anhui, Hunan, Yunnan and Cambodia, respectively. Here’s what our DSS students saw and did this year:
Our DSS Group had a memorable experience in Anhui with our visits to an orphanage, home visits to HIV-affected families, visit to a village affected by HIV, and interacting with the Chi Heng students.
As part of Qing Ming Festival, we held a kite decorating activity where we asked HIV-affected children to draw their hopes and dreams for the future. Some shared dreams about becoming a music star, others dreamed for world peace and good health. We then flew our kites and watched as we flew our dreams to the sky.
2. PEER 毅恒挚友计划
The DSS scholars on a visit to a local community in Cambodia. NYU Shanghai students taught at Sunrise English school for two days.
4. Yunnan Green Environment Development Foundation (YGF) 云南省绿色环境发展基金会
Dawa, an application designed to tackle counterfeit medicine in the region using blockchain based pharmaceutical distribution, and Boosala, a refugee location application, have won top honors at NYU Abu Dhabi’s 8th Annual International Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World.
Dawa was designed by a team of eight students who were mentored by Cloud Developer Advocate IBM Saif ur Rehman, Technology Solution Professional at Microsoft Saeed Motamed, and IBM Cloud Developer Naiyarah Hussain. The students represented universities from across the region, including NYU Abu Dhabi, University of Wollongong in Dubai, BITS Pilani Dubai Campus, and M’sila University, Al Akhawayn University and Misr International University from Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt respectively.
The team behind Boosala, designed to locate missing family members and contacts among refugees, comprised seven team members led by mentors including Cloud Developer Advocate at IBMNikita Mathur, Executive Director at OpenCurriculum Varun Arora, and CEO at Kandw Technologies International Khalid Machchate. Universities represented through Boosala included NYU Abu Dhabi and Khalifa University, as well as other universities in the region such as ESPRIT, University of Science and Technology Houari, and American universities NYU and Wellesley College.
The event was organized by Founder and Chair of the NYUAD Hackathon, Clinical Professor of Computer Science at NYU New York and Affiliated Faculty at NYUAD Sana Odeh. Commenting on the occasion, Odeh said, “This Hackathon has offered yet another round of outstanding ideas and solutions that reflect the spirit of innovation shown across all the teams that participated, which made the final decisions for the judges especially challenging this year. Each team has grown remarkably over the course of these intensive three days, learning, and gaining expert knowledge.”
“NYUAD Hackathon is designed to encourage and secure an opportunity for cross-collaboration and entrepreneurship across computer science, bringing together people from all over the world with different ideas in order to expand the scope of understanding amongst participating students. This experience allows them to grow and learn through exposure to new concepts that act as an incubator for remarkable feats of innovation,” she added.
The second prize went to Huwayeti, a blockchain-based layer on top of UNHCR refugee registration to manage trusted agents’ claims made about refugees. The team was mentored by CEO of Sahem.ae Hussam Mohsineh and Software Engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)/Improbable Keeley Erhardt. Four of the six members of this were from NYU Abu Dhabi, while the additional team members came from Yale University and the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne.
Third place was offered to the team responsible for devising a platform that assists refugees and asylum seekers in communicating with healthcare professionals using machine learning and natural language processing called MedLughati. Mentored by NYUAD alumna and current Rhodes Scholar pursuing a PHD at University of Oxford Farah Shamout and Software Engineer at Facebook UK Miguel Sanchez, the students behind MedLughati represented a wide range of institutions including University of Wollongong, BITS Pilani Dubai Campus, Stanford University, University of Oxford, University of Buenos Aires and Khalifa University in Egypt.
Aspiring hackers from across the globe came together at NYU Abu Dhabi from April 27 for the three-day event. Participants were divided into 10 teams and mentored by renowned international computer science professors, founders of successful startups, technology professionals, and venture capitalists.
The Audience Award for the occasion was given to Wadhafni, an SMS-based mobile app that links unemployed skilled individuals with the local labor market on a tasks-accomplishment basis. The team, comprised of students representing prestigious institutions such as the University of Edinburgh, NYU Shanghai, Middlesex University Dubai, ENSAM Casablanca and NYU Abu Dhabi, was mentored by Software Engineer at Think.iT Abir Chermiti, and Software Engineer at Google Fabricio Pontes Harsich.
For additional information on the 2018 Annual NYUAD International Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World, visit http://sites.nyuad.nyu.edu/hackathon/
This post comes to us from NYU Abu Dhabi. You can read the original here.
As part of the Provost’s Global Research Initiatives program, doctoral students in any discipline and in the advanced stages of dissertation writing are eligible to apply to summer intensive dissertation-writing workshops held at the Berlin, London, Paris and Washington, D.C. institutes. Each site hosts an average of six doctoral students for a period of six weeks. Students from all fields and disciplines are welcome to apply to these workshops. Today we are in conversation with Marybec Griffin-Tomas, who participated in the program last summer in Paris. In addition to her academic focus described below, Marybec has also worked at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the areas of HIV/AIDS policy and program design as well as helping to evaluate the quality of sexual health services and contraceptive coverage in NYC.
Can you tell me about your school affiliation, field, and focus of your dissertation?
I am a double graduate of NYU’s College of Global Public Health. I will complete my PhD this May in the field of socio-behaviourial health and completed a MPH previously. My research focuses on healthcare access among LGBTQ young adults and my dissertation focuses on health care access among adult gay men aged 18 – 29 in New York City.
How did you get interested in this topic?
I have had a long-standing interest in sexual health issues. I am a child of the 80s and I watched the HIV epidemic unfold on television at an impressionable age, my interests are now focused on healthcare access among LGBTQ young people. With the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, we witnessed people being denied access to basic health services because of stigma and discrimination based on identity. Seeing people being categorically denied care because of who they were or who they had sex with expanded my research interests out to the broader questions of access for the LGBTQ community and contraceptive access.
How did you hear about the GRI Dissertation Writer’s Program and why did you decide to apply?
I first heard about the Dissertation Writer’s Program through promotional emails a few years before I was eligible to apply. So I always had the idea in the back of my mind that I would do it the summer between my third and fourth years.
I found the program appealing because of the opportunity it provided to simply be away and have protected time just to write. In the hustle of my daily life – with work, research hours, teaching, etc. – finding time to work on my dissertation was challenging. The idea of being away from it all – from my personal life, work, school commitments – was attractive. I was also drawn to the community aspect of the program. I welcomed the opportunity to meet new people going through the same process I was and at the same stage, trying to finish their dissertations, but in different disciplines. I also liked the idea of being able to get regular feedback on my writing and being held accountable for making progress.
What was your experience with the GRI Dissertation Writer’s Program?
My experience was really positive and productive. It was a comprehensively structured program and a very supportive environment. I made deep and quick friendships, even with students from very different disciplines. For example, my office mate is pursuing a PhD in musicology and focusing on feminist representation in popular music. Although we share some common interests, our academic pursuits are not at all related. We would nonetheless often bounce ideas around together or, if one of us was stuck, take moments together to relax or recharge.
The leader of the Paris GRI program, Phillip Usher, is simply an amazing person and was a wonderful resource for us all. His research is in French culture, so his support was not discipline-focused. He really helped us to settle into the disciplined practice of writing – setting a schedule, developing a routine, and just getting the writing done.
Phillip also held special one-hour work groups in addition to the scheduled ones. These were focused on topics of interest to the students, such as getting an academic job. He provided advice on my cv, my cover letter, and the application process. Without his support and insights, I would not have started looking when I did and not be where I am now. He was really responsive to student needs and I appreciated that.
I had written two chapters of my dissertation before going to Paris and wrote the last three chapters while there. With this protected time to write and the resources of through the program, I not only became a better writer and finished my dissertation, but also received amazing career support that I could not have gotten elsewhere.
I understand that you were in Paris. Why did you choose to be there?
The first reason is technical. I speak enough French that I knew I knew I could get by, but I also did not know anyone in Paris. So it would be isolating but familiar. If I had gone to DC, I would not have been able to isolate myself because I have friends there and it is too close to NY. I worried that could be distracted as an English speaker in London. And that without German, I would get lost in Berlin.
The second reason is more romantic. I feel that Paris is where my soul lives. I am my happiest and at my best there.
Was there anything particularly beneficial about being abroad?
I was able to be productive. I was away from everybody, my family, friends, and regular life, so I could really focus. The six-hour time difference with New York was unexpectedly helpful. By the time NY was waking up and I started receiving text messages from my mother, it was my afternoon and I had already put in a solid morning of work. I’d usually take an afternoon break to catch up with my life at home as people started to come online and then get back to work. In addition to being physically away, the time difference created sense of isolation that was useful.
This time really allowed me to say “no” to my life for six weeks. As a PhD student, this is also probably the last time I’ll have the opportunity to do something like this as I am coming to the end of my studies. So that was also quite special.
Did your time in Paris influence your work in any unexpected ways?
Well, I am now also looking into jobs in Paris. I also started reading some of the French literature in my field, specifically related to sexual health preventative care. I now have new research ideas to look at these issues with a cross-cultural or comparative perspective. For example, I am curious to explore how the different health insurance systems in the United States and France influence sexual health preventative care. In the US, the system of self-secured or employer-based health insurance and the possibility of being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions creates disincentives for preventative sexual health care, like STD testing. In France, with universal health care, there are not the same pressures.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
The NYU Paris staff really cares about the students. They are incredible. I cannot speak highly enough of them. The support for students was amazing.
I would also add that I grew tremendously as a person through this experience. My father passed away in March 2017 just a few months before I did the GRI Dissertation Writer’s Program. In a way, it was good for me to be there alone and to process the complicated emotions of grief. The other GRI participants and the NYU Paris community were also tremendously supportive. Between that and the protected time to write, I grew. I became more confident in my writing and in my skills as an academic. I returned to NY with more confidence and pride in my work and able to engage with my mentors more as an equal. The program changed me a lot.
Four selected Interactive Media Arts (IMA) student projects—from an interactive digital fountain to a color-changing constellation—were displayed at the Shanghai MixC Mall in Minhang district as special part of the “INFINITE: Dimensions In Digital Age And Beyond” exhibition on Saturday. This was the first public unveiling of their projects.
Titled INFINITE·New Born, the exhibition is a collaboration between NYU Shanghai IMA, Shanghai Film, Radio&TV Production and MixC Mall, aiming to facilitate wider public access to works by emerging new media artists. The four IMA students also served as curation and design committee members of the exhibition.
As one of the most influential new media arts exhibitions in Shanghai, “INFINITE: Dimensions In Digital Age And Beyond” hosts a variety of digital and immersive artworks that explore the idea of expansiveness and infinite possibilities, including a visual-sound installation by IMA Resident Research Fellow Cici Liu that depicts the cycle of humans, information, coding, and machine.
“IMA students are challenged to create, as well as to think critically about technology in order to bring meaning and delight to people’s lives,” said Assistant Arts Professor Antonius Wiriadjaja at the opening ceremony. “As an arts professor, there is no greater honor than seeing students put forth their vision into the world.”
The exhibition will conclude on March 22. Here is a glimpse into the students’ featured works and what inspired them:
Wang Zihe’s artwork is an exploration of generative art and computer music. The visual pattern is based on the analysis of real-time music and aims to show a familiar environment having many possibilities through visual snapshots that are fleeting and one-time.
“I developed an interest in music at a very young age but never really pursued it. Now, I want to take advantage of my knowledge in computer programming and apply it to music,” Wang said.
He Fangqing’s Terrain aims to explore the possibilities of romantic daydreams brought into the context of daily life, with four scenes: mountains, moon, sunset, and a crystal ball.
“When I was younger, I had a snow globe with a Christmas tree inside, which inspired my current artwork to be both realistic and fictional: realistic in that each scene I recreated was from my childhood memories and yet fictionalized with creativity and imagination,” said He.
Zhao Nan managed to create an interactive and vivid constellation through the reading of a Bagua graph (the fundamental principles of reality represented through eight Taoist symbols), combined with creative coding.
“I have always been fascinated by the movements of the stars and the Law of Attraction. I thought the 12 zodiacs were not enough and lacked individuality. That’s why my artwork has an infinite number of constellations, allowing each individual to define themselves.
The Sound of Poseidon brings sound and water movement together. It is a set of 3D musical fountains that visualize sound and music by changing the color, movement, and oscillation of several particle systems (as water drops). There are six different types of fountains in total, of which different combinations have various visual effects.
“I was inspired by the Dubai Fountain which was visually stunning. However, I also felt it lacked music and interaction, so I programmed a digital fountain that ‘mingled’ with any sound input,” Zhang said.
Feiran Lyu, current NYU Florence student, was recently in conversation with Andreas Petrossiants,
NYU ´16, Global Liberal Studies. This piece by Feiran shares highlights.
Andreas Petrossiants is an independent art historian and critic based in New York City. He received an M.A. in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London where his research focused on critical conceptualist art and labor politics of the 1960s. He finished his B.A. at New York University in Global Liberal Studies with a concentration in Arts and Literatures, where he studied at NYU’s La Pietra campus in Florence, Italy for three semesters while researching towards his senior thesis. He is a frequent contributor to The Brooklyn Rail, and has published writing in Senza Cornice, The Daily Serving, among others.
What does Dialogue mean to you?
The workshop that I conducted at La Pietra in October was based on a recapitulation of a broad swath of art historical and theoretical methodologies and I would like to continue such an approach for my answers here. That being said, please excuse the overly pedantic—and already well-documented—nature of some responses.
I believe it is safe to say that “dialogue” has taken on two very diverse (and strategic) definitions: one odious and reactionary, the other idealistically emancipatory. Today, we must understand that “dialogue” implies the tacit expectation of an eventual understanding, agreement, or compromise between interlocutors or groups. This potential has become—to my mind—severely overstated and ineffectual. Like other various progressivist tools—such as protest or grassroots activism—dialogue, and its goals, have been usurped by reactionary groups and tendencies to legitimize fringe groups and actions. Such groups have targeted identity politics, “political correctness,” and other strategies of forging and protecting identity, and distorted such protections to say: “our free speech has been infringed upon, we are no longer permitted to say the [horrible] things we would like to say.” That being said, I understand my response seems to be an indictment of free speech, and that is surely the grounds on which a member of such a group would disagree, but my point is only an indictment of hate speech masquerading as legitimate (political) dialogue. This is all to say, sometimes we don’t need to hear “both sides” when what only appears to be legitimate free speech comes into fierce conflict with other civil liberties. This is particularly important to consider given the current economies of clicks, likes, posts and the incredible proliferation of media and information. (A recent talk by Judith Butler, “Limits on Free Speech?” republished on the Verso Books website, is an example of a important way of reconciling all of the above).
All this notwithstanding, I should make clear that I am not referring to “dialogue” in the way La Pietra Dialogues invokes it, both in practice and in name. This is where the emancipatory potential can still function as a very real method for pedagogically bringing attention to what is not right, and to discuss courses of decisive action to counter this. For this reason, I consider LPD to be one of the most important organizations I was lucky enough to engage with as a young student. In many ways LPD stands as an example of the power of free speech, and especially dialogue, to create new discourses, new intersectionality, and new interdisciplinary. It is not farfetched or hyperbolic to say that LPD is a model of programming dialogue that much mass media should take due note from.
What role does contemporary art play today?
This is, perhaps, an even broader question that deserves much more attention than I can presently give—though that is not to say that more than ample attention has not been already been given. Firstly, one must distinguish between the term “contemporary art” as a placeholder for art after year x (the year decided by a particular institutional authority), art made now, and all the other ways of giving the contemporary era a temporal “origin” point—itself a very fraught historiographical action. Some authorities point to the multiple “deaths” of painting in the late 50s; others to the “dematerialization” of the art object coinciding with the “conceptual turn”; others yet, begin with the political activity of May 1968 or the fall of the Berlin Wall and the USSR.
On the other hand, a term like “Postmodernism” denotes a variegated, though still more specific, series of cultural tendencies and models; in the artistic context related to the rejections of authorship, the original artwork’s “authenticity,” and notions of teleological “progress.” See Frederic Jameson’s writings for the term’s early theorization, especially his seminal essay: “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.”
The definition of “contemporary,” etymologically at least, has little to do with the way the term is used in branding, historicizing, or spectacularizing art. Take, for example, the recent blockbuster record breaking auction sale of a Leonardo da Vinci painting that made headlines last month. What does this have to do with contemporary art? Not so much. However, it has everything to do with the contemporary hyper-inflated art market, our contemporary era of rampant financial speculation, and so on. So, my roundabout answer can only bring attention to a “broken” dialectic between history and contemporaneity, as they collapse into one another, and to the multiple meanings “contemporary” can take when used as a mechanism for history-writing, as a placeholder for no-longer applicable taxonomies, or as a direct provocation of our everyday. E-flux published a very useful reader titled What is Contemporary Art? (2010) that is a good place to start; I especially recommend Martha Rosler’s “Take the Money and Run? Can Political and Socio-critical Art ‘Survive’?” and Cuauhtémoc Medina’s essay “Contemp(t)orary Art: Eleven Theses,” both in the book.
Another way to approach answering this question is by looking at what is alternately called “socially-engaged art,” social art practice, relational aesthetics, and so on. Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells, provides a strong critique of the validity of much of the work/theorizing that constitute such tendencies.
This year’s Venice Biennale was (for the most part) yet another startling example of art system escapism in the face of incredibly pressing and disastrous global political circumstances.
What is the relationship between contemporary art and culture?
Again, I worry about answering this question in brief. But a short answer might be that the former commodifies the later or that the former constitutes the latter (in part). The culture industry, as it has been organized, is a complex web of institutions ranging from academia, museums, and kunsthalles, to corporate art firms, auction houses, and for-profit galleries, and furthermore those institutions more distant from the rarefied “art system,” such as political parties, media structures, and so on. The recent (many) controversies following in the wake of documenta 14 are clear examples of the above. In such complicated webs, there are the many goings-on that together produce (mass) culture. But, one must be very careful not to ascribe the entirety of culture to what can be seen, bought, or read in a history book, and to not discredit various cultural phenomena that constitute our contemporary moment. (Once again this word haunts us). It is important to understand who is defining culture and from what position that definition is being produced and subsequently disseminated.
How did your experience in Florence influence or help your work?
This is a very personal response, and might not be the same reading of the city and its multiple cultural scenes that someone else might have. So, get out your grains of salt!
After working for two years at a for-profit art gallery in New York, my move to Florence allowed me to distance myself from a fast-paced profit-centric art system. That is obviously not to say that there are no for-profit galleries in Florence, nor that there is something inherently “wrong” with the concept. Different models of exhibition-making allow for their own specific benefits and hindrances.
My time in Florence allowed me to take in broad sections of the city’s many cultural scenes as a quasi-outsider: I interned at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi (before the opening of the Museo Novecento and the arrival of another institution to show modern/contemporary art in Florence), I visited the contemporary section of the wonderful Museo Marino Marini, and got involved in the music scene at venues on the other side of the Arno, and so on. My undergraduate research and thesis-writing—which of course now I would like to amend and takes Florence as a case-study for analyzing how diverse art practitioners define the term “contemporary,” and how it can mean so much and so little at once. Florence’s production of simulacral history or idealized “authenticity” makes it an especially great place to view the culture industry on a smaller scale, and to understand how a façade (even a remarkably beautiful one) can deceive the eye, and can subdue historical analysis for a mystified imaginary. (Professor Lombardo’s course on the histories of urban planning and architecture at NYU Florence was an important introduction to getting past this façade). All that being said, the city was incredibly important for my development, both academically and personally.
In what way does art history help understand contemporary art?
Contemporary art constitutes art history, perhaps at the very moment that it is produced. Though, what is most important is to acknowledge how art history itself is created, consecrated, and venerated. Marcel Duchamp’s famed 1957 lecture “The Creative Act” is a great start. He describes how the spectator, or “art historical posterity,” completes the work of art upon its being viewed, experienced, heard, etc., and how the accompanying process of history-making is very selective. Those who write history create the narratives that are remembered and subsequently taught; but, they also choose those that are potentially “reopened” for historical revisionism and those that are forgotten. This question has only become more relevant as information systems and technology have proliferated in all aspects of life. As the Italian autonomists describe, the primary commodity of our time is information.
What do you think is the major difference between the European contemporary art world and the U.S. contemporary art world?
The major difference is in funding models for art institutions. Many countries in the EU have much higher percentages of their budgets allocated for cultural institutions of all sorts. Of course, the entrenchment of neoliberal economic models in the U.S. and in Europe has meant serious cuts to such public cultural spending in recent decades. Much of the art system in the U.S. is funded by corporate sponsorships, private donors, foundations, and the like; publicly funded projects are few and far between. This model is being applied in many European countries as well, especially now as right-wing governments take political control—either by winning elections, or by shifting policy (and the “center”) further to the right by becoming more extreme.
What do you think is the most important responsibility of art critics nowadays?
There are many that argue that (art’s) criticality, or its potency for any structural change, has been neutralized and made ineffective by an implicit complicity with the systems one critiques. I do not think this interview is the place to grapple with such a broad and difficult claim. I will say, however, that one very important approach (of many) that a critic must take is to shine a light on spaces, artists, groups, and moments that have been traditionally left out of art discourse. It is important to understand the mechanisms at work in creating history, a point that not surprisingly keeps coming up in this interview. For one very important and well-known example, Linda Nochlin’s brilliant and seminal essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (1971) exemplifies such an approach. We must continue in Nochlin’s path; today, perhaps, more forcefully than ever. We must not shy away from difficult questions.
Read some of Andreas´ recent articles in The Brooklyn Rail:
“José Leonilson: Empty Man”, December 13, 2017
“Resistance Across Time: Interference Archive”, November 2, 2017
And Senza Cornice: Rivista Online di Arte Contemporanea e Critica:
“A Painting by Hans Haacke: Dematerializing Labor”, n. 17, December2017/March 2018
This piece was originally published on the La Pietra Dialogues website and is available here.
By Ibrahim Chehade, NYU Abu Dhabi Biology Instructor
NYU Abu Dhabi’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team has received the university’s first gold medal at the Giant Jamboree held in Boston, US. The Giant Jamboree is a synthetic biology competition that hosts student academic scholars from 310 international teams.
The NYUAD team of 12 biology and engineering students were led by seniors Adrienne Chang and Khairunnisa Semesta, supervised by faculty members and instructors, Dr. Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani, Dr. Yong-Ak Song, Dr. Mazin Magzoub, Ibrahim Chehade, Ashley Isaac, and Mona Kalmouni.
The project, E. coLAMP, was concerned with the development of a portable and affordable device that is capable of amplifying a genetic marker of the Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli in just 20 minutes using a technique called loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP). The engineering team designed and printed a robust, 3D-printed case, which houses the electrical components and the silicone chip for the biological reactions.
The intended usage of the device provides a simple procedure for the end user. A food sample is swabbed and added to a solution, and the solution is transferred into the silicone chip. The chip can then be placed on the heating base of the device, and the reaction can be easily visualized after 20 minutes. The team was successful in developing a proof-of-concept, which cut down the cost of each reaction to only $4 USD. The result: a cost-effective solution to rampant food contamination in various parts of the world.
In the development of E.coLAMP, the team employed a comprehensive design-build-test cycle, integrating feedback from potential users into the design of the device to better meet users’ needs. In the spirit of community service, the NYUAD team also conducted extensive education and engagement programs by inviting 20 Brighton College high school students to NYUAD’s first annual synthetic biology workshop. An outreach program was also conducted in Indonesia to primary school students on food safety and hygienic practices.
Being the only team from the United Arab Emirates, the team hopes to encourage and share their experience with other GCC institutions to help them launch their own iGEM teams in the future. By doing so, they aim to promote the value and importance of interdisciplinary studies in the development of a successful project.
The team offers their gratitude to the Division of Science and the Division of Engineering, as well as the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology for their generous support that helped this program to become a success.
This post comes to us from NYU Abu Dhabi and you can find the original here.
This reflection comes from NYU London student Destiny Gallegos, who shares her experiences during the joint NYU London and NYU Paris volunteer trip to Calais and Dunkirk.
What better way is there to start the best month of the year in France doing something that matters for people who need it? That’s exactly how I spent the first and second of December during the Calais Volunteer Trip to assist Help Refugees in their efforts to provide the refugees in Calais with provisions they so desperately need. There was plenty of sorting and cooking and loving happening at the warehouse those two days.
Admittedly, before going on this trip I did not know as much about the whole situation in France with the refugee crisis as I do now after the trip. It wasn’t until our debriefing upon arrival at the warehouse that I learned how awful the refugees have it in Calais. From sleepless nights and severe police brutality to their tents being slashed and them and everything they own being sprayed in teargas to suffering through endless days and nights in the miserable, wet weather — the refugees need any bit of help they can get. All of this appalls me. I couldn’t have been happier to be there helping this organization give these people some hope and kindness each day.
For both days I was on kitchen duty. I volunteered with amazing English and French people who were running the Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK) and even had the opportunity to mingle with and work alongside students from NYU Paris. The people behind RCK were so unbelievably devoted and made the hard work we did enjoyable. There was music. There was dancing. There were jokes and giggles. All of the people in charge went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and happy while we were working for them. They also fed us some really yummy (and VEGAN!) lunches that warmed us up after spending hours in 1°C weather. Good food, good company, and good work for a good cause? I wouldn’t even have to think twice about signing up for this trip again if there was a second, third, or fourth opportunity to do it.
Some of my tasks included washing and drying a seemingly endless mountain of dishes, opening gigantic cans of this and that, cutting, chopping and peeling various vegetables, and trying my hardest to stop the tears from escaping my eyes as I dealt with onions. When I wanted a different task, all I need do was ask the people in charge and they automatically had something else for me to do. It was definitely a hustle-and-bustle environment in the kitchen at all times because RCK provides lunch and dinner to the refugees in The Jungle (the area in the forests where the refugees congregate) every day. Everyone was aware at all times of the urgency and importance it was to have the food done and ready for distribution on time because we knew how hungry and cold the refugees must have been if we ourselves were shivering with our coats and hats and scarves surrounded by stoves of boiling foods. There were a few times when I became rather upset and bothered with myself and others because we commented (even complained) about how cold we were when we didn’t even have it nearly as bad as the refugees do day and night on end.
For the night we stayed in a French hotel in Dunkirk. It had heat, warm water, and comfortable beds. That in itself was more than the refugees have and I went to bed that night counting my blessings for things that I before considered to be givens in my life that would actually be luxuries to others. It’s saddening to know that I live in a world where some people can have so much while others have nothing, not even the treatment of human decency.
To say this trip was humbling is an understatement. Not only did it make me really see how privileged I actually am, but it challenged me to want to use that privilege to benefit people who do not and never will have it as easy as I do in life. It was beautiful to see so many people wholeheartedly committed day in and day out to show the refugees that they matter and that they have not been forgotten. I’ve done some charity work in the past, and while all my experiences have affected me in one way or another, I have never felt as touched as I do after having worked with Help Refugees and Refugee Community Kitchen. The greatest takeaway I have from this trip is how easy and meaningful it is to make a difference when you’re in a position to do so.
My only complaint is that I, and everyone else from NYU, felt that we could have done more volunteering. Hopefully the next time this trip rolls around, NYU will make it a full weekend commitment. It was more than worth the £50, wearing Crocs all day in the kitchen, and the newly acquired permanent stench of onions on my hands that won’t go away despite numerous washes and showers. If you want to take a part in something that matters and have fun whilst promoting humanitarian greatness, the Calais trip is for you. The hotel being in Dunkirk was also nice because it was a 10-15 minute walk away from the beach of Mal-les-Bains. I woke up really early the second day of the trip and went to the beach after breakfast to watch the sun rise before we headed back to Calais for more volunteering.
It’s not every day that you get to have experiences that touch the core of your humanity and leave an imprint on all of your values, so if the chance to work with Help Refugees ever crosses your path, you MUST do it. But if you aren’t physically able to help the cause, then please donate. Any amount of money you give can help make the difference that these people need. It’s been said time and time again but only because it’s so true– I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Be one of the reasons a refugee finds the strength to not give up hope.
The original post can be found on the NYU London volunteers blog here.