U21 Funds Three Graduate Collaborative Research Projects


U21 are delighted to announce that three Graduate Collaborative Research Award (GCRA) projects have been chosen to receive funding this year. Applicants were invited to apply for up to US$5000 to support collaborative research projects between doctoral students at U21 member universities, and were asked to think innovatively about how their research could benefit from engagement with other members of the U21 network. 

A number of excellent projects applied for the funding, and the panel were delighted to see the varied breadth and scope of collaborative projects being undertaken by U21 partnerships from across the globe. This year’s selection panel included members from across the U21 network; Professor Jonathan Morris (University of New South Wales, Sydney and Chair of the U21 Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies group), Professor Jenny Dixon (U21 Provost), Professor Mark Aindow (University of Connecticut), Claudine Leysinger (University of Zurich), Maria Elena Boisier (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile) and Annah Moteetee (University of Johannesburg). 

Connor Keating from the University of Birmingham was awarded US$5,000 and will be leading on the project A Cross-Cultural Study on Knowledge and Stigma Towards Autism Among University Students in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. His project partners are located at the University of Hong Kong and University of California, Davis. He explained:

“Our project will compare knowledge about and stigma towards autism among university students in the UK, US and Hong Kong. This study will allow us to identify priority regions for autism awareness campaigns and anti-stigma interventions, thus paving the way for future work that will improve the lives of autistic people across the globe.”

Tanya Kwee from University of New South Wales, Sydney, was successful in receiving US$4225 GCRA funding. Titled Developing a model of virtual mentoring for first-year doctoral students during COVID-19 pandemic, her project includes doctoral students from the University of Auckland and the University of Hong Kong. A member of the selection panel commented that that it was ‘a very timely and well-thought-out student-led project. This seems to be an excellent fit for the mission of the GCRA program’. Tanya commented:

“This international, multi-disciplinary, collaborative research is significant because it brings a new virtual mentoring model. The model is developed based on students’ needs which are identified via research. Student researchers from the School of Education, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Social Policy Research Centre and social work will develop data collection instruments that cover indicators from different aspects such as physical health, psychological well-being, social engagement, and academic progress. We hope that the virtual mentoring model will help the first-year doctoral students tackle challenges more readily and ease their anxiety, especially those who start their studies in the pandemic. It also smooths the induction process of both onshore and offshore first-year doctoral students who are new to the area. “

Inglis Tucker from University of California, Davis, was also awarded US$5,000 for her project Microbiome-Immune Interactions In The Mouse Model of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Together with partners from the University of Auckland and University of Connecticut,  the group seek to identify genetic markers in the microbiome of the mouse model of ASD that have implications on immune pathway activation. Inglis said:

“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) brings with it not only the social and behavioural differences that we are familiar with, but also changes to the gut microbiome and immune system function that are more difficult to study in human patients. Funding from this U21 grant has allowed us to use data generated at University of Auckland to combine with expertise at University of Connecticut and novel bioinformatics approaches at University of California, Davis, each institute half a world away from the other, to take the analysis of this data one step forward and illuminate how dysbiosis affects the function of the immune system in the mouse model of ASD. This special opportunity to work across such vast distances seamlessly would not have been possible without the modern data processing and software this grant has provided. Now that we are familiar with working with each other our universities can collaborate on future projects as well using the pipelines we generate with this research endeavour.”

All three projects will start on 1 November for 12 months and we look forward to seeing how the projects progress. For further information about any of the projects please contact Connie Wan connie.wan@universitas21.com 

Connie Wan