Image courtesy of NYU Abu Dhabi

NYUAD 2018 Research Conference

This year’s NYUAD Research Conference focused on the values and spirit represented by the Year of Zayed.

The NYU Abu Dhabi 2018 Research Conference started on Nov. 4 with a large opening ceremony. The conference spanned three days and was packed with talks, panels, presentations and networking sessions. From Nov. 5 to Nov. 7, the Arts and Humanities Building was filled with panelists, visitors from outside the university, professors and students. The registration desk welcomed people in, handed them branded goodie bags and sent them on their way to one of the two parallel sessions occurring each day.
The conference had five overarching themes, labelled by Roman numerals, and three other special themes, each including research from several areas of study.
Theme I was Bioinnovation and Health, which proposed research as the foundation for a revolution in understanding and manipulating DNA, as well as its many implications in food, health, environmental and energy issues. The theme was broken down into three sections: Bioinnovation, Health and Perception and Cognition and Learning. The keynote speaker for the bioinnovation theme — NYUAD’s Provost Fabio Piano — represented the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology.
Theme II was titled Cities and tackled demographic and urbanization issues. The keynote presentation was lead by Monica Menendez, associate professor of Civil Engineering at NYUAD. The theme encompassed talks by professors from a wide range of divisions, including the social sciences, arts and humanities, engineering and even a professor from the Department of Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine at NYU Langone Health.
Theme III, Environmental Sustainability, highlighted the environmental challenges faced by today’s world as well as NYUAD’s plan to integrate the global network’s environmental research initiatives into its own projects; all in order to tackle local and regional environmental challenges. The theme was broken down into two main tracks: Adaptation and Sustainability and Climate Science.
In Theme IV, Governance and Peace, Peter Bearman, Professor of Social Sciences at Columbia University, took to the stage as the keynote speaker. The theme included talks on the Armenian Revolution and minority representation in new democracies. Several undergraduate students participated in the luncheon panels on this theme, including Firas Ashraf, Class of 2019.
“Part of the focus [was], how do you get more undergraduates involved in research. So what are the barriers, why our particular experience of global ties is unique and what they did to help us integrate into research .... a lot of big players [were there] who really wanted to understand ... in general what is the struggle with student researchers, ... why it's important to like help your students or your researchers go to conferences, talk to other professors, talk to other researchers,” said Ashraf of his experience in the panel.
The final theme, Culture and Heritage, explored the preservation of heritage in the Arab world and the projects undertaken by NYUAD to further this research. The keynote speaker for the theme was NYUAD’s Interim Dean of Arts and Humanities, Kalle Taneli Kukkonen.
The three smaller special themes were Astronomy and Astrophysics, Cybersecurity and Human Behavior. During the Astronomy and Astrophysics session, keynote speaker Katepalli Sreenivasan — Dean Emeritus of NYU Tandon School of Engineering — explored the possible expansion of the Center for Space Science to include the broader goals of the NYU global network and also of the UAE Space Agency.
The Poster Sessions during the conference gave undergraduate students, postdoctoral associates, research assistants and professors an opportunity to present their individual research projects in a smaller setting.
One of the main attractions of the Research Conference was the art-science exhibition, Glimpses, which was curated by postdoctoral researchers, Luca Catalano and Ivan Camponagara, Ph.D student and NYUAD Class of 2016 Jad Mahmoud Halabi and arts administrator Lucia Pizzinato. Of the many pieces that were presented in the exhibition, several interacted with visitors through audio, microscopes and video.
Mari Velasquez-Soler is Deputy News Editor and Tracy Vavrova is News Editor. Email them at
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