Penn State and University of Auckland to partner in research

Our borders may be closed but new research partnerships are still being forged between New Zealand and the United States.

The University of Auckland has entered a strategic partnership with Pennsylvania State University (pictured).

The University of Auckland this month entered a strategic partnership with Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) to collaborate on teaching and research.

Eight research projects have been carefully selected for cross-university collaboration. Each has received a Collaboration Development Seed Fund Grant of up NZ$20,000, equally funded by both universities.

Most of the successful projects involve technological advancements in the fields of science and engineering, while one will connect students from each university in a joint teaching exercise.

Successful projects include Professor Iain Anderson’s research into wearable energy-harvesting materials at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute; and Dr Lokesh Padhye’s developments in low-cost sensors to monitor drinking water quality, based in the Faculty of Engineering.

The EDGE project, or Experiential Digital Global Engagement (EDGE) Collaboration, brings together students from Auckland’s Asian Identities course in the Faculty of Arts with IT students at Penn State, with the goal of designing an app on Asian multicultural identity.

Professor Bernadette Luciano, EDGE project lead and head of the School of Cultures, Languages and Linguistics, says: “We imagine that the Penn State students will learn a lot about Auckland as a multicultural Asian city and the complexity of multicultural identity.

"Auckland students will learn a lot about design elements in the preparation of an interactive app and the opportunities that technology affords us. We are all really excited about the opportunities this offers our students to collaborate across national boundaries, particularly in this moment where mobility is curtailed.”

We imagine that the Penn State students will learn a lot about Auckland as a multicultural Asian city and the complexity of multicultural identity

Professor Bernadette Luciano EDGE project lead

University of Auckland International Office Director Brett Berquist says all successful projects had to evaluate how Covid-19 would affect their activities and prove their outcomes and objectives could be accomplished through online or other remote collaboration.

“Covid-19 has exposed a critical need for institutions to develop effective models for virtual collaboration and experiential learning that promote global thinking and collaboration, even when students and academics are unable to physically travel,” he says.

“This partnership will bring substantive benefits and is expected to result in long-term collaborative programmes in research and teaching integrating academics from both universities.”

Penn State is ranked number 68 in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 93= in the QS World University rankings, while the University of Auckland ranks 179= and 81= respectively.

As a strategic partner, Penn State will also collaborate on student and staff mobility, student articulation, joint partnerships and conferences, and international engagement.

Academics from Penn State visited the University of Auckland in November 2019 to explore complementary research and teaching opportunities.

The following projects were awarded Collaboration Development Seed Fund Grants:

• New materials and electronics for wearable energy harvesting - Professor Iain Anderson, Auckland Bioengineering Institute
• A platform for advancing computational neuromuscular modelling of human and animal movement –Professor Thor Besier, Auckland Bioengineering Institute
• Re-engineering anaerobic treatment processes for novel functionalities - Dr Shan Yi, Faculty of Engineering
• Aeroacoustics of ducted UAV propellers - Dr Michael Kingan, Faculty of Engineering
• Coupling low-cost sensor arrays with micro-pollutant analysis for developing a robust surface water quality monitoring network - Dr Lokesh Padhye, Faculty of Engineering
• “Invest in people. Literally”: The rise of Income Share Agreements as an alternative to student loans in US higher education - Dr Tom Baker, Faculty of Science
• Redesign of membrane proteins for molecular selection - Associate Professor Jane Allison, Faculty of Science
• Experiential Digital Global Engagement (EDGE) Collaboration - Professor Bernadette Luciano, Faculty of Arts.

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