The Center for Global Engagement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers funding opportunities for students, faculty and staff to help build global connections with international colleagues and institutional partners. These are known as the Global Catalyst Grants Program and come in the form of student travel, programming and research grants to help foster UT global connections.
Read on to learn more about the 2022–23 Global Catalyst Faculty Research Grant recipients and the amazing work from each of these amazing faculty.
To learn more about Global Catalyst Grants visit globalgrants.utk.edu.
Xiaopeng Zhao is from the Shanxi province of China and has been a faculty member in the Tickle College of Engineering for 15 years. Zhao said he was drawn to UT because the unique Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering allows him to teach and research both mechanical and biomedical engineering, while most universities separate these two areas of engineering.
Zhao’s research focuses on solving issues related to Alzheimer’s-related dementia by using AI robotics. Through his research, he has developed a robot named “Friendly Robot to Ease Dementia (FRED),” which uses ChatGPT to engage in conversations with Alzheimer’s patients, reminds patients to complete tasks such as drink water and offers games for patients to play. FRED is designed to increase independence among Alzheimer’s patients to improve their quality of life, address social isolation and help reduce cognitive decline.
Zhao has collaborated with the RIKEN research organization in Japan for his robotics research. “International collaboration will help us learn from each other’s strengths and research expertise and defy critical challenges,” said Zhao.
Comparing the Retention, Coping, and Mental Health of Women in Computing Professions Globally
Vandana Singh is from the foothills of the Himalayas in India and has been a faculty member in the College of Communication and Information since 2008.
Singh traveled to Trondheim, Norway in September 2023 to participate in a workshop and give two panel presentations at NTNU. At the conference, she presented her research, which focuses on creating better experiences for women and minorities in the technology industry across the globe. Singh said that there are not enough women working in technology, so she works to understand what the challenges and barriers are for them so that working in technology is a more equitable environment for women.
Singh was an undergraduate in India, and she completed her graduate degrees in both the Netherlands and the US. “The way I think about things is really informed by my education in three different continents in three completely different ways of teaching and learning. I love the aspect of how different we are but also how similar we are, and that’s really opened my mind,” said Singh.
The University of Tennessee and the University of Poitiers Partnership on the Aftermath of Crisis
Gregor Kalas was raised in Washington, D.C. and is a faculty member in the College of Architecture and Design. He said he values the research by UT faculty in late antiquity and the early medieval ages because it offers opportunities for joint research projects, which Kalas collaborates with.
Kalas traveled to Poitiers, France in May 2023, where he and four others from UT held a conference and investigated the sites of Chauvigny and Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe. He set up a collaboration between the UT Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and the Université de Poitiers Centre des études supérieures de civilisation médiévale (Center for the Study of Medieval Civilization). The conference shared approaches to investigating the aftermath of conflict, disease and warfare that were central issues during the Middle Ages.
When Kalas was an undergraduate, he studied abroad in Italy. “Participating in cultural activities while learning a foreign language opened my eyes to different perspectives on society,” said Kalas.
About the Center for Global Engagement
The Center for Global Engagement works to lead, coordinate and support the university’s strategies for global education, research and engagement. Initiatives include developing and managing international partnerships, welcoming and assisting international students and scholars, providing education abroad opportunities to students and creating international and inter-cultural programming for campus and the broader community.
Jason Moody (865-974-5752, email@example.com)