THE Young University Rankings 2018: complex problems need creative solutions

Young universities appreciate diversity and are particularly adept at responding to the needs of society, says Judy Genshaft

June 6, 2018
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In our increasingly complex and often polarised global society, young universities are uniquely positioned to address many of the world’s challenges – while promoting cross-cultural respect and understanding.

At the University of South Florida, we believe it is our responsibility to serve as a globally engaged research institution. We are focused on creating a meaningful impact on the future through innovation and invention – and by building and maintaining collaborative relationships throughout the world.

Examples of our 280 international partnerships can be found across our three-campus system.

Faculty researchers from the College of Public Health are aiming to reduce the transmission of malaria in Cambodia with the help of drone technology. They are working with Cambodians in an area of the Mekong River that is experiencing both anti-malarial drug resistance as well as mosquito insecticide resistance. The drones will help locate mosquitoes in their larval aquatic stages.

In Madagascar, faculty from Civil & Environmental Engineering are working to improve health and community well-being by reducing lead concentrations in water supplied by locally manufactured hand pumps.

Our College of Public Health is partnering with three other organisations to evaluate the use of social marketing to reduce salt intake in Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica and Paraguay. Many residents of these nations exceed the recommended daily limit because of cultural consumption habits, putting them at greater risk for hypertension.

A team of researchers from the USF College of Engineering is helping to solve the world’s water and sanitation crisis. The innovative sewage treatment solution known as the NEWgenerator was installed in India in 2016 and in Durban, South Africa, earlier this year. The NEWgenerator is able to process sewage into nutrients, biogas and clean water.

Our Health Informatics Institute has collaborated with researchers at Lund University in Sweden – among numerous international networks – to develop new insights into the co-occurrence of type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease autoimmunity.

Another example of the benefits of international collaboration is the affiliation agreement signed earlier this year between the University of South Florida Research Park and Maynooth University in Ireland. Our two institutions will work together and support emerging technology and life sciences companies in Florida and Ireland.

Although we are separated by an ocean, we share the goal of supporting our local and regional economies. We look forward to welcoming spinoff and startup companies from Ireland bringing new ideas and technologies to Florida. Innovators affiliated with USF will be able to explore opportunities in Ireland, which will also serve as a gateway to European markets.

The University of South Florida also is a founding institutional member of – and the home to – the prestigious and highly selective National Academy of Inventors, which recognises and encourages inventors with patents issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Since 2010, the Academy has grown to include more than 4,000 individual inventor members and fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide, reflecting a shared commitment to innovation that improves society. The USPTO is an Academy partner.

A critical component in so many research initiatives and innovations is the contribution of students – at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Like our dedicated researchers and scholars, they enjoy the thrill of contributing new knowledge. Perhaps more important, however, are such skills as critical thinking, teamwork and cultural awareness developed through international partnerships and interdisciplinary collaborations in pursuit of new discoveries – skills that we know are in great demand among employers in so many sectors.

Many of the complex problems we face today cannot be solved in the relatively comfortable confines of traditional university environments. Strong partnerships lead to creative solutions and help our students develop new skills – and a deeper appreciation for the world’s great diversity.

Young universities are contemporary, agile and particularly adept at responding to the needs of society. We know colleagues around the world share our passion for making life better through innovation and invention. By enhancing existing partnerships and creating new ones, we have wonderful opportunities to address pressing global issues as we continue building bridges to understanding. 

Judy Genshaft, president, University of South Florida System.

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