$2 Million research grant on India inaugurated with first round of awards at University of Pennsylvania

The IREF project “The Inhabited Sea,” led by Nikhil Anand in the School of Arts and Sciences and Anuradha Mathur in the School of Design, examines in part how populations such as the dock workers of Mumbai (pictured above) understand and negotiate their relationship with the rising seas that surround them. Photo by Rudolph A. Furtado, from Wikimedia Commons, via University of Pennsylvania

During the next two years University of Pennsylvania’s Penn India Research and Engagement Fund (IREF) will award as much as $2 million in matching research grants to Penn faculty to stimulate and support research activity in India.

The inaugural IREF awards were announced in a press release by Penn’s Provost Wendell Pritchett and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel, Oct. 19.

From “Applying behavioral economics insights to achieve reductions in household air pollution in India” to “Reversing the Digital Divide: Digital Banking in Rural India,” the IREF-sponsored projects cover a wide range of issues. They include dairy and water buffalo production and economic development; urbanization; rising sea levels and the future of coastal cities; connections between health, social, behavioral change,  and the environment; and improving treatment for disease.

Totaling $800,000 in matching funds from the Provost’s Office, the inaugural IREF awards support 15 projects involving researchers across eight of Penn’s 12 schools and six centers and institutes which are collaborating with nearly 50 Indian institutional partners, as well as more than 10 international universities and other partner organizations worldwide.

Anuradha Mathur, professor of landscape architecture in Penn’s School of Design, said the IREF awards will bring her work to another level. Mathur’s project, “Reclaiming India’s Nalas”, imagines the hydraulic infrastructure of Indian cities, and she said that the funds will “facilitate the participation of leading biotic engineers in the U.S. and India on a project in Patna that has implications for other places in India and how we think about design and infrastructure in a monsoon landscape.”

Penn boasts 2,000 alumni who live in India. Indian students make up a large percentage of Penn’s international undergraduate and graduate student population on campus, and annually, Penn sends many students to India for study abroad programs and internship exchanges, the University said. “At present, 147 Penn faculty members report activity on more than 230 projects in or relating to India, though the actual figures are certainly higher than this,” the press release said.

A number of the inaugural Penn IREF projects will be featured as part of a research “blitz” at the second annual Penn India Research Symposium Friday, Nov. 2, to be held at Perry World House. Attendance is open to the public.




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