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Boundless Research Potential: Global Breakthroughs | MIT News

by Tech Desk
2 minutes read
Boundless Research Potential: Global Breakthroughs | MIT News

In today’s interconnected world, fostering global collaboration is essential to address complex challenges and advance scientific progress. The Global Seed Funds (GSF) program at MIT Center for International Studies remains a vital catalyst, enabling MIT faculty to engage in cross-border collaborations, driving innovative research projects and resulting in innovative solutions.

Since its inception in 2008, the GSF program has enabled transformative global research partnerships by enabling access to resources and perspectives that reach beyond the Cambridge, Massachusetts campus. The GSF is made up of a general fund that can be applied to any country, as well as a series of funds specific to each country, region, and university.

“The collaboration has been a great success,” explains Rafael Gómez-Bombarelli, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, winner of the MIT-Spain Sustainability Seed Fund 2017. “We have published half a dozen articles, including a Science Article in 2021 and received a couple of patents. As well, we have received funding from Deshpande (Center for Technological Innovation) explore the creation of companies in this space”.

During the 2022-23 GSF funding cycle, 168 proposals were submitted, reflecting the widespread enthusiasm and commitment of faculty and research scientists across the Institute. In the end, 91 projects were selected awarding more than $2.1 million in funding. This year’s awards further consolidate GSF’s track record of support as the program has funded 1,204 projects worth $24.7 million during its 15-year life.

The GSF program plays a critical role in establishing rewarding connections between MIT and other leading research institutions around the world. These partnerships often transcend the initial project and lead to ongoing collaborations tackling critical challenges that require international solutions. Research results from seed funding projects frequently culminate in published articles. At the same time early results take advantage of additional funding opportunities and attract industry partners further accelerating research impact. The GSF program serves as a springboard for long-term collaborations and opens doors for future joint projects, strengthening the global network of knowledge sharing and innovation.

Research recently published in Nature was funded in part through a common fund awarded to Canan Dagdeverin, an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab. His team tested an adaptive sensory interface that can be plugged into the inside of any user-provided mask. The integration of wearable electronic devices into masks to monitor personal and public health is a crucial research area, especially with regard to infectious diseases and environmental conditions. “The GSF program recognizes the importance of research like this and its potential to address real-world challenges and advance knowledge and technology,” says Jin-Hoon Kim, a postdoc at the MIT Media Lab and a member of Dagdeverin’s team.

The program also provides students with important educational opportunities. Since most of the GSF teams include students, the program contributes to MIT’s educational mission and promotes intercultural learning. Students actively participate in cutting-edge research, gaining valuable skills, and contributing to groundbreaking discoveries. Their involvement extends beyond lab experiences and enhances their understanding of global challenges ultimately shaping their future careers.

For example, MIT students who collaborated with Leo Anthony Celi, winner of the 2020 MIT-Israel Zuckerman STEM Seed Fund, “participated in a data marathon and actively worked with their teams for two days. The teams were very diverse both in terms of skills and cultural backgrounds,” says Celi, a senior research scientist at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Sciences. “In this way, students not only learned how to develop algorithms using real-world health data but more importantly gained insights into health and disease through multiple lenses.”

After 15 successful years, the GSF program continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of the global research landscape. By fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, promoting diversity, and addressing pressing societal challenges, the program plays a key role in MIT’s commitment to global engagement. Through these seed funds, faculty and students are empowered to push the boundaries of scientific discovery, foster global connections, and shape a more interconnected and collaborative world.

The next call for proposals will launch on September 12. “We are looking forward to another strong application cycle,” says Justin Leahey, deputy director of GSF. The 2023-24 call will include new funding in additional countries, including but not limited to Armenia, Brazil, India, and Norway.

The Center for International Studies produces research that creatively addresses global issues while helping to educate the next generation of global citizens. It is home to many programs, including the MIT Security Studies Program and International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), MIT’s premier international experiential learning program. The CIS Global Seed Funds program was created to help MIT faculty foster new connections by supporting early-stage collaborations with researchers from peer institutions around the world. Since 2008, the CIS GSF program has awarded nearly $22 million to more than 1,000 faculty research projects.

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