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AAAS Names FutureGen Scholars and Human Rights Essay Contest Winners

A collage of winners of the Student Essay Competition
The winners and honorable mentions for the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition Essay Competition are, clockwise from top left, Marco Travaglio, Patrick Schumacher, Garrett Williams, Zahra Ravat, Kalyani Ramadurgam and Quinn White. | Courtesy winners

The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition has named the winners for two different honors for undergraduate and graduate students.

Margaret Sanders and Hamza Woodson are the inaugural SciTech and Human Rights FutureGen Scholars, a new initiative that recognizes students who present a goal or course of action to address the intersection of science, technology and human rights on their campus and supports them with funding and mentorship.

The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition Essay Competition has, since 2014, honored outstanding analytical essays written by students on any topic at the intersection of science or technology and human rights. The 2021 winners and honorable mentions are:

  • Graduate Winner: Marco Travaglio, University of Cambridge, for “Solving the standstill: Right to science as a vehicle to global migration policies.”
  • Graduate Honorable Mentions: Patrick Schumacher, State University of New York at Albany, for “An analysis of potential policies to increase access to health care for unauthorized immigrants in the United States” and Garrett Williams, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for “A Letter Addressing the Ambiguity of Human Privacy Rights in the Quantum Revolution.”
  • Undergraduate Winner: Quinn White, Smith College for “Will Telehealth Revolutionize Access to Mental Health Care?”
  • Undergraduate Honorable Mentions: Kalyani Ramadurgam, Stanford University, for “AI and Human Rights: An Argument for the Field’s Tech Revolution” and Zahra Ravat, Queen Mary University of London (Barts’ and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry) for “The political clout of healthcare professionals: lessons from Myanmar.”

FutureGen Scholars

Since the 2009 launch of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition – a network of scientific and engineering membership organizations that have found a role for scientists and engineers in service to human rights – the Coalition has aimed to foster student participation in meetings, projects and activities. The FutureGen Scholars program builds upon this goal, helping students strengthen their interest in human rights, build leadership skills and bring knowledge of the intersection of science, technology and human rights to their own communities and campuses.

Margaret Sanders, an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut, was named a FutureGen Scholar for her proposed project: a web-hosted oral history project of environmental advocacy that will center narratives of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds.

“Often, people in marginalized communities are not considered experts of their own experiences, and they lack a seat at the table to voice their experiences,” wrote Sanders in her proposal. “My goal is to collaborate with members of diverse communities within Connecticut to uplift different perspectives of environmental advocates and activists in a way that can be utilized as intergenerational, inspirational education.”

Her project will yield an educational resource accessible to Connecticut middle and high school students, she noted.

The other FutureGen scholar, Hamza Woodson, an incoming freshman at Carroll Community College in Maryland, was selected for his proposal, “Human Rights and Cultural Heritage in Ethiopia.”

In addition to the research component of his project, Woodson will also partner with several teachers in Maryland “to develop social science lesson plans and discussion topics centered around the contemporary and historical identity of Ethiopia that will enrich and further develop Maryland history, geography, and science education,” he wrote. He will also collaborate with heritage managers and university professors in Ethiopia to disseminate his results to raise awareness of destruction, prevent further destruction and inform future mitigation or reconstruction of heritage sites.

Proposals were reviewed by experts in science, technology and human rights involved in the Coalition’s activities and selected by the Coalition’s Steering Committee based on a range of criteria, including creativity, feasibility and a clear scientific methodology in service of human rights objectives.

The coalition is pairing FutureGen Scholars with a volunteer mentor to provide guidance to help the project meet its goals and assist with the scholar’s professional development. Winners also receive $5,000 stipends, funded by the AAAS - Andrew M. Sessler Fund for Science, Education, and Human Rights.

Scholars attended the coalition’s Science, Technology and Human Rights Conference, held virtually October 21-22, and shared a brief progress report on their project. With the support of the Coalition, scholars will finish their projects in the spring of 2022, with students and mentors both submitting final reports.

For more information about the upcoming 2022-2023 scholarship cycle, visit the program FAQ and webinar.

Essay Competition

The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition Essay Competition has, for the last eight years, encouraged student involvement in the Coalition.

Judges for the competition, drawn from the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition’s member associations and affiliated individual members, select the winning essays based on originality and creativity in understanding and addressing human rights and scientific challenges, the strength of the writers’ analysis and reasoning, and the quality and clarity of their writing.

Winners and honorable mentions – selected from 34 entries from 13 different countries – tackled a range of timely topics at the intersection of science, technology and human rights, from global migration policies to health care access to artificial intelligence.

Winners receive a year’s membership to AAAS, a subscription to Science and a $1,500 stipend funded by the AAAS-Andrew M. Sessler Fund for Science, Education, and Human Rights. The undergraduate and graduate winners were also recognized at this month’s virtual Science, Technology and Human Rights Conference.


Andrea Korte

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