The core of the symposium will consist of faculty-driven workshops, intended to advance collaborative research.

Faculty, administrators, and students from Washington University in St. Louis, McDonnell Academy Partners, and scholars from other world-wide institutions will participate in various workshop sessions focusing on the thematic areas while working to strengthen network connections and discover new opportunities for research projects and collaborations.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person proceedings of the 8th International Symposium will be postponed to fall 2021. We will, however, hold a virtual session on the original dates this October 2020. Details to follow.

Big Data & Emerging Technologies

Efficient, Secure, and Privacy-Preserving Learning on the Edge, in the Cloud, and along the Chain

Convener: Xuan (Silvia) Zhang, Washington University in St. Louis

The objective of the project is to create a new innovative paradigm of software programming model and hardware computing fabric to perform high-performance, energy-efficient learning tasks with enhanced security property and privacy guarantee. Such technology has to potential to revolutionize the information industry across a wide range of domains including big data analytics, bioinformatics, remote medicine/point-of-care, autonomous transportation, and digital governance/democracy. From compute-heavy deep convolutional neural networks to memory-intensive recommendation algorithms, today’s top-performing learning models can be found in many applications take different shapes and forms that interact with our lives from social network, search engine, and personalized recommendation to wearable/implantable devices, automated diagnostics, and personalized medicine. The exponential growth and ubiquitous generation of information also demands an AI/ML system that can learn and adapt to fit the computational requirement within its unique resource and energy constraints. In addition to the technological innovation to improve the performance and efficiency of the learning systems, this project will also address many crucial implications that stem from real-world applications, such as security and privacy, when such powerful technology is applied to many intimate and life-threatening aspects of our lives. The question of how to protect personal privacy and defend the systems against potential malicious actors and attacks is another prominent challenge when dealing with the large-scale deployment of the envisioned technology.

Building innovative global research partnerships: the role of big data and digital healthcare technologies

Convener: Randi Foraker, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine

We recognize that the power of big data and digital technologies can reshape healthcare delivery and help solve global healthcare challenges. Our workshop is designed to demonstrate how to enhance collaborative research efforts with other McDonnell Academy partner institutions using our existing partnership with UDD as an exemplar.

Building and Cultivating International Research Teams

  • Panelists from I2 and UDD
  • Audience Q & A

Data Analytics across Countries and Healthcare Delivery Systems

  • Presenter: I2
  • Discussant: UDD

Designing Digital Tools for Impact in Healthcare Environments

  • Presenter: UDD
  • Discussant: I2

Barriers and Facilitators to Realizing the Promise of Big Data and Digital Technologies in Healthcare

  • Big data breakout session: I2
  • Digital technologies breakout session: UDD

Emerging Technologies in Maternal-Fetal Heath: Understanding the critical role of the Placenta in Health and Disease

Convener: Maria Laura Costa do Nascimento, State University of Campinas

The workshop aims to broaden understanding of healthy relationships and raise awareness about current knowledge and future research on maternal-fetal interface. Considering the diversity of conditions that a pregnant woman can face, very few have a clear pathway determined from the molecular level to the clinical level. This is to some extent due to the complexity of maternal-fetal development and the sometimes-overlooked organ, the placenta.

The placenta is the organ that mediates the exchange of substances between mother and fetus. At this interface, there are cell types that organize themselves to form a safe biological barrier and maintain an efficient exchange. Because of this level of complexity, new technologies of greater accuracy and efficiency come as a key opportunity for its understanding. Next-generation sequencing (NGS), high database-based analysis and innovative bioinformatics techniques are tools that can broaden knowledge in this area.

Using these technologies, recent studies on the placenta suggest the presence of microbiota residing in this organ. Studies based on metagenomics and RNA-Seq, the microbiome and placental immune and metabolic profile responses to infections such as the Zika virus can be traced and further associated with maternal and fetal adverse outcomes. Such studies may contribute to the understanding of key issues for improving health care in this area. It is important to understand the dynamics of mother-fetal crosstalk in health and disease. Exactly how these new technologies can be incorporated as useful tools in fetal-maternal health research is an ongoing topic.

This workshop will cover these areas in-depth and with a translational perspective, from basic to applied science, highlighting the possibilities that develop from it. Maternal-fetal health is a global issue and the possibility for great collaborative research between WashU and its McDonell Academy partner institution in Brazil, the State University of Campinas.

Memory, Culture, and Brain

Convener: Jeffrey M. Zacks, Washington University in St. Louis

Events of today and plans for tomorrow are rooted in memories of yesterday. As individuals, memories of the recent past guide our everyday actions and memories of our lives shape our concepts of ourselves. As cultures, memories of the historical past condition our cooperation, negotiation, and conflict. Memory depends on massive complex networks at multiple levels of analysis: at the subpersonal level, biological memory depends on massive-scale neural connectivity; at the personal level, autobiographical memory depends on networks of interaction between locations, objects, people, and information systems; on a global scale, collective memory depends on networks of interaction between people within a cultural group and across groups.

Memory, Culture, and Brain will build on active collaborations to explore new directions in memory research. One theme is the use of big data and activity tracking to take memory research out of the lab and into the social world. This is crucial because the structure of the social environment imposes structure on structure on memory, and such structure varies within and across cultures. A second theme is the use of large cross-cultural datasets to examine interactions between individual memory and collective senses of history. The interaction between history, culture, and memory is an urgent topic of study as new media and autocratic political movements are reshaping collective memory. A third theme is how memory changes across the adult lifespan and is affected by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. We are in the midst of a dramatic demographic shift in which the proportion of elders in many communities is outpacing anything previously observed; this makes it immediately important to understand how memory across cultures is affected by healthy aging and neurodegenerative disease.

Regulatory response to the power of Big Tech

Convener: Anna Gerbrandy, Utrecht University

This workshop will focus on the question of how to shape a possible legal/regulatory response to the growing power of big technology/platform companies. The premise of the workshop is that the power of these platform companies is a composite power. Of course, market power Рto which antitrust/competition law is a possible instrument Рis one aspect, but other aspects are having (access to) big data and the capacity for algorithmic analysis of data for the corporation’s purposes, the power to restructure social-economic arrangements (such as labor) and the power to influence legislative or other democratic processes. Therefore, the power of big technology companies might be a new kind of power. The question is whether new regulatory/legal responses are also necessary, to protect societal foundations and shared values. The workshop welcomes contributions that focus on the conceptualization of power, and contributions that focus on shaping a legal/regulatory response. It welcomes contributions from different jurisdictions/countries to compare perspectives.

Developing a Global Health Data Science Workforce

Convener: Phillip R. O. Payne, Washington University School of Medicine

The Institute for Informatics (I2) at Washington University School of Medicine is harnessing the power of big data to address healthcare challenges on a global scale. This includes everything from the burden of chronic disease to access and affordability to the cultural shift from, “sick care”, to wellness promotion.

We need a global workforce to keep up with the demands of data-driven decision making in the healthcare system. Our approach is to train this next generation of thought leaders and to create a global workforce that has the needed competencies to collaborate and address these issues across and between traditional geopolitical boundaries.

Participants in this four-hour workshop will learn how to operationalize the power of using synthetic patient and population-level data to enable reproducible data analytics in multiple environments and healthcare delivery systems. This will address fundamental issues associated with reproducibility of analytical approaches when seeking to transport them across populations and settings.

Workshop Overview

  • Establishing international educational partnerships – the Wash U/Fudan University experience
    • “Progressively incremental” approaches to building relationships and credibility (from site visits to workshops to degrees)
    • Partnering models for curriculum development and delivery
    • Audience Q & A
  • Cultural and environmental factors when designing international curricula
    • Content delivery and structure spanning cultures and languages
    • Selecting mutually understood use cases for hands-on learning
    • Audience Q & A
  • Community partnerships
    • Building a valuable educational “brand”
    • Engaging alumni, academic, and industry communities to support new programs
    • Audience Q & A
  • Outcome
    • Workshop participants will leave with project ideas and applications for follow-on seed grant funding to support technical infrastructure and subject matter expert engagement and incentives for “challenge” teams.
Women’s Health Technologies

Conveners: Quing Zhu and Chao Zhou, Washington University in St. Louis

The burden of disease and public health issues affecting women throughout their lives is high globally and significantly higher in resource-limited settings. Fighting diseases is a global effort that requires joint forces from scientists, engineers, clinicians, and entrepreneurs all around the world. Our overarching goal is to develop and translate novel and effective technologies to improve women’s health globally through capacity building and collaboration. Technologies for women’s health cover a wide spectrum from early detection of breast, ovarian and cervical cancers, development of contraceptive devices and therapies, detection of cervical and uterine changes during pregnancy, monitoring of fetal development, and understanding menopausal & post-menopausal health. The opportunities for novel technology development and innovation are significantly increasing in this space. This symposium will have an emphasis on the next generation of technology development and clinical translation to facilitate early and accurate disease diagnosis, treatment planning, and effective therapeutic strategies to shape the future of women’s healthcare. The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) at Washington University School of Medicine is one of the nation’s top medical schools and is the second-highest NIH funded OB/GYN department in the United States. The WashU Engineering School has a group of talented researchers working on technologies related to women’s health. The symposium will also include invited talks from renowned domestic and international scientists, engineers, and clinicians to provide an overview of their experience with and best practice for international collaborations. We believe this symposium will provide excellent opportunities for researchers/physicians to brainstorm new ideas and establish new collaborations to solve important problems related to women’s health.

Unlocking Human Potential

Diaspora and Displacement: Reimagining Home and Identity beyond National Boundaries

Convener: Zha Ma, Washington University in St. Louis

Chinese have traveled, sojourned, and settled abroad in great numbers since the late nineteenth century. Our panel is a transnational, interdisciplinary study of Chinese diasporic experiences over more than a century. Through careful examination of archival materials, multinational literature and film, and visual and performance art, our panel explores how these various hybrid, diasporic, and transnational practices as well as forces in humanities can shape the world and help us redefine our identity. It argues that the unsettling experience described in Chinese diasporic narratives has been integral in not only creating the Chinese nationalism and transnationalism, but also setting a norm for the cultural representation of Chinese abroad. Panelists will examine various social groups of diaspora in different places and political settings including overseas Chinese students, soldiers fighting on foreign soil, migrant laborers, political dissidents, and refugees. These various groups are unique in their own ways, but they all share unsettling, vulnerable diasporic experience. And it is that unsettling experience that inform the world of social and political problems in the global era, thereby playing a vital role in creating bonds and boundaries in a world divided by politics and ideologies. By bringing scholars from various fields including history, cultural studies, literature, visual and performing arts into productive interdisciplinary conversations, our panel explores the notions of transnationality and diaspora in a broad sense, which informs the construction of place and locality and exemplifies the role literature, film, and new media play in reshaping today’s society, and their capacity to translate the diasporic experience into social and cultural critique.

Global Perspectives on Migration and Politics: Dynamics of Mobility in Islamic Afro-Eurasia

Convener: Hayrettin Yücesoy, Washington University in St. Louis

Migration, whether forced or voluntary, peaceful or violent, has impacted humans across continents for millennia. It has proven to be one of the major forces shaping our global future. This workshop addresses how trans-regional Muslim migration in the last millennium and a half has created today’s Afro-Eurasia. As the first of a series of future meetings, this workshop focuses on the patterns of large and small, slow and fast movements of human groups, their causes and effects, impact on states and societies as well as long durée consequences in the world we live in today. The mass Arab migration of the seventh and eighth centuries from the Middle East to other regions of Afro-Eurasia, the great episode of Turkic and Mongol migration of the tenth to fifteenth centuries from Central Asia to other parts of Eurasia, the slow, but forced and violent African migration from Africa to other parts of Afro-Eurasia, the still remembered mass forced Balkan and Caucasus migration of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to and from the Middle East, and finally labor migration of the twentieth century from the Middle East to Europe form the broad contour of the workshop. Beyond framing the scope of research for further collaboration, the conveners shed light on these five major episodes of human migration around the common themes of connection and innovation.

OnTrack Chile for First Episode Psychosis

Convener: Leopoldo J. Cabassa, Washington University in St. Louis

Early interventions for people experiencing First Episode Psychosis (FEP) can reduce symptoms and minimize disability. FEP programs are being implemented in high-income countries. With the partial exception of Chile, there are no countries in Latin America that offer universal access to FEP services. Chile is unique among Latin American countries in having a platform for the implementation of FEP services, including 1) an FEP policy that facilitates the identification of FEP individuals at primary care and delivery of community-based FEP treatments at Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs), and 2) a public health care system within which these services can be fulfilled. Nonetheless, our team has documented that FEP services provided at CMHCs in Chile do not conform to recently established evidence-based practices. The overarching goal of our existing study is to address this shortfall in Chile by first adapting OnTrackChile (OTCH) from OnTrackNY (OTNY), a coordinated specialty care program for FEP currently being implemented across the United States, and then implementing and testing the effectiveness of OTCH on a wide scale. We are using the Dynamic Adaptation Process, an implementation science framework, to inform the adaptation and implementation of OTCH in Chile. We are using the Hybrid Trial Type 1 design to evaluate the implementation of OTCH as well as its effectiveness and cost in a cluster-RCT (N = 300 from 21 CMHCs). In this symposium we intend to achieve the following goals:

  • Discuss current state of the evidence of FEP services in Chile and the need for more psychosocial and recovery-oriented services.
  • Discuss the design of our cluster-randomized trial using an innovative Hybrid Type 1 implementation/effectiveness trial design.
  • Describe our OnTrack Chile intervention for FEP and the adaptations that we have made to fit the Chilean context.
  • Discuss how we are using this collaborative global mental health project to develop learning and training opportunities for graduate students.
Aging in Place in a Graying World

Convener: Hongxi Yin, Washington University in St. Louis

We propose to offer a 6-hour workshop that will bring together academic experts in design and development of senior living environments to support living in place through rehabilitative, habilitative, and healthy living programs. The goal is to create a coalition of investigators dedicated to developing and testing concepts, assistive living techniques, and technologies around supportive aging in place to test in a Chinese aging community. This work grows out of a currently existing partnership of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the Program in Occupational Therapy in the School of Medicine at Washington University. We seek to expand our team to include experts on architectural design and development from the Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU), a McDonnell Academy partner institution, as well as from Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology. In addition, we would like the opportunity to engage other members of the Washington University community and Washington University architectural design and occupational therapy students in our discussion and research planning. The expected outcome of this workshop will be a multidisciplinary and multinational research team poised to propose and conduct studies to tackle the complex societal problems of aging in place in a rapidly graying society. Our mission for this work is to take a holistic, multidisciplinary, and evidence-based approach to maintain healthy living for the elderly in a community. The environment will be designed and built to encourage the interactions and relationships among patients, doctors, and health professionals using smart-connected technology for monitoring, assessment, and diagnostics. Staff will be trained in supportive living techniques. Outcomes of seniors living in the community will be better than their age-peers living outside of the community.

Savings Accumulation and Long-Term Child Development: Challenges and Opportunities to Developing Child Savings Programs

Convener: Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Washington University in St. Louis

Savings play a unique role in shaping the financial security of individuals and families in high- and low-income countries. Sufficient amount of savings can help families maintain adequate levels of consumption, provide a buffer against financial shocks, and enable long-term investments in higher education or homeownership. Ultimately, having enough economic resources can help advance intergenerational economic mobility. Despite the potential benefits of asset accumulation, households tend to have low rates of savings, which can be explained by a lack of financial resources to set additional funds aside, behavioral factors such as the tendency to postpone savings decisions, and institutional barriers to savings.

Specialized savings programs like Child Savings Accounts (CSAs) have the potential to help families overcome various barriers to saving and improve asset-building efforts. CSAs are defined as savings or investment accounts typically opened at birth or young age that aim to promote savings and asset accumulation for long-term purposes such as post-secondary education. Several countries have implemented national CSA programs, and a number of non-governmental organizations have been establishing and promoting CSA initiatives.

This workshop explores the topic of asset building for long-term child development. We will start by providing an overview of several global initiatives that aim to build long-term assets through child savings programs. Next, focusing on the case of two countries—Israel and Uganda—the workshop will discuss in greater detail the process of implementation of child savings programs and the most recent evidence on CSAs. Finally, we will discuss the key challenges for implementing child savings programs and present different ways to overcome existing barriers. We expect that this workshop will help advance existing research to inform the design and implementation of CSA programs in different countries.

Financial Inclusion for Human Wellbeing

Convener: Michael Sherraden, Washington University in St. Louis

Financial inequality is rising in most countries around the world. As a result, many disadvantaged people experience hardship, and the resulting social and political strains can diminish economic growth. Over a long period of time, working with many international partners, we have been testing financial and social innovations to enable everyone to accumulate assets and improve financial capability (e.g.: Sherraden et al., 2015).

A specific asset-building strategy is Child Development Accounts (CDAs), which can promote financial inclusion and wealth accumulation for all. After the CDA concept was proposed in the early 1990s, a variety of CDA policies and programs have been implemented around the world. Positive impacts of CDAs on families and children are now well documented (e.g.: Johnson et al., 2018), and successful policy design features are coming into focus. At the same time, we continue to work with research partners from different countries to conduct further research and additional replications. CDA research and policy papers from seven countries are recently published as a special journal issue from McDonnell Academy partner National University of Singapore (Huang et al., 2019)

In addition, we are building a body of evidence on financial capability, defined as both the knowledge to make effective financial decisions and access to appropriate and beneficial financial services. This body of work has been replicated in Asia. In Singapore, Financial Capability and Asset Building (FCAB) integrated into professional training as part of social work practice. This professional practice can provide low-income and disadvantaged Singaporeans with guidance on household financial matters and access to appropriate services. In mainland China, the Chinese translation of the first FCAB textbook (Sherraden et al. 2018) is in progress and will be published in 2020. Interest in FCAB as social work practice continues to expand at universities in China, along with curriculum translations and education in Taiwan.

College Student Mental Health: A Growing Global Public Health Concern

Convener: Rebecca Lester, Washington University in St. Louis

In the United States, mental health concerns among college students are on the rise. Health centers are overrun, and staff can’t keep up with the demand for services, leading to significant unmet needs. The crisis is so pronounced that the American Psychological Association has begun advocating on behalf of specific programs to address these issues, an unusual move for the organization ( All of this has led some to wonder: What is wrong with America’s youth?

Although international data is sparse, there are strong indicators that increasing mental health concerns among college students are a global phenomenon. Worsening college student mental health is not simply an American phenomenon but may indicate something about generational concerns more broadly. Yet to date, most studies of college student mental health have been country-specific and survey-based. While such research yields important information, more robust, interdisciplinary and cross-cultural engagement is needed in order to fully investigate this complex phenomenon.

This workshop convenes scholars from Brazil, China, Turkey, and the US to design and initiate an international, collaborative, mixed-methods research project on college student mental health. Our goal for the workshop is to identify key research questions and study aims and to begin to build a research strategy and timeline, as well as to potentially connect with researchers at other partner universities interested in collaboration.

Globalizing Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV: A Comparative Analysis of the (Re)Medicalizing of HIV

Conveners: Shanti Parikh and Bradley Stoner, Washington University in St. Louis

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a highly effective prevention strategy that is being rolled out worldwide in an effort to stem the tide of HIV infection. While the clinical efficacy of PrEP is undeniable, little is known about how taking a daily drug to prevent HIV fits into the lifeways, goals, sexual lives, and healthcare experiences of those being targeted. Social science perspectives draw attention to the ways in which HIV prevention is being refocused primarily on medication uptake and adherence rather than reducing risk behaviors, and the implications of this movement for understanding how individuals see themselves and the PrEP. Resistance to PrEP at the individual level is seen as a failure of either the individual or public health interventions; yet anthropological research suggests a more nuanced understanding of HIV risk and prevention which takes into consideration personal assessments of self, identity, risk perception. These issues apply importantly to so-called “target groups” for PrEP expansion, including men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender and gender-nonconforming youth of color, commercial sex workers, injection drug users, and other communities.

This workshop engages faculty from Washington University, the University of Campinas Brazil, and local PrEP experts, providers, and advocates from St. Louis in order to explore hidden implications of the global expansion of PrEP. The ultimate aim of the workshop is to design a cross-country research project that fills the current gaps in our knowledge about how PrEP fits (or doesn’t fit) into life projects, knowledge, goals, and complicated histories of communities that are being targeted. Workshop topics include: remedicalization of HIV; tension between personhood (life projects) and patient-hood (therapeutic itineraries); biocitizenship under PrEP regimes, PrEP rumors driven, and other factors which affect PrEP decision-making at the individual level. Discussants will consider broad social and ethical implications of PrEP expansion in the era of globalization.

Language and Cognitive Impairment

Convener: Mitchell Sommers, Washington University in St. Louis

Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders have been primarily considered to be diseases of memory. However, there is growing evidence that the disorders can produce severe declines in production and comprehension of spoken language that are critically important because they contribute to both caregiver burden and patient frustration. In 2018, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. provided an estimated 18.5 billion hours of informal (unpaid) assistance, a contribution to the nation valued at $233.9 billion. Costs worldwide are estimated at ten times this number. As the number of individuals suffering from this and other neurodegenerative diseases increases these costs will escalate exponentially. By developing effective methodologies for improving spoken communication we can make important contributions not only to reducing this caregiver burden but also to improving the overall quality of life for individuals with these disorders. In the proposed workshop, we will bring together experts in audiology, otolaryngology, Alzheimer’s management, and caregiver burden to: 1) evaluate current evidence regarding the relationship between sensory decline and cognitive impairment; 2) determine the current state of understanding about best practices for improving spoken communication in individuals with neurodegenerative disorders; 3) develop new methods for improving speech production and understanding in these populations; and 4) design methods for assessing the efficacy of the new techniques for improving spoken language use. Among the issues to be considered will be to identify the potential and limitations of hearing aid use in individuals with neurodegenerative disorders, how current programs of auditory training can be adapted for use with these populations, and what types of behavioral training and counseling can be used most effectively to improve speech understanding.

Childcare in Neoliberal Times

Convener: Caitlyn Collins, Washington University in St. Louis

High-quality, affordable, and widely available childcare is essential to mothers’ labor force participation. Yet, countries vary dramatically in their delivery of this care. For example, childcare is viewed as a public good in Nordic countries where it is government-subsidized and widely available. By contrast, childcare in the U.S. and other liberal welfare states is treated as a commodity best reconciled through competitive market forces. Cross-national variation in childcare contexts reflect dynamic political environments where notions of gender, family, career opportunities, and social welfare are debated and redefined. While public support for childcare has been historically limited in the neoliberal context of the U.S., massive shifts in women’s occupational, educational, and political advancement over the past several decades have renewed discussion about the government’s role in childcare. States like North Dakota have expanded access to childcare services such as Head Start, while local municipalities like Washington, D.C. have successfully passed legislation to provide universal preschool. Childcare and parental leave policies are taking center stage in national elections. From the local to the federal level, these signs of seismic change in the U.S. require researchers to re-examine childcare provisions and their role in contemporary family life. Our project will apply our understanding of childcare cross-nationally to examine the consequences of childcare contexts in the U.S. and how they may be improved. We aim to inform present debates over childcare policy regarding the most effective ways to improve women’s lives and families’ wellbeing. We ask the following questions:

  1. How do different states, counties, and cities account for the labor of social reproduction?
  2. Can U.S. states adopt some of the practices of Nordic welfare states that have been shown to improve mothers’ and children’s lives?
  3. What are the implications of different childcare approaches for social equality in the U.S. and how can we advance the most effective policy?
Enhancing cognitive capacity in sub-Saharan Africa<strong> </strong>

Convener: Mark Manary, Washington University School of Medicine

Sub-Saharan Africa will be the home to about 1 billion more people in the next 35 years; this will constitute half of the world’s population growth. The growth in the world’s economy to support this growing population will be more focused on knowledge creation and application of information in the workplace. The population as a whole will need to function at a higher cognitive level than was attained in previous generations. To achieve this higher function, infants and young children need to have the capacity to process, analyze and react to a more complex set of environmental stimuli.

An example of this is seen in agriculture. Fifty years ago, African farmers learned their craft by copying patterns from elders. The availability of new farmlands was endless. Water, soil and sunlight were available in limitless quantities. Currently, land and the natural environmental inputs need to be managed to maximize agricultural output. Effective knowledge management will only increase if the planet can feed its human population. The modern subsistence farmer in Africa benefits from utilizing climate and weather information to guide his/her application of water, fertilizer and pest control measures. Farming requires more thought in the 21st century.

At present in nutrition, we are just beginning to understand how to build cognitive capacity, through nutrient and food intake and supplementation. We do not have the tools to measure relevant markers of cognition. The vision for “Enhancing cognitive capacity in sub-Saharan Africa” is to develop the tools to measure cognitive capacity in very young children, develop and test nutritional interventions to increase this capacity and implement the most successful interventions at scale.

Is International Criminal Law Truly International?

Convener: Leila Nadya Sadat, Washington University School of Medicine

With the establishment of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the field of international criminal law exploded. Their relative success spawned the creation of other ad hoc tribunals for East Timor, Cambodia, and Sierra Leone, and the establishment of national and hybrid courts, like the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and the Iraqi High Tribunal. A unique aspect of the UN ad hoc tribunals was the participation of judges and personnel from around the world. The range of situations being tried also suggests relatively wide regional distribution of international justice mechanisms. 

The establishment of the International Criminal Court in 1998 built upon this practice. Yet in some ways, it is less representative because States can choose whether to join. Asian States, in particular, have the lowest rate of participation of any regional grouping.

In her award-winning book, Is International Law International?, Anthea Roberts (Oxford 2017) writes about dominance, disruption, and difference between legal systems as they contest the boundaries of international law. In the context of international criminal law, her framework helps explain the contested nature of international criminal law, especially in Asia, as the Nuremberg paradigm did not travel well to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, a phenomenon that may explain Asian reluctance to embrace its legacy wholeheartedly.

In this workshop, participants from diverse legal systems will discuss the intersection of “dominance, disruption, and difference” in the context of international criminal law and explore a series of problems that have raised these questions, such as establishing guilt or innocence under the common law “reasonable doubt” standard, sentencing, immunities, pleading, and even the purpose of the criminal trial. The workshop explores both case studies and theoretical constructs, in a thought experiment that can test Professor Roberts’ question on whether there truly is universal international (criminal) law.

Our Planet at Risk

Occurrence and removal of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in drinking water sources and drinking water supplies

Convener: Orhan Yenigun, Bogazici University

This workshop will highlight recent advances and identify current challenges and opportunities regarding the occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern in drinking water supplies and technologies for their removal. These contaminants include antibiotics and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Antibiotic resistance has emerged as a significant health-care problem because of the extensive use and misuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture. Endocrine disruptors constitute a wide range of chemicals that can directly or indirectly affect or interfere with the hormone system. Metals and trace inorganic contaminants in drinking water supplies are not new contaminants, but recent high profile water quality crises in distribution systems and new regulations have made also made them ones of emerging concern. Many contaminants of emerging concern are only infrequently detected and at low concentrations, but exposure to some of these contaminants has been associated with adverse effects on human health and ecosystems.

Addressing challenges posed by contaminants of emerging concern requires collaboration among scientists, engineers, and policymakers. The detection and quantification of contaminants in this category at low concentrations is important and will benefit from advances in sampling and analysis techniques. Information on the occurrence and concentrations of contaminants of emerging concerns in different national and regional contexts is lacking. The international partnership of the McDonnell Academy can provide a platform for synthesizing existing information on contaminant occurrence and developing targeted plans for the collection of new data. The performance of engineered approaches for removal of these contaminants from water supplies varies with water composition, and there are opportunities for the development of new removal technologies.

Connecting the Global Surface Particulate Matter Network (SPARTAN) with the McDonnell Academy

Convener: Randall Martin, Washington University in St. Louis

Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in outdoor air is a leading global mortality risk factor, with three million attributable deaths estimated by the Global Burden of Disease for 2017 and associated annual global welfare costs of $3 trillion as estimated by the OECD. However, most cities and countries worldwide have insufficient PM2.5 measurements to manage their air quality. Many countries have no PM2.5 measurements. PM2.5 composition measurements, which are useful for identification of contributing sources, are even fewer.

The Surface Particulate Matter Network (SPARTAN; is being developed to address current gaps in knowledge of PM2.5 concentrations. Measurement of fine particulate mass and composition offers local information, and data to evaluate and enhance satellite-based estimates of PM2.5. The network provides publicly available data on PM2.5 mass, chemical composition, and optical characteristics for connection with satellite remote sensing.

Workshop objectives are to connect SPARTAN with the McDonnell Academy community, to strengthen connections of SPARTAN with Washington University, and to strengthen connections of Washington University with McDonnell Academy partner institutions.

The Role of Topology in Environmental Systems Analysis

Convener: Jr-Shin Li, Washington University in St. Louis

Topology has been widely applied in diverse areas such as physics, biology, and computer science, but remains unprevailing in environmental science and engineering. For example, connectedness is a fundamental property in topology and is an essential characteristic in climate, hydrology, or ecology. However, it is often overlooked and not taken into account in environmental systems analysis.

In this workshop, we will discuss the role of topology in environmental systems analysis, involving topics that span from topological data science and analytics to environmental applications. The special focus will be placed on the studies in discovering topological properties in large-scale, complex environmental datasets, especially their time-varying topological structures. This research symposium aims to create a dialog between applied mathematicians, data scientists, and environmental engineers and scientists to share state-of-the-art knowledge and current challenges from an interdisciplinary point of view. The overall objective is to brainstorm and exchange ideas to make innovative, tractable, and proper methods for environmental data analysis, which will yield informative and optimal strategies towards policy decision making.

The Origin of Eurasian Food-way and Cuisines: Environmental challenge and culinary solutions to Food Globalization in Prehistory

Convener: Xinyi Liu, Washington University in St. Louis

Between 5000 and 1500 cal. BC, the Eurasian and African landmass underwent a continental-scale process of food ‚ “globalization” of staple crops. During this process, the so-called ‚ “Fertile Crescent Founder Crops”, notably wheat and barley, moved from their origin of domestication in western Asia to ancient Europe, India, and China, while broomcorn and foxtail millet moved in the opposite direction: from East Asia to West Asia, the Caucasus and Europe. Rice traveled across East, South and Southeast Asia; African millets and sorghum moved across sub-Saharan Africa and subsequently the Indian Ocean. By 1,500 cal. BC, the process brought together previously isolated agricultural zones to form a new kind of farming system that enabled multi-cropping.

Early farming societies in East and West Asia were characterized by two fundamental distinctions: seasonality of cultivation and culinary customs. In the context of food globalization in prehistory, the predominantly winter-sown West Asian crops (i.e. wheat and barley) spread to East Asia, where the indigenous cereals such as millet and rice are mostly sown in the spring and summer. Conversely, the predominantly spring-sown crops broomcorn and foxtail millet spread to West Asia and Europe, where the indigenous grains are originally winter sown. The East-West systems also differ in food processing technologies: culinary traditions based on boiling and steaming of grain in East Asia, and grinding grain and baking the resulting flour in West Asia. The two culinary traditions are associated with distinct material cultures: pottery vessels for boiling/steaming in the East and grinding stone and ovens for baking in the West. Recent research indicates that the adaptation of cereal crops to novel seasonal and culinary conditions may have played important roles in facilitating the expansion of farming communities. In this workshop, we consider the environmental and social drivers of the trans-Eurasian exchange of cereal crops with a geographic focus on both sides of Asia: Anatolia and the Yellow River region.

Sustainable Biofuels for Marine Application: initial discussions towards a global roadmap

Convener: Luis Augusto Barbosa Cortez, Washington University in St. Louis

There is a growing need to substitute fossil transportation fuels, and this includes the marine sector. However, despite this need, there is not yet a consensus about the most promising feedstocks and technology pathways to implement wide-spread utilization of renewable fuels in the marine sector. Due to the main characteristics of the marine sector, future marine biofuels will need to be both environmentally sustainable and economically competitive. To address this problem, Unicamp and WUSTL intend to play a coordinating role in developing a global roadmap involving experts in each critical topic. The main objective here is first, to conduct a preliminary workshop to discuss the main issues and identify the main stakeholders involved. Then, the second step will be to present a full proposal to write a collaborative research project. The intention is also to work with the MAGEEP Consortium of universities in order to facilitate a more intense global participation and commitment.


Conveners: Himadri Pakrasi and Joseph Jez, Washington University in St Louis

The theme of the workshop will be BIOMANUFACTURING. This topic fits well with the current US national conversation about the use of Synthetic Biology and other emerging approaches to harness the potential of Biology to meet societal needs and help usher us into a new era of Bioeconomy. Both ICGEB and Washington University have significant expertise in the use of Biological organisms for the production of various commodity and specialty chemicals, biofuels as well as pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals. We expect that members of other local institutions such as the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will also participate in this workshop. A key objective of this workshop will be to discuss potential collaborations between the participating institutions.