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News Category: Announcements


Work With Us: Communications and Events Intern


The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University is seeking an intern for the Spring 2019 semester for its Cambridge office. The Mittal Institute engages in interdisciplinary research to advance and deepen the understanding of critical issues in South Asia and the region’s relationship to the world. It holds regular events on issues relating to South Asia; offers fellowships and grants to further the study of the South Asian region; produces essential research and projects on social, economic, and political issues in South Asia; and much more. This internship is a great opportunity for students interested in a career in marketing, events management, communications, or international relations to learn more about these fields and to build valuable skills in these areas.

This is a paid internship that requires a part-time commitment of 8–12 hours per week. Please note that this internship is only open to current Harvard University undergraduate and graduate students.

The major responsibilities of this position include (but are not limited to):

  • Assisting with the planning, logistics, and publicity for the Institute’s events, programs, and projects.

  • Graphic design for posters, social media, and digital banners as needed.

  • Social media management on platforms including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

  • Aiding in communications tasks, including newsletter planning, article creation, student and faculty outreach, and more.

  • Assisting with administrative and office tasks, including data entry, supply management, filing, and event support.

Qualifications:

  • Undergraduate or graduate Harvard student with a focus in Design, Communications, Marketing, South Asian Studies, International Relations, or related fields

  • Experience in Adobe Lightroom, InDesign, and graphic design required
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, WordPress, and social media platforms
  • Excellent writing and editing skills and some office experience

  • An interest in South Asia is preferred, but not required

To Apply:

Please send a brief statement of interest, a resume, and a writing sample to Alex Gilliard at agilliard@fas.harvard.edu.

Application Deadline: February 8, 2019

Professor Pawan Sinha Visits The Mittal Institute’s India Office


Professor Pawan Sinha, leader of the scientific foundation Project Prakash, recently visited the India office of The Mittal Institute to discuss potential expansion strategies and how the India office can help the foundation achieve its larger goals. In addition to his leadership of Project Prakash, he is a professor of vision and computational neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Project Prakash is supported by The Mittal Institute under its “Multidisciplinary Approach to Innovative Social Enterprises” project, funded by the Tata Educational and Development Trust. Project Prakash addresses two compelling and complementary needs: one humanitarian, the other scientific. Merging scientific research with pediatric care, this project provides treatment to curably blind children, illuminates fundamental questions regarding brain plasticity and learning, and creates a comprehensive picture of pediatric health across several sites in India.

India Country Director of The Mittal Institute, Sanjay Kumar, met with Prof. Sinha and Mr. Ajay Chawaria, Executive Director of Project Prakash Trust, to discuss developing and running Prakash Vision Centers and other innovative ideas for the Project. The Mittal Institute plans to connect with business graduates and entrepreneurs who can work pro bono and advise the Project team in their development and implementation of the expansion strategy.

The Project Prakash Trust will also take the lead in curating and organizing a “Dinner in the Dark” that will take place in July 2019 in Delhi, with the goal of raising awareness and fundraising for the Trust. In a unique format, the participants in this event will dine blindfolded to help them understand the life of blind people — especially the children. The Mittal Institute will help Prof. Sinha’s team connect with relevant groups that can assist in organizing the event. 

India Seminar Series: “Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World”


 

“Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World”, an event jointly organized by The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute and the Harvard Global Health Institute and presented in New Delhi, examined the connections between human, animal and environmental health, and the response to disease outbreaks in India.

The panelists included eminent public health scholars and practitioners, including Ashish Jha, KT Li Professor of Global Health at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and Director, Harvard Global Health Institute, Kayla Laserson, Lecturer of Epidemiology, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Director, CDC India, Preetha Rajaraman, US Health Attache for India and Regional Representative for South Asia, Department of Health and Human Services, and Urvashi Prasad, Office of the Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog.

Rajaraman discussed the transnational scope of epidemics and disease outbreaks, and how the US government is collaborating with India to prepare for and prevent disease, and provide surveillance and disease control programs. Laserson talked about training EIS (Epidemic Intelligence Service) officers to investigate and identify a public health outbreak, implement control measures on the ground and collect research to inform preventive measures.

She recalled an example of an outbreak that occurred during the lychee harvest season in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where children started to suffer from seizures and an altered mental state with no apparent cause. The CDC pathogen discovery lab did not find an infectious pathogen to connect to this strange outbreak; however, the EIS workers, after much research, found that a toxin in lychees causes hypoglycaemia, which can be fatal if the child does not have enough to eat.

Prasad emphasised the need to make India’s central and state public health systems much stronger than they are. Most the of Center’s health budget goes to curative care instead of prevention and public health, but India cannot afford to rely on medical professionals. There is an acute need for a public health workforce to better manage health systems. 

Prof Ashish Jha moderated a conversation that included discussion about India’s preparedness for disease outbreak, the AAYUSH healthcare system, engagement with non-traditional partners, the need for focus on public health and the private sector’s responsibilities. The Mittal Institute will continue to engage in dialogues on public health in India and provide spaces for furthers conversations through such forums.

Understanding the Taboo of Interfaith Relationships: Visiting Artist Profile


Across South Asia, there is often disapproval, to say the least, of romantic relationships between people from different backgrounds. And despite the long, rich and occasionally fraught history of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others coexisting on the subcontinent, inter-faith relationships remain taboo in large swathes of the region.

Samsul Alam Helal is a photographer from Dhaka, Bangladesh, who aims to capture the challenges of such relationships in his home city. He has spent the fall of 2018 in Cambridge as a Visiting Artist Fellow at the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute. The program enables talented, accomplished artists from South Asia to elevate and share their work with the Harvard community.

Helal’s work aims to tell the stories of people from neglected and minority backgrounds and explore, as he puts it, “their identity, dreams and longings”. His work, he says, “represents a reality in an alternate space”. His ‘Runaway Lovers‘ stories feature couples in Bangladesh who have faced extraordinary difficulties, by any standards, in their pursuit of a life together. 

At Harvard, as well as taking classes about sound and art, Helal has sought to further his understanding of complex socioreligious dynamics and their long global history, in order to develop his own artistic portrayals. He cites the Harvard Art Museum – and especially its Mughal-era miniatures – as a particular source of inspiration but he’s also discovered plenty outside the university. “I found a place near Davis Square,” he says. “A church that Muslims use for Friday prayers. It’s so interesting to see interactions like this.”

It’s his first time in the US and as well as absorbing as much of Harvard as possible, it’s highly unlikely that a photographer – or any artist – could pass up the opportunity to visit New York City, which compared to Boston is “a super-crowded city”, he says. But he comes from Dhaka, which is one of the most densely populated places on earth, with the most notorious traffic jams in all of South Asia. How can New York feel crowded? “In Dhaka, I use my bicycle and I know all the short cuts,” he smiles. “I know when the streets are quiet or busy, and I can judge where I need to go.”

Meritocracy: What Lessons Can India Learn From China?


 
How should societies identify and promote merit? Enabling all people to fulfill their full potential and ensuring that competent and capable leaders are selected to govern are central challenges for any society. Failure to meet these challenges can have enormous costs, for individuals and for societies as a whole. The richness of China’s historical experience and its distinctive current practices offer useful tools for reflection and comparative analysis. Does the case of China offer any lessons – positive or negative – for India to consider?
 
The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University, have been jointly researching how talent is allocated in a society, how meritocracy has been conceptualized in both India and China, and how its definition has changed over time. Michael Szonyi, Frank Wen-Hsiung Memorial Professor of Chinese History and Director of the Fairbank Center, gave a lecture on ‘Meritocracy in China: Past and Present’ in Delhi on November 27, 2018, as a part of the larger project. 
 
He illuminated two types of meritocracy in China. The first type includes social, occupational or educational meritocracy, through which every individual is presumed to be able to fulfill their full potential by gaining access to education and opportunities for professional advancement. How can the structure of the educational system ensure equality of opportunity? Szonyi described the second type as a ‘political’ meritocracy, where, in a political system, leaders are selected on the basis of their competency. This system is focused on the evaluation of ability. Szonyi talked about how states tend to use some form of meritocracy to select and promote bureaucrats. 
 
He discussed the various debates regarding meritocracy, especially in light of China’s growth in the last 40 years and the perception that the West is faltering. With India touted to be the third largest economy by 2030 and China leading the world economy in the coming years, both countries can teach each other how to better manage and operationalize meritocracy and meritocratic systems in an effective way.
 
Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School, and Director, The Mittal Institute, then summarized the key points of Szonyi’s lecture, and opened the floor to audience questions. Szonyi’s public lecture was followed by a workshop the next day on ‘Meritocracy in India and China’, which included eminent scholars of India and China.

Research Fellowship Opportunity: Soft Robotics Kit Project


We invite applications for a research fellow to work with Professor Conor Walsh at the Harvard Biodesign Lab, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University in collaboration with the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute. Only Indian nationals are eligible to apply.

The project aims to engage students in science disciplines and lower the barrier to participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by developing a line of soft robotic kits. The kits show students possible applications of robotics, such as grasping objects, artificial muscles, locomotion and others. It engages cognitive learning by introducing hands-on skills for prototyping, electronics and programming. More details can be found at https://softroboticstoolkit.com/.

The candidate is expected to have technical and educational skills but also have entrepreneurial interests. The initial year focus will be refining the educational kits, getting feedback from stakeholders (children, educators, government) in India and the US as well as outlining a plan for efforts could be scaled in order to deploy the kits at a number of sites. Experience with teaching STEM topics is preferred, or performing STEM outreach, or developing educational content. 

Candidates should have the following:

  • Master’s degree with 1+ years of work experience; or a Bachelor’s degree with 3+ years of work experience;
  • Passion for education and creativity to help design robotics educational kits;
  • Either Mechatronics/Mechanical/Electrical engineering or STEM education/EdTech background;
  • Excellent communication ability (oral and written) in English; Hindi fluency preferred
  • Strong organizational skills, motivation and desire to work with a team
  • Indian citizenship

Applications, assembled as a single PDF file, should contain a complete cover letter and resume as well as the names and contact information of three references (expected to provide letters of recommendation). 

The position is based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and will require regular travel to India.  

The appointment is for one year as a research fellow with the possibility of continuation for another year. The renumeration for this position is  Rs 33 lakh per annum, approx. 

Queries should be sent to Saba Dave at mittalinstitutedelhi@fas.harvard.edu

Applications should be sent to Conor Walsh at walsh@seas.harvard.edu

Deadline: December 28, 2018

Trauma and Memory: Healing Through Art


Kabi Raj Lama

 

Kabi Raj Lama is a Nepal-based artist and former Visiting Artist Fellow (VAF) at the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University. The VAF Program enables South Asia-based artists to spend a substantial period of time at Harvard, contributing to faculty and student scholarship and bringing valuable educational experiences from the university to their work.

The Mittal Institute’s Delhi office hosts a regular series of artist talks as part of our India Seminar Series. Earlier this month, Lama spoke at the Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s national academy of arts, which collaborated on the organization of the event in Delhi. His talk, entitled ‘Trauma and Memory: Healing through Art’, retraced his life story; he spoke of art, natural disasters and mental health. The event followed a 3-day workshop on stone lithography with the artist and students at the Akademi. 

Lama’s work reflects the complexities of disasters through an intimate portrayal of personal encounters. He also also looks at how art can be used as a form of healing from trauma. A contemporary printmaker who primarily works with lithography and the Japanese mokuhanga (woodcut) medium, Lama talked about his current project, with a colleague at MIT, that takes his work to a completely new dimension of art therapy and scientific inquiry.

He described his experience with mental health issues following two direct encounters with traumatic natural disasters: the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. He talked about his realisation that mental health is often ignored in the process of rebuilding after such disasters. The Mittal Institute is in the process of building a major project around mental health in South Asia – Lama’s talk showed why this is such an important issue.