Student news wrap 29/05/18

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Our weekly round up of student news.

Iowa State winning team aims to reduce food loss in Africa

The 2018 Food Solutions Challenge began last November ,with more than 1,600 students participating in 16 events across 13 countries. Students were asked: How can we reduce food loss before it reaches the consumer in order to increase the amount of available edible food and lessen the impact on climate? Five teams made it through to the  semi-finals where Iowa State University won the $5000 first prize on May 20. For three students, Samuel Kiprotich, Mike Sserunjogi and Emmanuel Nsamba, winning the challenge was more than an honour – it meant they could help reduce food waste in their homeland.

All three students graduated from Makerere University, Uganda and partnered with Iowa State students in the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods programme in 2014 and 2015, which led them to pursue graduate work at Iowa State. The team focused on improving the cassava plant, which is a staple food in Africa but can rot within three days of harvesting. Their aim is to produce tubers with a longer shelf life by transferring genes from a waxy desert plant to yield tubers with a protective layer of wax, helping to prevent rapid moisture loss and rotting.

“I never believed in genetics as an innovation that could drive societal transformation. But for this particular problem, food loss, I approached it using genetic principles which is my field of study,” said Nsamba.

Net Impact, the lead sponsor of the challenge, is a global community of 100,000 students and professionals who work to address social challenges, protect the environment, invent new products and orient business toward the greater good. – Read the full article on the AG Web site

Irish students paid to go home to vote in abortion referendum

As part of the #Home2Vote campaign, British universities including Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham and  Nottingham, offered their Irish students bursaries to help them travel home to cast their vote in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment. The contraversial law effectively bans abortion in Ireland, meaning that thousands of woman travel to Britain every year to get an abortion.

While the Home2vote campaign had widespread support across most universities, some students’ unions faced criticism for selectively funding students who intend to vote “yes”, to repeal the Eight Amendment. Cambridge SU’s Women’s Campaign (WomCam), pledged to fund £110 for nine students to travel home, but only if they pledged to vote yes. Other universities made it clear that they funded students’ travel regardless of their vote.

The referendum took place on May 25 and saw a 66.4% to 33.6% vote to remove the amendment with more than two million votes cast, paving the way for the legalisation of abortion in some circumstances. At 64.5%, the turnout was one of the highest ever recorded for a referendum in Ireland and the highest of any referendum since 1992. – Read more on the results of the vote and what it means on The Journal site

Rwanda’s Ms Geek Africa spotlights tech genius

After years of women in evening gowns vying for the title of national beauty queen, glamour made way for geekery in Rwanda with the launch of Ms Geek. The first Ms Geek Rwanda was crowned in 2014, and the competition has since expanded to include other African countries under the unifying banner of Ms Geek Africa.

The event, open to girls and women aged 13 to 25, encourages contestants to use technology to solve everyday problems in their communities. The finalists receive business training and the winner is awarded financial backing to help realise her idea.

This year’s Ms Geek Africa is Salissou Hassane Latifa from Niger. Her winning design is an app that helps communication between people caring for accident victims and the emergency services, and allows medical staff to advise on basic first aid before they arrive at the scene. The contest was set up as part of a nationwide effort to transform Rwanda from a small agricultural economy into an engine of technological innovation, with women and girls at the forefront of the revolution. One of the government’s most ambitious goals is achieving gender parity in the information communications technology sector by 2020, a worldwide industry notorious for its lack of diversity.

Details for next year’s entries have yet to appear on the website, but you can visiti for more info on the competition. – Read the full article on The Guardian site

Call for Australia’s postgraduate research students to be paid

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) has renewed its call for research students to be paid for their work, as the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures confirm that postgraduate students comprise the majority of human resources dedicated to research, contributing 57% of total time spent on research. Despite this, the majority of students are not paid for their work.

CAPA last week called on the government to address this situation by committing to income support payments for all domestic postgraduate students. “Postgraduate students are integral to Australia’s research output. It is unacceptable that research and development relies so heavily on exploiting students through unpaid labour,” said CAPA national president Natasha Abrahams.

Domestic research students can only obtain income support through securing a competitive scholarship. International research students are working under even more difficult circumstances. “Those who do not have a scholarship are not only contributing to the national research output without pay, they are also forking out for extortionate course fees,” CAPA said in a statement. According to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, the Australian government commits AU$20 million (R188.65 million) in funding annually to Australian universities for more than 300 international postgraduate research scholarships. – Read the full article on the University World News site