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Belarusian exchange student revolutionizes plastics industry

Volha Hrechka
Volha Hrechka

When Volha Hrechka, ’13, left her home country of Belarus on an exchange program in 2004, she had no idea she’d one day be revolutionizing the plastics industry. Today her startup PolyDrop is responsible for creating an innovative additive that dissipates electrostatic charge on airplanes one drop at a time — and it all started in the halls of the UW.

None of this would have been possible without the help of the UW, says Volha. “Countless times I’ve asked for help and it was always provided to me. I’m so thankful.”

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Alumna builds clinics, hope for Syrian children

Photo: Tom James |

With a humanitarian crisis leaving a trail of destruction in Syria, UW alumna Rita Zawaideh is building a path toward healing for children facing the traumas of war. Funded entirely by donations, the Maliki-SCM Children’s Center is dedicated to helping the youngest victims of the wars in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

Opened in January of this year, the center serves about 25-30 children every quarter, year-round. The children often arrive displaying one or more symptoms of trauma: aggression, bed wetting, a refusal to interact with others. With a staff including social workers, teachers, and a psychologist, the nondescript white building in this quiet neighborhood in Jordan’s capital is the first of 10 Zawaideh plans to open. A second center is scheduled to open in March, Zawaideh says, and funding is lined up for eight more to open around the country, one-to-two months apart. When all 10 centers are operating they will be able to serve more than 1,000 children every year.

The centers, according to Zawaideh, will focus on the behavioral and emotional needs of traumatized children. They are treatment programs, not schools. Instead of working on math or reading, children play, receive behavioral therapy and one-on-one sessions with psychologists, and have structured free time.

Zawaideh is a 1975 alumna of the University of Washington and is widely recognized for her knowledge of and work in the Middle East.

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UW researchers first to monitor global migrations with LinkedIn

A new study of the worldwide migration of professionals to the U.S. shows a sharp drop-off in its proportional share of those workers – raising the question of whether the nation will remain competitive in attracting top talent in an increasingly globalized economy.

The study, which used a novel method of tracking people through data from the social media site LinkedIn, is believed to be the first to monitor global migrations of professionals to the U.S., said co-author Emilio Zagheni, a University of Washington assistant professor of sociology and fellow of the UW eScience Institute.

“This is the first time a worldwide data set has been used to answer this question,” he said. “That hasn’t been done before.”

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Fisheries ecologist second in family to win top Canadian award

University of Washington fisheries ecologist Daniel Schindler was awarded the highest honor given by the Society of Canadian Limnologists for his work in freshwater science. Schindler is the second in his family to receive the Frank Rigler Award. In 1964 — the first year the honor was awarded — it was presented to Schindler’s father, David.

Daniel Schindler studies climate impacts, fisheries as large-scale drivers of ecosystem organization and the interdependence of terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems. As one of the lead investigators of the UW Alaska Salmon Program, much of his research focuses on salmon-producing watersheds in Alaska.

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FLAS fellows undaunted in Arctic adventure


Jason Young strikes a pose on the Arctic ice near the town of Igloolik in northern Canada.Photo by Walter O’Toole.

Jason Young and Walter O’Toole had been stranded on Arctic ice for nearly an hour, unable to find a safe path back to shore, when an Inuit woman observing from her kitchen dispatched her 13-year-old son to guide them to safety. It was one of many humbling moments for the UW students during a visit to the Canadian Arctic through a Canadian Studies Foreign Language Area and Studies (FLAS) Fellowship.

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A world of good rankings: UW rated among top institutions

suzzallo_globeUS News & World Report released its first Best Global Universities rankings Tuesday. UW tops the list at #14, edging out many other leading institutions. The ranking system focuses on the academic research and overall reputation of more than 500 institutions across the globe, scoring universities on criteria that includes number of publications, percentage of highly cited papers and international collaboration. UW scores among the top 20 in five of the 10 ranking categories.

The report also includes the top 100 universities in subject rankings, which evaluate academic research and reputation in a field. UW ranks among the top 10 in the world in seven subject areas: microbiology (#3), geosciences (#5), immunology (#5), pharmacology and toxicology (#7), clinical medicine (#8), social sciences and public health (#8) and molecular biology and genetics (#9). Twenty subjects at UW made the overall rankings.

The report is designed to help the more than 4.5 million students who study abroad each year choose the best global universities to pursue their passion. UW’s top billing shows a proven impact in offering a leading-edge student experience and a growing global reputation.

Study Abroad fair connects students to a world of opportunities


Hosted for the first time in the renovated UW Husky Union Building, the Study Abroad Fair buzzed with students driven to discover new experiences Thursday, Oct. 23. Nearly 100 exhibitors, including representatives from UW departments, partner universities and affiliated providers such as Peace Corps, were on hand to answer questions and showcase leading-edge student experiences.

The UW Study Abroad Office offers four types of programs for students: direct exchanges with foreign institutions, thematic programs led by UW faculty, affiliated programs through other universities and IE3 global internships. Chris Rumer, a biochemistry senior, manned the table for University College London, which offers a direct exchange program for UW students. One of the most popular and competitive exchange programs, Rumer said his table had been busy all morning.

“[UCL offers] one of the best programs with the education and cultural diversity of London,” he said. Rumer had been close to attending UCL for his undergraduate degree, but coming to UW and traveling to UCL on exchange encompassed the best of both worlds. Fellow exchange students Victoria Dmyterko and Nikolina Stoykova, biology and international studies seniors, raved about experience, the educational opportunities offered and the friendships made. “I loved it,” said Dmyterko.

Funding options for travel and study were also advertised at the fair. Robyn Davis, Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship coordinator, was happy to engage with new students. The FLAS, which offers funding for language learning, has historically attracted primarily graduate student applicants. “[The Study Abroad Fair] is a good opportunity to get the word out to undergraduates,” Davis said. Many of the study abroad experiences that work with FLAS funding were also at the fair, making it easier to directly refer students to other programs.

Nala Watters, a humanities sophomore, was surprised by the number of program and funding opportunities made available. “There are a lot of options,” Watters said. “[Students] will find something and the money to do it.” Though Watter’s area of interest is quite narrow — folklore and myths — she said she found some programs that could be tailored to fit her passions. “It’s an experience that pretty much everybody needs,” she said.

With program options spanning Argentina to Zurich, the choices and experiences for UW Study Abroad students are boundless. Visit UW Study Abroad to learn more!


Communicating about science? Consider culture, say UW researchers

Together with colleagues from Northwestern University, the American Indian Center of Chicago and the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin, UW researchers recently published new findings on the impact of cultural orientations on science communication.  

“We argue that science communication – for example, words, photographs and illustrations – necessarily makes use of artifacts, both physical and conceptual, and these artifacts commonly reflect the cultural orientations and assumptions of their creators,” the authors write.

One example of this phenomenon is the depiction of nature in media such as children’s picture books. “There are profound implications not only for perceiving the issue but studying it, forming policy, or forging adaption for our collective futures,” said Megan Bang, a UW assistant professor of educational psychology.

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