Fung Global Fellows to focus on ‘Sustainable Futures’

Oct. 11, 2022

By Pooja Makhijani, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies

Five exceptional scholars from around the world have arrived at Princeton University this fall to begin a year of research, writing and collaboration as the tenth cohort of Fung Global Fellows.

The Fung Global Fellows Program brings together international research scholars around a common topic. For the 2022-23 academic year, the scholars will once again work on “sustainable futures” and explore the sustainability of current systems and practices in light of historic, contemporary and future challenges, with an eye on innovative and feasible changes that promise greater sustainability in the future.

Elke Weber, the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment and professor of psychology and public affairs, directs the program. “The Fung Global Forum has been making an important and sorely needed contribution to Princeton, the nation, and the world at large by bringing culturally diverse voices and talents to bear on the analysis of critical social issues. I am honored to lead this initiative in its focus on ‘sustainable futures’ for the next two years,” Weber said.

The program is funded by a portion of a $10 million gift from Princeton 1970 alumnus William Fung of Hong Kong that is designed to substantially increase the University’s engagement with scholars around the world and inspire ideas that transcend borders. Weber will also help to organize a celebration of the program’s 10th anniversary in spring 2023.

The three visiting research scholars for the 2022-23 academic year are:

  • Nithya Joseph, postdoctoral research fellow at French Institute of Pondicherry, Pondicherry, India;
  • Tania Sharmin, senior lecturer in sustainable environmental design in architecture at Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, U.K.; and
  • Veda Vaidyanathan, visiting associate fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) in New Delhi and associate at Harvard University Asia Center.

The two postdoctoral research associates are:

  • Dimitri Courant, democracy visiting fellow at Harvard University; and
  • Kuansong Victor Zhuang, international postdoctoral scholar at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.  

Four members of the cohort have been on campus since September, Zhuang will join the group in Princeton in December. Although they have only been on campus a short time the fellows have engaged with each other and with the University at large in meaningful ways.

“The interdisciplinary seminars are making me rethink my own research from a broader perspective,” Sharmin said. “I’m also trying to engage with many of the University’s libraries,” — she has already trained in new remote sensing and GIS mapping methodology at Lewis Library and advanced statistical analysis at Stokes Library — “to develop new areas of expertise. I want to make connections among different disciplines to address pressing urban problems [from the built-environment perspective].”

“We are working on very different topics from very different fields,” Courant said. “But because of the interdisciplinary nature of the group, that allows to see the common threads, questions, and methods to all research, no matter its type.” 

More about the newly appointed Fung Global Fellows:

Dimitri Courant received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Lausanne and the University Paris 8. He is a democracy visiting fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Sciences Po Rennes and a master’s in social sciences from the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences. His recent publications include: “Institutionalizing Deliberative Mini-Publics? Issues of Legitimacy and Power for Randomly Selected Assemblies in Political Systems” and “Citizens’ Assemblies for Referendums and Constitutional Reforms: Is There an ‘Irish Model’ for Deliberative Democracy?” During his fellowship year, Courant will focus on citizens’ assemblies on climate change in an international comparative perspective.

Nithya Joseph received her Ph.D. in the socioeconomics of development from the EHESS, Paris. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the French Institute Pondicherry, working full-time on a UK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) project “Depleted by Debt? Focusing a Gendered Lens on Climate, Credit, and Nutrition in Trans-local Cambodia and South India.” As a Fung Global Fellows Program early career research scholar, she will use the material gathered as part of the project to reflect on ways of locating the role of debt in a sustainable and equitable future.

Tania Sharmin is a senior lecturer (equivalent to U.S. rank of associate professor) in sustainable environmental design in architecture at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University. She completed her Ph.D. at University of Cambridge as a fellow of Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future award. Her doctorate investigated the impact of urban form and microclimate on outdoor thermal comfort and building energy performance for the tropical climate of Dhaka. During her fellowship year, Sharmin will conduct research in the interdisciplinary field of microclimate, comfort and heat-health for tackling urban warming and sustaining health in urban spaces of megacities using advanced remote sensing and machine learning techniques

Veda Vaidyanathan is an international affairs researcher who specializes in Asia-Africa interactions. As a visiting associate fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) in New Delhi and an associate at the Harvard University Asia Center, she brings a comparative perspective to her work, examining Chinese and Indian engagements in Africa. During her Ph.D. at the University of Mumbai, she was a doctoral fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research, and a visiting fellow at Peking University and the Harvard-Yenching Institute (HYI) as part of the ICS-HYI fellowship. She has led research projects on Asian engagement in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Ghana, collaborating with local researchers and institutions examining their engagement across sectors including infrastructure, agriculture, mining and manufacturing. During her fellowship year, Vaidyanathan will focus on how green partnerships can be mobilized between Asia and Africa, examining the role of sub-national actors in crafting narratives of sustainability.

Kuansong Victor Zhuang received his Ph.D. from the Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago and the Department of Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Language and Literature at Macquarie University under a Cotutelle arrangement. He is also an international postdoctoral scholar at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His book project, based on his Ph.D. research, tentatively titled, “The Biopolitics of Inclusion: Disability and Capacity in the Singapore Nation,” examines how inclusion as an ideology is created, circulated, communicated, and consumed in Singapore, and undertakes an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding the logics and implications of inclusion as a form of biopower, and the lived realities of disabled people in Singapore. As a Fung Global Fellow, he will research the intersections of disability and technology as it emerges within the smart city.