U.S. Sponsors Annual Scientific Symposium for Lower Mekong Countries in Myanmar

December 13, 2019

Contact: Jose Quiroga
Email: Jose.Quiroga@asu.edu
U.S. Embassy Contact: Aryani Manring
Email: USEmbassyRGNPress@state.gov

U.S. Sponsors Annual Scientific Symposium for Lower Mekong Countries in Myanmar


Yangon – Solving real-world problems takes cross-border collaboration, including by scientists.  That’s why over 100 researchers and scientists from the U.S. and the five countries of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) – Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam – gathered for the LMI Young Scientist Program annual symposium in Yangon December 12-13.  Thirty-three young scientists from the five Lower Mekong countries presented their collaborative research to improve health and environmental sustainability in the Lower Mekong region.  They tackled topics such as improving responses to mosquito-trasmitted diseases, such as dengue. Participants in the Symposium represented academia, industry, government and non-profit organizations from the U.S. and the five Lower Mekong countries.

“The United States wants more young scientists from Myanmar and throughout the Lower Mekong region to work together to find innovative solutions to cross-border environmental and health challenges,” U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission George Sibley said.  Together with Ministry of Education Chairman of the National Education Policy Commission, Prof. Dr. Myo Kywe, Deputy Chief of Mission Sibley spoke during the opening session of the second annual Young Scientist Symposium on December 12. 

The Annual Scientific Symposium gives participants in the LMI Young Scientist Program an opportunity to compete for an annual seed grant of up to $15,000 USD to develop their collaborative research projects.  The 33 young scientists who participated in the 2019 Young Scientists Program presented their collaborative research through poster shows and discussions during the event.  The LMI Young Scientists Program promotes equitable, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth through education, science, and technology.  Arizona State University (ASU) implements the LMI Young Scientists Program.   A total of 57 scientists from the Lower Mekong countries have participated in the program since its launch in 2018. 

During the Symposium, participants heard from Dr. Mahlet Mesfin, who delivered her keynote address on using science for diplomacy.  “The universal language of science and its common pursuit of knowledge to understand the world, has great potential to build relationships, bridges, and dialogue across divides and provide solutions to addressing national and global challenges,” said Dr. Mahlet Mesfin, Visiting Scholar at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

A highlight of the event was the presentation of the young scientists’ research projects through a poster session and discussions.  Presentations included academic research projects in energy, health, water, and sustainability, as well as innovative solutions to community-based projects developed throughout the summer program.  These applied projects included: a dengue outbreak prediction model, a tool to manage outbreaks, tools to map and identify mosquitoes, and diagnose dengue at an early stage, as well as education and training programs for health care staff in remote areas.

“Through activities such as the LMI Young Scientists program, Arizona State University is able to share some of the best practices that earned it the title of most innovative school in the U.S. for the past five consecutive years,” said Mr. Jeffrey Goss, Associate Vice-Provost for Southeast Asia Initiatives at ASU.

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About Lower Mekong Initiative
The Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), established in 2009 by the United States and the countries of Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam, promotes equitable, sustainable, and inclusive growth in the Mekong Region. LMI uses capacity building programs to help Mekong country governments and people effectively tackle trans-boundary development challenges.

About the LMI Young Scientist Program
Launched in 2018 by implementing partner Arizona State University (ASU), the objective of the LMI Young Scientist Program is to create a research community of practice, annually targeting up to 34 young researchers across Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam, to develop capacity for joint research projects through workshops, networking events, and an annual scientific symposium to encourage the sharing of knowledge, ideas and experiences, including authorship of peer-reviewed research papers.

As part of the program, 33 young scientists from the five countries attended a 4-week summer placement program that took place during July 1 – 26, 2019 in Vientiane, Lao PDR. The program participants included students or recent graduates from master’s or Ph.D. programs in statistics/biostatistics, informatics/ bioinformatics, epidemiology, public health, data/information science, mathematics, etc. The theme of the summer placement program was addressing public health issues, through information technologies, with a focus on mosquito transmitted diseases, such as dengue. The theme for the 2018 program was Water, Energy and Environmental Sustainability, and was hosted during July 2018 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The summer program includes classroom activities and workshops led by subject matter experts, field trips and site visits to expose participants to real-world health issues.

Next year’s summer placement program will take place in Bangkok, Thailand. The 2020 Lower Mekong Initiative Young Scientist Program will challenge participants to think like entrepreneurs and learn about technology transfer as a key resource for innovation. Young scientists from the five LMI member countries will learn about building and innovating businesses by licensing the technology invented in their research laboratories.

Arizona State University
Arizona State University has been ranked five consecutive years as the #1 Most Innovative University in America by U.S. News & World Report. With over 100,000 students, ASU is a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves. More than a decade ago, ASU set forth a new and ambitious trajectory to become a comprehensive knowledge enterprise dedicated to the simultaneous pursuit of excellence, broad access to quality education, and meaningful societal impact. From that point forward and founded on a vision for a new “gold standard” all of its energy, creativity, and manpower have been brought to bear on the design of a uniquely adaptive and transdisciplinary university committed to producing master learners.

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