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ASU honors students design solutions through Clinton Global Initiative University

4 projects cover carbon reduction, semiconductors, air pollution and vulnerable environments

Photo of Anirudh Manjesh standing on Palm Walk at ASU.

Anirudh Manjesh, a first-year computer science student in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, is working on a project to reduce the aerospace industry's carbon footprint with support from the Clinton Global Initiative University. Photo courtesy Anirudh Manjesh

April 12, 2023

Anirudh Manjesh, a first-year computer science student in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, looks forward to a year of mentoring and working on a climate change-focused project with support from the Clinton Global Initiative University.

Manjesh, an international student from Bangalore, India, is one of four Barrett students selected to participate in the 2023 cohort of the Clinton Global Initiative University, or CGI U, a program that brings together students, aspiring leaders and experts in business, public service and social impact to tackle global challenges.

CGI U participants are selected on the strength of their Commitment to Action, a project in which they put forth a plan of social impact.

The program offers training, resources and mentorship to help students design, implement and evaluate their proposed social-impact projects. A year-round curriculum includes student networking and engagement events, beginning with the global annual meeting. CGI U helps students formulate their ideas and provides the necessary resources, feedback, tools and potential funding streams to turn their ideas into action.

ASU is involved with CGI U as a University Network member and hosted the annual meeting in 2014.

The other Barrett students selected for CGI U this year are Jayashree Adivarahan, Navika Agrawal and Morgann Kelly. Lauren Richards, a student in the Barrett online program, was selected for CGI U last year, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she attended virtually. This year, Richards was invited to attend in person as a speaker to give an update on the status of her Commitment to Action.

They attended the 15th annual CGI U meeting last month at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Manjesh’s Commitment to Action focuses on ways to reduce the aerospace industry’s carbon footprint by using piezoelectricity — the ability of certain materials to generate an alternating current voltage when subjected to mechanical stress or vibration — to generate energy on airport taxiways and runways. This energy would be supplied to airports to reduce their carbon footprints.

“I believe all individuals and communities will benefit from my commitment, as reducing the carbon footprint of airports helps slow down climate change,” Manjesh wrote in his proposal.

Manjesh said he will meet monthly with a CGI U mentor and collaborate with other students to take his idea further. He also plans to continue refining an app he developed for airport power management and regulation.

Adivarahan, a sophomore double-majoring in electrical and computer systems engineering, said the idea for her CGI U Commitment to Action originated with her participation in the Barrett College Fellows undergraduate research program in fall 2022.

“I was able to learn about the research done through ULTRA, an international and multiuniversity Energy Research Frontier Center dedicated to helping make the transition from traditionally used silicon to ultra-wide band gap material in our chips and devices. I got a better understanding of semiconductor technology and how it has evolved to reach the place it is in today,” she said.

Adivarahan joined ASU Assistant Professor Houqiang Fu’s Semiconductor Materials and Devices Group and did research on the subject.

“I hope to continue being involved in research and pursue graduate studies in the future. I strongly believe that CGI U provides invaluable support to continue pursuing my Commitment to Action, and I hope to remain involved in research and potentially begin an entrepreneurial endeavor with CGI U’s support,” said Adivarahan.

Agrawal, a sophomore innovation and society major in the Barrett online program, lives in Gurgaon, near Delhi in India. She said she has seen the effects of air pollution firsthand in the illnesses of family members and her own health struggles and that is why she chose to focus on improving indoor air quality.

“I used to live in Dubai. Now I live in India, near Delhi. I’m in one of the most polluted cities in the world in terms of air pollution,” she said. “New research shows that indoor air pollution levels are just as threatening, if not worse, as outdoor conditions. By comparing existing interventions in Dubai and Delhi, I will create novel solutions,” such as the use of indoor plants and air-cleaning devices, Agrawal said in her Commitment to Action.

Agrawal, who took four flights to get from India to Nashville for the CGI U annual meeting, said the trip was well worth the effort.

In addition to having access to mentors for consultation, “one of the best parts of the conference was being around lots of people who said ‘Yes, you are a young person, but you can make an impact. You know more than you think. Do things, try things, leverage technology and social media. We’re here to help,’” she said.

“To have someone really listen to what you’re saying, take your ideas seriously and believe you’re going to implement them and then give you advice is really empowering. What I’ve gotten out of CGI U so far is other like-minded people who want to help you achieve your goals.”

Through her Commitment to Action, Kelly, a global studies major, proposes ways to use artificial intelligence at ASU to improve administrative efficiency, analyze data for safety and create personalized learning experiences, helping ASU better achieve its goal of individual student success.

“As the student body vice president of policy for Undergraduate Student Government at ASU, I act as a liaison between students and the Arizona Board of Regents. I have noticed that students have concerns about campus safety, specialized education and academic growth opportunities. In my opinion, AI can address these concerns and provide value to students at ASU,” Kelly said in her Commitment to Action.

Richards, a senior innovation and society major in the Barrett online program, said her Commitment to Action grew out of a trip she took as a Gilman Scholar to Antarctica through the ASU College of Global Futures last winter.

She was inspired by her trip to develop the Living Earth Initiative, a nonprofit organization to provide study abroad experiences for underserved high school seniors with an interest in science and sustainability. 

“We want to put them in storytelling environments that show firsthand that climate change is real and that we need environmental stewards and ambassadors. We will do that by putting them in these vulnerable environments that are the most incredible places on the planet,” said Richards, who lives in Tampa.

Richards officially launched the Living Earth Initiative, a partnership with Albatros Expeditions, at this year’s CGI U annual meeting in Nashville.