Three UCL students have won the prestigious global Schmidt Futures competition for their innovative solutions to tackling the world’s most pressing challenges, including those posed by COVID-19.
Glenda Xu (UCL Medical School), Yvette Homerlein (UCL Arts & Humanities) and Lia Bote (UCL Division of Biosciences), are among 20 winners selected by the philanthropic initiative as part of its Reimagine Challenge 2020 competition.
Their projects focus on providing healthcare support for people in lowand middle-income countries during the pandemic, developing a platform to tackle misinformation in online media and creating resources to support foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.
Reimagine Challenge sources the best proposals from college and university students around the world to help build a better future.
Each winner receives up to $25,000 (more than £18,000) in tuition scholarships, with additional prizes donated to UCL per winning entry. Their ideas were chosen from hundreds of submissions worldwide, across 40 different countries and 86 nationalities.
Yvette, from Australia, is a first-year undergraduate studying Arts and Sciences. She was inspired by the rapid spread of misinformation and growing mistrust of mainstream media during the pandemic and wanted to bring transparency to the public.
She proposed creating Check-mate, a Chrome extension and smartphone app that will battle misinformation online by identifying the owners of news sources in an easy-to-interpret colour coding system.
Yvette said: "A lot of independent newspapers, despite having different names, can actually belong to the same parent organisation, and I believe that in order for people to trust media updates and to make informed choices they should know where and who their news is coming from.
"Through the use of a tool that creates transparency and guides proper cross-checking, I hope we create a shift towards greater cooperation and inclusivity in tackling a global issue like Covid-19."
Lia, from the Philippines, is a second-year Biological Sciences student at UCL, specialising in cell biology.
She is passionate about solving problems at the intersection between science and society, and, in particular, improving access to quality healthcare in lowto middle-income countries.
Lia suggested creating a two-part project to improve primary care access in the Philippines through telehealth services: a website for physicians and volunteer researchers to list their services, and a phone hotline service that connects patients with the healthcare system without the need for online mobile applications.
Lia said: "Primary care acts as a patient’s first point of contact to the healthcare system, encompassing disease prevention, management and health education. It is essential for robust and effective Covid-19 response. However, in the Philippines where I’m from and in many lowand middle-income countries it is routinely neglected and overlooked, especially during the pandemic."
Glenda, from New Zealand, is an undergraduate on UCL’s MBBS programme. Her goal is to connect science and global leadership to pioneer solutions in health economics, politics and translational medicine.
She proposed creating InspireSeed, a web platform to help foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong through personal development opportunities and offering certified training to their employers, representing more than 400,000 households.
Glenda said: "What makes InspireSeed most unique is it engages all Hong Kong citizens and foreign domestic helpers equally in the movement.
"Hong Kong is a market-based city, which will need a market-based approach to combat its blatant social and systemic discrimination against its foreign domestic helpers. "
Reimagine Challenge is part of a broader $1 billion commitment by Schmidt Futures co-founders Eric and Wendy Schmidt to identify and support global talent.
Eric Schmidt said: "I’m inspired by the bold ideas we received and the rising generation of leaders who developed them. Although the long-term impact of this pandemic is daunting, we cannot forget we live in the most educated, interconnected, empowered period in human history.
"If we come together with all of our tools, knowledge, and talents-as these students have done-I’m confident we can build a world that’s fairer, safer, and more prosperous for everyone."
UCL President & Provost Dr Michael Spence said: "I am deeply proud that three UCL students have been identified as future global leaders for their innovative and creative solutions to solving some of the world’s most challenging problems.
"Winning the Schmidt Futures competition is an incredible achievement which demonstrates the enterprising spirit and brilliance of UCL’s students. I wish them every success for the future."