Penn State and University of Auckland: Collaborations in times of a pandemic

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Despite the global pandemic, Penn State and the University of Auckland have continued their strong, budding partnership.

Recently, they co-hosted the recent Times Higher Education Innovation and Impact Summit (April 19-22), a strong symbol of the universities’ shared commitment to innovation, and they have not missed a beat while continuing to forge ahead in projects that have linked the universities since late 2019.

Eight seed-funded joint teams — Penn State-University of Auckland Joint Projects — have been creative in finding ways to start up and proceed in their projects.  These provide a breadth of initiatives, ranging from research to education.  

Despite the inability to hold face-to-face meetings, various teams have given talks or presented at virtual conferences, including at the Global Council for Science and the Environment, the American Chemical Society National Meeting, at an online workshop on economic geographies of FinTech, and at the New Zealand Geographical Society Conference in Wellington. Addtionally, a team was able to hold a virtual workshop for the American Chemical Society in July, with plans for a future virtual workshop in the coming months, while another group organized a research symposium and tools workshop, augmented by lab work at Penn State and the University of Auckland.

Presentations and poster sessions have enabled teams to highlight their work, whether as part of a graduate student poster session held by the Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems (CEHMS) at Penn State, or through the submission of a paper on “A study on the performance of a novel hybrid triboelectric-dielectric elastomer generator based on PDMS composites” to the ASME 2021 Conference on Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures and Intelligent Systems (SMASIS). A team has prepared a scoping/research agenda paper, which is due for submission to the Annals of the American Association of Geographers before the year's end.  

The teams have also found ways to include undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students in their projects, often through lab work. Much of the research has had to take place independently at both universities, with the hope that the teams will be able to meet to jointly continue their research. Examples of independent yet close collaborative work include the building of a rig required for aerodynamic performance testing, followed by conducting experiments in the wind tunnel at Penn State.  

According to Alexandra Persiko, Strategic Partnerships Manager in Global Programs, “These eight project teams have accomplished much more than we had expected in these difficult times. The mid-term results reveal the resiliency and creativity of each team and has to be applauded.“

While the majority of teams work in the STEM field, one project focuses on EDGE (Experiential Digital Global Engagement) courses involving Penn State and UoA students. The collaboration targeted the development of an app on "Food and Identity." An additional course with a focus on impressions of Asia is planned for this year, and the team plans on exploring additional project-based virtual exchange offerings.  

For additional information on the Penn State – University of Auckland strategic partnership, contact Alexandra Persiko at

Last Updated June 04, 2021