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Vaishak Kumar

PHILADELHIA, Pa. — Seniors Vaishak Kumar, Melanie Mariano and Kriya Patel have been named recipients of the 2016 President’s Engagement Prizes at the University of Pennsylvania. The announcement was made March 23 by Penn president Amy Gutmann.

Each President’s Engagement Prize recipient will receive as much as $100,000 for project implementation expenses and $50,000 for living expenses. The prizes, first awarded last year, are awarded annually to Penn seniors to design and undertake local, national or global engagement projects during the first year after they graduate.

Patel, an Indian American senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, will help women about to be released from the all-female Riverside Correctional Facility in Philadelphia apply for and secure health insurance and identification prior to release. The health insurance will allow the women to stay on their much-needed medication, which will aid in the re-entry process.

Patel will keep track of the women for at least three years to monitor the effects of continued care on recidivism rates. She is being mentored by Kathleen Brown, practice associate professor of nursing.

Kumar, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, will utilize cost-efficient technology and novel research to help farmers in India boost their productivity. The project will employ mobile technology to improve farmer education in India, where the plight of farmers continues to be of great concern.

He will also set up a low-cost mobile laboratory to provide farmers with timely, personalized information. Kumar is being mentored by Devesh Kapur, director of Penn’s Center for the Advanced Study of India.

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