Help for Ukraine scholars: Higher education rallies to provide jobs, support

Institutions post opportunities for scientific researchers and students who have been displaced by the war with Russia.
By: | April 19, 2022
Diana Vyshniakova/Unsplash

Since Russia began its military aggression in Ukraine in late February, millions of citizens have been displaced, including more than 6,300 scientific scholars. Many more remain in areas that are considered relatively safe but still need support and assistance.

Recognizing it could make an impact, Purdue University launched an effort at the start of the war to get more than 20 faculty hires into a program called the Ukrainian Scholars Initiative. On Monday, university leaders reported that it had sent invitations to 11 of them to either continue working on their own research or help with initiatives happening at Purdue. Those offers likely would begin in late spring and early summer, as logistics continue to be complex.

“If we can make a home here, at least temporarily, for these outstanding talents in academics, that’s what America has always done throughout its history,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. “Purdue feels a deep calling to create this opportunity for our Ukrainian academic colleagues on our campus, which already has one of this nation’s most globally diverse faculty. Simply by their presence at Purdue, these Ukrainian scholars will personify the quest for freedom and be living reminders to many of our students who have never seen what real oppression looks like and how precious and fragile true freedom really is.”

Purdue is one of 170 institutions and organizations in the United States that has been listed in a strategic effort called Science for Ukraine, which is showcasing an array of available positions that displaced Ukrainian scholars and even students can apply for. Stetson University in Florida, for example, has a nine-month full-time position, with travel expenses included, for specialists in the humanities, arts, social sciences and natural sciences. The GMAS laboratory at the University of Toledo is looking for a post-doctoral research associate in environmental analytical chemistry for a flexible, one-year position. And New York University has potential funding for a three-year position for those who have molecular and cell biology training. NYU also hosts the not-for-profit corporation Scholars at Risk, which is both taking donations and helping spread the word on displaced Ukrainian scholars through its many members, including universities.

“SAR commends the many network member institutions, sections, partner networks and partner organizations ready to offer support to colleagues from Ukraine, including temporary research, teaching, and study positions, and those otherwise standing with the people of Ukraine,” Robert Quinn, Executive Director of Scholars at Risk, said. “SAR is available to support network member institutions receiving inquiries and pleas for help from Ukrainian colleagues.”

From USC to Harvard and MIT and including many public state institutions such as the University of Arizona and the University of Texas, they are doing what they can to offer assistance during this key time. Experts from the World Economic Forum say many of the displaced scientists are hoping to regain or start anew their research work once the conflicts subside, although the war and rebuilding efforts—even if Ukraine remains under its own rule—will take years.

Purdue officials say participants who would be on J-1 visas could work toward degrees, but it is possible that if the conflict continues beyond their one-year opportunity, they might be able to remain on campus longer. Other institutions have opened up some longer-term positions for Ukrainian scholars. Dartmouth College has posted a Ph.D position where it says both “accommodation and funding is possible” that would be five years. Kateryna Makova at Penn State University’s Makova Lab is offering “full-time support for a Ukrainian Ph.D student, programmer, postdoc, or junior research professor for a period of 1 year with a possibility of extension.” And being fluent in Ukranian and Russian, she can help with other arrangements, such as travel and a “short stay in France while the researcher is waiting for an American visa.”

There are political science possibilities at the University of California Davis, infectious disease research opportunities at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and information security and privacy research assistance at UC-Berkeley.

Syracuse University recently joined Scholars at Risk and is one of many institutions across the U.S. trying to accommodate Ukrainian students through temporary housing and other resources. “Our immediate concern is for our students who are from the region and who may have loved ones in harm’s way,” said Gretchen Ritter, Vice Chancellor and Provost. “We know this conflict is weighing heavily on the minds of many in our community.”

The World Economic Forum said higher ed can continue to support the effort in four ways: funding research networks, hiring those at risk, hiring technical workers and working directly with authorities to navigate complexities such as placements, including individual academics connecting with the Council of Young Scientists at the Ministry of Education.