Essex graduates are global finalists in the Study UK Alumni Awards

  • Date

    Fri 22 Apr 22

Portrait photographs of former Essex students Sead Alihodzic (on the left) and Davide Valeriani (on the right)

Essex graduates Davide Valeriani and Sead Alihodzic have both gone through to the final stages of the selection process for the global Study UK Alumni Awards, with the four worldwide winners due to be announced later this year.

Davide (pictured right) is up for the Business and Innovation Award and Sead for the Social Action Award. They have been recognised for their achievements out of more than 1,500 applicants.

Davide Valeriani, who currently lives in the USA, came to Essex from Italy in 2013 to study for a PhD in Computing and Electronic Systems, or more specifically, in Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs).

This technology combines computer science, electrical engineering and neuroscience to build devices that allow humans to control other devices with their mind, without moving any muscle.

For his PhD, Davide investigated how BCIs could be used to enhance human capabilities. His research has enabled him to directly help patients with severe motor disabilities, and he also co-founded a Start-Up, Eyewink Ltd, which aims at developing a wearable device to control the smartphone with eye movements.

He attributes the achievements he made during his education in the UK to his success abroad, first by securing a postdoctoral position at Harvard Medical School, and more recently to a senior scientist position at neurotechnology company, Neurable.

Davide believes that studying in the UK enabled him to strengthen three skills that have been critical for his success: communication, engineering and entrepreneurship.

Speaking about being a finalist in the Awards, he said: “For me, being a global finalist recognises the effort of international students moving to another country to follow their passions, and the great work done by the University of Essex in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone.”

Sead Alihodzic, who is in the run for the Social Action Award, echoes the sentiment that the Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements international students are making following a period of study abroad.

“Being a global finalist is not only a recognition of my achievements but also that what I do matters,” he said.

Sead (pictured left) came to Essex in 2007 as a mature student on a Chevening Scholarship. Originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sead chose Essex to study for a Masters in European Integrations with the Department of Government.

He said that attending the University was a “rewarding and empowering experience”.

On completion of his Masters, he was offered a job with the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), a Sweden-based inter-governmental think-tank. He continues to live in Sweden with his family.

Sead is currently working as a Senior Advisor on Electoral Processes. He works closely with national practitioners, international electoral assistance providers, academia, and development organisations to make elections work. Some of his most memorable engagements include supporting the landmark 2013 elections in Kenya, and the Myanmar elections in 2015.

He led the conceptualisation and development of the Electoral Risk Management Tool (ERMTool) which, since its launch in 2013, has been shared with over 300 organisations from more than 90 countries.

Sead refers to his educational experience in the UK as a “critical moment that determined his career path”.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said he was delighted to hear that Davide and Sead have been named global finalists in this year’s Study UK Alumni Awards.

“We are very proud of both their achievements and delighted that they have been recognised on this global platform,” he said.

“They continue to embody the Essex Spirit with curiosity, determination and an international outlook at the forefront of both their careers.”

The Study UK Alumni Awards, sponsored by the British Council, celebrate the outstanding achievements of alumni and showcase the impact and value of a UK higher education. Award winners and finalists are leaders in their fields who have used their experience of studying at a UK university to make a positive contribution to their communities, professions and countries.

The four global award winners will be announced in August/September.