ECE student-led HUG initiative selected for 2022 GIANT Project


Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

Students attending a HUG event held earlier this semester
Students attending a HUG event held earlier this semester

The HUG Initiative: Research Career Roadmap for Historically Marginalized or Underrepresented Genders (HUG), proposed by ECE graduate students Mei-Yun Lin and Hsinju Chen, and ECE undergraduate students Mayura Kulkarni and Alyssa Huang, was awarded the 2022 Grassroots Initiatives to Address Needs Together (GIANT) grant, co-funded by the IBM-Illinois Discovery Accelerator Institute (IIDAI) and IDEA Institute.

"The HUG Initiative gives me the opportunity to understand the current issues and circumstances that are faced by HUG students and provide a supportive and encouraging platform to continue their research journeys," said Kulkarni. 

As one of the seven selected projects for Phase 1, the student-led HUG Initiative promotes the pursuit of research careers among undergraduate and graduate students of Historically marginalized or Underrepresented Genders (HUG), including ciswomen, trans people of any gender, non-binary people, etc., within the department.

“HUG Initiative gives me and my team the opportunity to conduct research activities to understand the learning experiences students have in our departments. It also gives me a platform to share what I have learned through Mavis Future Fellow and experience of EECS Rising Star Workshop with my peers," said Lin. “The HUG Initiative strives to form a more safe and supportive community in the ECE department and inspire more HUG students to continue their career pathways in research.”

The HUG initiative is funded by the Grassroots Initiatives to Address Needs Together (GIANT) program, which supports research-based initiatives from students, post-docs, staff, and faculty in the Grainger Engineering College to study in the area of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.

Officially launched in Fall 2022, HUG Initiative plans to hold panel discussions, interactive workshops, and networking luncheons to demystify what it means to be a researcher and provides resources on research opportunities. Two events were already held in September 2022 and have attracted more than 60 participants. With the support of project mentors Dr. Holly Golecki from the Department of Bioengineering and Dr. Ro Cusick from the Department of Civil and Environment Engineering, HUG Initiative combines expertise and connections within the Grainger Engineering College to serve ECE students by creating an even more welcoming and supportive environment.

“HUG Initiative allows us to evaluate the difficulties HUG students face throughout undergrad and grad school, and through this study and the events we hold, I hope we can spark research interests in HUG students in ECE," said Chen. "This is an invaluable opportunity to raise awareness about the roadblocks of HUG students pursuing research careers."

For more information about HUG initiative events, please check the HUG initiative website (