Meet Veronika Liutarevich, 2nd year EEE student and UN Millenium Fellow
Veronika chats to us about her experience on the Fellowship so far, her “Data Against Hunger” project and how she is making the most of her time at UCL, with internships and societies.
9 November 2023
Veronika Liutarevich, a 2nd-year student in UCL’s Electronic and Electrical Engineering has been selected as a UN Millenium Fellow, part of a global initiative designed to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This year, forty UCL students were selected as Millenium Fellows, which was the largest cohort of Millenium Fellows in Europe. The fellowship typically involves workshops, networking sessions, and hands-on experience in creating meaningful, sustainable change in their communities and beyond. They work on collaborative projects aimed at advancing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and receive training, mentorship, and support to implement and scale their social action initiatives.
How did you hear about the Millennium Fellowship?
While applying for summer internships last spring, Millennium Fellowship came up as one of the available student opportunities that I found exciting, and I decided to apply. As it was in collaboration with the UN, I considered it to be a great chance to meet interesting people. I enjoy the profound conversations that we have at our cohort meetings.
So have you always been quite passionate about the SDGs?
I care very much about the SDGs, especially the environmental issues that our planet and our community are facing right now. In my opinion, environmental issues are more amenable to technological solutions, and therefore, I think I can have a higher personal impact on their resolution. There are, unfortunately, many issues that cannot be fully addressed with technology, such as social inequality, poverty and access to clean water.
In my project for the Millenium Fellowship, I am working on the issue of hunger relief for the homeless. Although not fully addressable by technology, we are trying to facilitate it using data science.
What are you doing for your Millennium Fellowship project?
Our project is called “Data Against Hunger”. Essentially, we want to collect data from the food banks and local restaurants of Bloomsbury to cross-reference them and find matches. We aim to redistribute the food restaurants have in excess at the end of the business day (perfectly edible and still good, of course) to the food banks, so that it can easily reach the people who need it. I am working on it with another Millennium Fellow, who helped me reformulate the project, making it more practical and achievable.
What skills have you employed during the Fellowship?
The Millennium Fellowship has helped me develop my leadership skills greatly, as well as teamwork, collaboration and project planning. I have also had to brush up on some of my data science skills to successfully program the platform for this project.
It has amazed me how in our cohort people from very different academic backgrounds (medicine, philosophy and economics, psychology, EEE etc.) have been applying their hard and soft skills to their projects, all with a common goal of making the world a better place.
What's something you've taken away from the Fellowship experience so far?
The Millennium Fellowship has opened my eyes to the fact that there are social and societal problems surrounding us very close to home. It is common for the media to highlight SDG-related projects set up in developing countries, especially by volunteers from more developed economies. Although these projects are valid and generous, they unfortunately do not always address problems that exist in our local community. My project was inspired by the experience of walking in the Bloomsbury area and seeing the imbalance between food excess and the suffering of the homeless people, and I hope to make at least a small difference by implementing the scheme we are working on.
Do you have any advice for fellow students interested in getting involved?
In terms of applying to the Millennium Fellowship, my first advice would be to come up with a tangible idea of what you want and can change in the society around you in the short timeframe (August to December). Being organised and passionate about what you do plays a great role in how successfully you can implement this project, and it helps to convey this passion throughout the application process. It helps if you start working on your idea before you even apply because the Millennium Fellowship admissions team values specific examples of your contribution.
The Millennium Fellowship has a great leadership programme, but all the social impact is left up to you, and operates more as founding non-profit rather than traditional volunteering. There are other great ways to get involved, such as the Volunteering Society, Zero Food Waste Society and others.
What would you like to do in future?
My main career focus is entrepreneurship in tech, so I am working on two eEducation struts right now. I would also really like to get involved in the research in the field of quantum computing, for which our department is at the forefront of research, and through which I have been fortunate enough to get opportunities to get involved with it.
Which societies have you signed up to so far?
This year, I am on the Committee of the UCL Guild. We are a career-based society that organised events to help people with CVs, interviews and Internships. I am also part of the Bloomsbury Startup Academy with the Entrepreneurship Society. I also enjoy coming to the lessons and training sessions with the Tango, Boxing and Snow Societies.