Where Are They Now Wednesday

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Annelies Van de Ven

In 2013, Annelies Van de Ven from the University of St. Andrews was Highly Commended for her paper entitled “Pompeii Uncovered: A History of Repression“.

When Annelies submitted her paper to the Undergraduate Awards she was finishing up an MA in Archaeology and Museology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Flash forward to the present and she is now living in London and has a post-doc in Belgium lined up for October. While it may not seem like she moved very far, in the intervening 5 years she completed a PhD in Archaeology and Museology at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Besides writing her PhD thesis, in her four years out in Australia, she engaged in a number of other projects. She helped curate several exhibitions in Melbourne focusing on the ancient world from a variety of different approaches. In August of 2017 she was even able to curate her first solo exhibition at the University of Melbourne using the Mesopotamian cast collection. Her aim was to teach visitors about Mesopotamian power structures while showing the usefulness of these kinds of cast collections in modern universities.

Annelies has also taught students at all levels about archaeology and history. Her favourite formal teaching experience was acting as tutor for students in Practical Archaeology. Through a collaboration that she set up with a local commercial firm, she was able to bring the students into the field to excavate a real historical site in the heart of Melbourne. Annelies loves sharing her passion for fieldwork and seeing students put their hard-earned theoretical knowledge into practice.

Since submitting her thesis, Annelies has worked on several excavations: in Israel, Georgia, Australia and Iraq. She has also travelled for her research, primarily to Iran.

Fieldwork is a strange bubble, that sometimes feels very removed from reality, but the experience of physically uncovering the stories of people who lived in the past is unique, and worth all the difficulty of obtaining visas and taking long flights.

The main thing she loves is getting to meet so many people from all different countries, cultures and backgrounds. She has learned so much just by talking to others about how they view history. After all archaeology isn’t just about artefacts or architecture, ultimately it is about people who are making connections to their environments and one another, even across large spans of time and space.

Annelies has also worked with a number of amazing collaborators in the field of museum and archaeology outreach, helping to facilitate hands-on public events, as well as school-based engagement projects. At the moment, she is working with project leader Sharyn Volk to deliver a captivating mini-curriculum on the Ancient World to secondary school students in rural Victoria, Australia. Using digital humanities and object-based-learning strategies to bring the past to life we provide complementary ways to learn and engage with a subject that has conventionally been seen as solely book-based.

In the future Annelies hopes to open up archaeology to an even wider public, exploring its complexity in a way that is accessible and engaging. Annelies states,

I am fascinated by how people are able to recast, reinterpret and reassemble elements of the past in order to create a sense of history and identity. I think that by better understanding each other’s processes for doing this, we are also more likely to approach one another with tolerance and kindness; fostering archaeology, and the collections it produces, as a platform for discussion and growth to help counter societal tensions around deprecation and distrust.

So far, even with a very curvy road behind her, Annelies feels like she is on the right track. Hopefully the next few years of her career will keep bring her interesting opportunities, so she can keep learning, enriching her skills, and sharing her passion with others.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Brittany Comunale

Brittany Comunale from Brown University was Highly Commended in the 2016 Psychology category for her paper “The Effect of Exit Familiarity and Social Influence on Evacuation Behavior.”

Brittany currently resides in San Diego, California, USA, where she works as a Clinical Research Coordinator for a private medical group. In the fall, she will begin her second year as an MPH student at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. Since graduating from Brown in 2016, Brittany also: earned her MBA from Creighton University, presented research at the Association for Psychological Science’s annual convention, and published three articles in academic journals.

At Dartmouth, Brittany is developing a model that will help medical providers build trust with their patients, which will in turn improve continuity of care and minimize disparities. Brittany’s main professional goal is to bring about disruptive change in the healthcare system that will improve the perception of healthcare professionals and how they interact with their patients.

When she is not conducting research or writing academic papers, Brittany enjoys traveling and photographing her surroundings. To date, she has exhibited her work at galleries in more than fifty countries. Recently, her photographs have been honored at: The International Photographer of the Year Awards, The International Biennial of Photography, The International Color Awards (formerly known as the Photography Masters Cup), Prix de la Photographie Paris, and The Tokyo International Photo Awards.

Brittany notes,

submitting my work to The Undergraduate Awards was one of the most influential decisions I have made in my academic career. It has not only helped me reflect upon and appreciate the work I completed at Brown, but it has also given me a strong sense of achievement. The Undergraduate Awards have motivated me to continue sharing my work with others. This experience has encouraged me to keep a positive attitude in everything I do.

We at The Undergraduate Awards wish Brittany all the best in her future endeavours.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Anna Varadi

In 2015, University of Exeter student Anna Varadi’s essay, ““The acquirement of knowledge”: Prometheus as a Catalyst for Identity Formation in German “Sturm und Drang” and English Romantic Literature” was Highly Commended in the Literature category.

Since the Undergraduate Awards in 2015, Anna moved to Reading where she is in the second year of her PhD in Television Studies. She also teaches undergraduate seminars on television at the University of Reading. She is very fortunate because her research is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership: this scholarship has allowed her to pursue her passion for television full-time.

Anna credits her experience at the Undergraduate Awards as a much needed and incredibly motivating push which really anchored my interest in academia and my desire to pursue a PhD. She describes the UA Global Summit as one of the best experiences of her life and states that she still keeps in touch with several amazing people who she met in Dublin.

Her PhD focuses on contemporary American television drama set in the 1980s (such as, ‘The Americans’, ‘Stranger Things’, ‘GLOW’): as such, she examines how the cultural heritage of 1980s America is represented for a contemporary audience and she focuses on possible reasons why the 1980s might enjoy so much popular cultural interest in America right now – are there, perhaps, cultural parallels? How has the 1980s shaped today’s America and what are these television shows saying about it?

With this in mind, her project has often moved towards an interrogation of contemporary American socio-politics, as well, which has certainly given her a lot of current affairs material to work with. Her work is also concerned with the close analysis of television aesthetics and style because she cares very deeply about taking a critical look at every fibre of every television frame. This has not exactly made her Netflix binges too easy, but it’s part of the job!

Outside of the academic bubble in which she studies and works, Anna is an avid social media user (@varadiwatchesTV), she writes poetry, and spends as much time traveling as she can afford.

In 2016 she had the opportunity to go to the USA to present a paper at a conference held at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she also received a Graduate Scholar Awards. Anna is spending the summer of 2018 presenting papers at various international conferences on nostalgia, feminist media culture, and the future of Television Studies. She is also a vocal Star Wars fan and has published a think piece on the late, great Carrie Fisher’s star image as presented on the cover of her incredible memoir ‘Wishful Drinking’.

 Anna states:

It is a lot of fun to watch television as part of my job. But I hope that my job is about more than that: we teach our students to think about television as a platform for important sociocultural debates, and I hope that my own research can comment on the way our past (and history) shapes personal as well as national self-understanding.

We at The Undergraduate Awards wish Anna the best in her work, and look forward to seeing what she will achieve in the future.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Wyatt James Merkley

Wyatt James Merkley, from Western University, was Highly Commended in the Literature category for his paper: “Literary Amplification: Jon Krakauer’s Use of Intertextual References in Into the Wild and Their Role in The McCandless Phenomenon

Wyatt is currently living in his hometown of London, Ontario, Canada.

He was thrilled to take a job upon graduating as an academic writing tutor for “The Write Place” at King’s University College, an affiliate college of Western University.

After graduating, Wyatt took a well-deserved year off school for the first time, devoting his time to traveling, reading, and relaxing with family and friends. He hiked and backpacked around Ireland, Wales, and England, visiting sites he’d read about in famous English Literature, from the house in James Joyce’s “The Dead” to the Tennyson Down on The Isle of Wight, to Tolkien’s favourite Pub, the Eagle and Child, in Oxford. He was happy to finish seeing the Dublin sites he’d started seeing while at The Undergraduate Awards and delighted to continue literature conversations with fellow Highly Commended award winner Joe McCarthy, who hosted him in Cork.

Overall, the break from academic deadlines was nice, but Wyatt is quite happy to announce that he will be pursuing his Master’s of English Literature this coming fall, again at Western University, with the aim to eventually complete a PhD so that he can sew patches onto the elbows of his tweed jacket. Big summer plans include traveling in Canada’s north, being outside lots, and starting Joyce’s Ulysses this upcoming “Bloomsday”, June 16th.

If you would like to submit your work to The Undergraduate Awards and be in with the chance to join us for our Global Undergraduate Summit 2018, click here.

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Where Are They Now Wednesday: Dawid Sawicki

Dawid Sawicki studied Economics at the University of St Andrews. He was a Highly Commended Entrant in 2016 for his paper “European Integration And Income Inequality: A Panel Data Study

Dawid currently lives in London, United Kingdom. He is an Executive at an international advisory and accounting firm, Moore Stephens LLP. He works with a portfolio of real estate and construction clients, providing assurance services on their business practices.

One of the key aspects of the job that I really enjoy is that I get to see the new snazzy-looking buildings before the people who will actually use it – my recent visit to Google’s new offices was particularly exciting!

Dawid has also worked with large international donors, including the funding agencies of the United Nations and the World Bank. In 2017, he worked with ten NGOs in Central Asia, helping them strengthen their core management functions. Notably, in September 2017, he worked with a small NGO in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, whose objective was to help girls aged 6-14 complete primary school education. The work required analyzing all of the organization’s processes, including programme implementation, hiring of new staff, financing, accounting and procurement, as well as providing recommendations regarding improvements to these.

It is so important to every once in a while do something without looking at the bottom line. My work in Dushanbe was one of the best experiences I’ve had thus far – not only did I manage to visit a fantastic country, but also put my accounting and finance skills into practice to (hopefully) make somebody’s life better.

His work involves a lot of traveling both locally in the UK and overseas. Apart from Tajikistan, he led projects in Ireland, Greece, Turkey and Kazakhstan.

After The Undergraduate Awards, he has not given up writing on issues that interest him. He published his paper on income inequality in an American journal Issues in Political Economy. In 2018, he also published a business piece on revenue recognition practices in a leading accountancy journal, Accounting Today.

Dawid is also currently studying towards an ACA qualification. He has currently completed twelve out of fifteen exams and is due to fully qualify in September 2018.

If you are interested in submitting your work to The Undergraduate Awards as Dawid did, please follow the link here.


Where Are They Now Wednesday: Robin Trenbath

Robin Trenbath, from the University of Manchester, was Highly Commended in 2016 for his paper “Bordering and Ordering: A Discursive Analysis of Power in Public Space”.

After submitting to The Undergraduate Awards, Robin Trenbath graduated with a 1st Class Honours Degree in Politics and Modern History from the University of Manchester, where he was awarded the Edwards & Hooson Prize for outstanding dissertation in social responsibility. His research was also published in an international peer-reviewed journal, Political Perspectives, and he was shortlisted Best Speaker at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research. One of his most memorable experiences at undergraduate level was contributing to the Manchester Refugee Support Network heritage project, for which he collected oral histories of Bosnian refugees who fled violence caused by the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s.

Following this, Robin completed an MSc in Comparative Social Policy at the University of Oxford and moved to Bogotá, Colombia, where in the midst of the country’s transition from conflict he has been brushing up on his Spanish and working as an independent International Consultant for various United Nations System agencies and INGOs in topics such as gender equality and business development. He hopes to build on this experience through a practical and evidence-based application of value chain development to post-conflict contexts, thereby achieving the interconnected and mutually dependent goals of peacebuilding and inclusive economic growth. In time, he would like to complete a PhD in this topic, but isn’t in a rush!

Since arriving in Latin America, he has been fortunate to travel to Panamá, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay for both business and pleasure, and has plans to explore many countries besides. He also enjoys playing football, often finding that his Welsh style of play is no match for the much more skilful Colombians around him, and learning about the music and culture of his adopted home.

To get to this point, Robin took an unusual path. Having left school early and worked for several years in the healthcare sector supporting adults and children with disabilities, before teaching himself high school qualifications in his mid-20’s, he appreciates the kind of trajectory-changing experience that education can be. He also understands profoundly the kinds of opportunities that The Undergraduate Awards can bring. Robin recounts his experience with fond memories and gives his advice to undergraduates in the position to submit their work this year;

It might be daunting to share your ideas and writing, especially on a global scale, but submitting an essay to The Undergraduate Awards pushed me to have confidence in my ideas. Doing so – and being recognised for doing so – is an exercise that is very much worth the pain!

If you would like to find out how to submit to this year’s Undergraduate Awards click here.


Where Are They Now Wednesday: Kyra Reynolds

Kyra Reynolds was the Global Winner of the Agriculture and Environmental Sciences category of  The Undergraduate Awards(UA) 2013 with her paper on the history of ice sheets in Scotland thousands of years ago, “Fact or Fiction?- Debating Ice Sheet Existence in Scotland during the Windermere (Lateglacial) Interstadial”. This paper highlights the potential lessons to be learned in relation to the impacts of climate change now and in the future, through analysing the past.

When Kyra submitted to UA in 2013, she had just completed a BSc. degree in Geography at the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences, based in Ulster University. Given the topic of her winning paper, it might be somewhat surprising to learn that Kyra’s area of specialism is actually in the arena of Human Geography. Since winning her award at UA, Kyra has undertaken a PhD study exploring the conflict in Israel-Palestine, which involved conducting fieldwork in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. She successfully graduated from her PhD in December 2017, having gained valuable insights, experiences and international publications. 

Kyra completed her PhD in the same school and university department at Ulster University where she studied for her undergraduate degree, having fallen in love with the subject and the working environment. She has recently taken up a job in local government, working as part of the three-person management team for implementing the EU funded PEACE IV Project in the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council in Northern Ireland. The borough-wide programme, which involves funding of approximately £3.5 million, aims to further improve relations between conflicting groups, thus locally progressing the peace process that began in Northern Ireland in 1998. Kyra explains her commitment to occupations with a global responsibility to us;

I’m interested in all things humanitarian and sociological and am always keen to emphasise the importance of doing work that has a real and meaningful positive impact upon people’s lives rather than simply doing things for economic and personal gain.

Kyra hopes to continue to be able to do a diverse array of things in the coming years to make a contribution to our currently troubled world.

If you would like to find out how to submit to this year’s Undergraduate Awards click here.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Maija Absetz

Maija Absetz, from the University of Helsinki, was Highly Commended in the History category in2016 for her paper: “Statistics as a rhetorical mode – The Meaning and Use of Statistics in the English 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act”

Maija still lives in Helsinki, Finland and started her Master’s programme in History last year. She will graduate next year but before that she has an adventure before her: she will study Russian linguistics and culture at the Kazan Federal University in Tatarstan, Russia for half a year.

“The best thing you can learn from studying at the university is what to do with all the freedom and responsibility. I love to organise my days, set goals, and pursue them. It takes a lot of self-discipline to study and work but it requires even more to manage your schedules so that you also have time for the other important things in life: seeing friends and dancing to your hearts content. I hope to use these skills after graduation as well.”

Right now she is studying Russian linguistics and writing her Master’s thesis on Finnish unemployment legislation in the 1980’s. They are sort of “modern poor laws”, a theme she already studied in her Bachelor’s thesis. Although the era and country have changed, the topics and themes of interests are the same: how do policymakers justify their decisions concerning the unemployed. Maija is very grateful for the opportunities afforded to her after participating in The Undergraduate Awards.

“Power, moral and fairness are still themes that intrigue me. Writing my dissertation, which I sent to the Undergraduate Awards(UA) 2016, made me realise that I enjoy doing research. Because of the award I received from UA, I was able to publish my text in a Finnish web journal and it has probably helped me get a few study grants.”

After the UA experience she finished her Bachelor’s Degree and worked as a trainee for six months at a Military Museum operated by the Finnish National Defence Forces. By giving daily guided tours about the military history of Finland, both in English and in Finnish, she learned the skill of popularising science. Although she is heading for an academic career, she believes it to be crucial not only to find out complicated interconnections between historical phenomena but also to learn to explain them to whomever –  a professor, a PhD student or a schoolgirl.

If you would like to find out how to submit to this year’s Undergraduate Awards click here.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Claire Errington

Claire Errington studied Law at the University of Durham and was Highly Commended in The Undergraduate Awards 2016 for her paper discussing the legal and historical dichotomy between the ‘object and effect’ of anti-competitive restraints on competition.

Claire graduated from Durham University in Summer 2016 with a First Class Honours Degree in Law. Having led various pro bono projects at Durham University, wherein she worked to provide legal expertise and support to victims of torture, forced displacement and domestic abuse to name but a few, in countries from the UK to Syria, she was strongly motivated to pursue a career in Human Rights. Immediately after graduation she spent an exciting year travelling around Europe, Africa and South East Asia; working specifically on human rights advocacy work in places such as South Africa and Kenya.

Keen to continue her student experience, Claire is now studying in New York City, reading her M.A. Degree in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University. The access to numerous specialists she has gained throughout this programme (both professors and classmates!) who are all passionate, motivated, diverse and fascinating people committed to the promotion and protection of Human Rights, has been of immeasurable inspiration to Claire.

Specifically, Claire is specialising in international humanitarian and criminal law; her current thesis project is looking into the prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence at the International Criminal Court, with specific reference to the pivotal Bemba case. She also recently co-organised a 50th anniversary conference at Columbia Law School reflecting on the events of the ‘My Lai Massacre’ during the Vietnam War; inviting and organising a variety of panellists such as Academy-Award winning journalists, historians, 

legal practitioners, and even participants, to share their thoughts and reflections on the regulation of war crimes in past conflicts and in modern times.

Claire is loving life in New York; the buzz, fast-pace of life and variety of people she’s meeting makes for a whirlwind love affair with the Big Apple! Despite being an avid Newcastle United football supporter, she’s found another new-found love in all things Yankees and Tino Martinez. When she’s not been pulled between her studies or sports, she’s been enjoying exploring the beautiful East Coast with friends, bonfires, country walks, s’mores and of course, cider. Claire is passionate about continuing to pursue her post-Columbia career in gender justice and international humanitarian law, in whichever corner of the world that may take her!

If you would like to find out how to submit to this year’s Undergraduate Awards click here.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Laura Collins

Laura Collins studied Biology at the University of St Andrews and was a Highly Commended Entrant of the Undergraduate Awards in 2015 for her paper “Garden birds and their use of provisioned water”. Changing behaviours in birds and community migrations can be seen as indicators of environmental health. Her study investigated whether fresh water increases the attractiveness of gardens to birds, how birds interact with different water sources and how water use varies between species. Laura argues that this area of research is pertinent as an understanding of effective water provisioning would be valuable since providing artificial sources of water in gardens may contribute vital resources to species of conservation concern, which rely on urban gardens as an important habitat. 

Having always dreamt of studying abroad, following graduation she  never expected that she would be able to do so, not once but four times over! This was made possible through a scholarship for an Erasmus Mundus Masters Course in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems (TROPIMUNDO). This unique Masters programme focuses on researching the risk of extinction of many species through global warming. This is achieved through analysing certain areas that present the biggest risk to the degradation of the planet, for example land use and the destructions of habitats and tropical rainforests.

 This important programme took Laura from Brussels to Brisbane, then Paris and Singapore, in a whirlwind two years that she will never forget. She finished the Tropical Biology Masters in September after submitting her thesis entitled: “Support base for discourses on mangrove forests in Singapore and assessment of (mis)matches with management and regulations”.

Some areas of the programme were incredibly challenging, but there were numerous highlights; above all learning about the cultures of new friends from all over the world.

Crazier highlights include swimming in a lake with a crocodile, riding a camel in the outback, seeing wild elephants in India, helping a Buddhist monk shower the monastery crocodiles, eating bamboo with the locals in Vietnam and living with an employee of French vogue on Rue de Seine.

Laura has always had a passion for writing and editing, so she took the opportunity to start herown travel blog documenting her experiences :“Topical Tropical Travelogues. The opportunity to live and study in these different countries also gave her an understanding of the fundamental importance of education. Laura has been a Trainee Editor with CGP books (an educational publisher in Cumbria, England) since January, which has given her an opportunity to grow her interest in education and writing.

If you would like to find out how to submit to this year’s Undergraduate Awards click here.

Where Are They Now Wednesday- Surer Mohamed

Surer Mohamed, from Western University, was a Highly Commended entrant at the Undergraduate Awards (UA) 2014, for her paper ‘The Trouble with ‘Tribe’: Beyond a Monocausal Explanation for Ethnicized Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa’ in the Politics & International Relations category.

Surer’s paper shines a light on the lack of emphasis on ethnicity with the all encompassing term ‘tribe’, which neglects the structural considerations that grant ethnicity its salience. The paper investigates numerous critical causes that lead to the instrumentalization of ethnicity, such as the use of ‘tribe’ as a political currency by African leaders. Surer pushes back against the widely held belief that “ethnic conflict and ‘tribalism’ are exclusively at the heart of civil conflicts and electoral contests in Africa”.

 Surer Mohamed is currently studying at the University of Cambridge, where she is pursuing a PhD in Politics and International Studies.

Attending the Undergraduate Awards Summit in 2014 was an important formative experience for Surer.

At the UA Summit, I began to envision myself as a part of a community of scholars, and began to pursue an academic career.

Since the Summit, Surer has completed a M.A. at the University of Western Ontario and an MPhil at the University of Cambridge. She has been the recipient of scholarships from the David and Elaine Potter Foundation, the Mackenzie King Trust, and the Rotary Foundation.

Surer has a keen interest in critical theory, postcolonial African studies, and critical approaches to transitional justice. Her doctoral research considers property disputes in the Somali capital city, Mogadishu, as a site of justice contestation in the post-conflict era. She considers how mass violence creates competing claims of “victimhood” that have important political ramifications for the emerging state and society.

In addition to her studies, Surer is a Research Assistant on the “Rethinking Transitional Justice from African Perspectives” project, where she is works with partner organisations from Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya that address innovative approaches to transitional justice in their immediate contexts. She is also a co-host on the Declarations podcast that considers the complexities of human rights in the real world.

Surer is interested in pursuing a career in academia that straddles the divide between scholarship and practice. She is passionate about challenging the boundaries of knowledge production and producing scholarship that can enable grassroots political engagement.

Read Surer’s Highly Commended paper in the UA Library.

If you would like to find out how to submit to this year’s Undergraduate Awards click here.


Where Are They Now Wednesday: Will Heegaard

Will Heegaard from University of California, Berkeley was Highly Commended in the Politics and International Relations Category in 2013.

Will was highly commended for his paper “Military Security and Environmental Degradation: Challenges and Opportunities” in which he assessed the ecological impact of the U.S. Armed Forces, arguing that the focus on military combat on foreign soil has ” created environmental threats more dangerous and pressing than our human foes.”

Since participating in the Undergraduate Awards in 2013, Will has been involved in numerous exciting and rewarding projects that have given him the opportunity to travel abroad. Will has trained clinicians as a Programme Manager in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak and responded with Team Rubicon after disasters in Louisiana and Minnesota. Team Rubicon is an international NGO, formed in 2010 following the earthquake in Haiti, that unites skilled veterans with first responders to swiftly deploy emergency response units in disaster situations.

Will is currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He splits his time working as a Paramedic while launching  his start-up Footprint GBC, which provides sustainability consulting for disaster response agencies. Footprints modus operandi “combines sustainability consulting with clean energy deployment so every humanitarian organization can fulfill their commitment to first do no harm, and every affected community can develop through disaster.”

Will Heegaard and the Footprint Team

Will recently deployed a solar micro-grid to offset diesel use at Black Rock City’s Rampart Medical Clinic, and is now working with a community in Puerto Rico to power their recovery with clean energy.

I’m fascinated by the connection between public health, environmental science and humanitarian crisis, and love projects that connect emergency response with sustainable development.


When he’s not on an ambulance or in the field, he likes to cook, write, travel and tinker on his off-grid tiny house!

Read Will’s Highly Commended Paper on The Undergraduate Awards Library

If you would like to find out how to submit to this year’s Undergraduate Awards click here.




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