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MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship


The Legatum Center supports entrepreneurs all around the world through the Fellowships and Grants

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Tuka AlHanai

2016 - 2017
Legatum Fellow
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
PhD, School of Engineering

Tuka’s venture, CONNECT, forges meaningful connections between different cultural, professional, and academic communities. CONNECT, is an end-to-end automated platform that matches individuals based on an educated assessment of their schedules and interests and invites users to meet with a different person each week, one-on-one, for a free lunch. CONNECT has fostered cross-cultural communication and mentorship, as well as friendships and academic growth in the MIT community. Everyone needs to eat, so you might as well meet someone new, whom you normally would not have crossed paths with.

As an MIT student, Tuka observed that despite the numerous social events, the campus lacked a forum for individuals from different cultural, academic, and professional backgrounds to meet over common interests. Tuka has observed this phenomenon in many organizations in which people work side by side, but do not make new connections with peers from other groups. CONNECT fosters friendships and mentorships that offer growth opportunities and support through academic and professional challenges, improving personal wellbeing. Everyone needs to eat, and lunch is a universal connector.

Tuka grew up in the United Arab Emirates. After completing her undergraduate studies, Tuka worked in the oil and gas industry with colleagues from a variety of cultural and academic backgrounds. Through her own experience she is motivated to improve communication as evidenced by her research into speech recognition, voice analytics, sentiment analysis and social wellbeing in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT.

Tuka holds a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT. She is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Engineering.


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