Purdue, Colombia forge scientific research partnership

November 2, 2010

From left, Arden Bement; Juan Ernesto de Bedout, chair, College of Engineering Advisory Council; Minister of Education of Colombia Maria Fernanda Campo; and Leah Jamieson.

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University and several Colombian agencies have signed an agreement establishing the Colombia-Purdue Institute for Advanced Scientific Research.

The institute is designed to promote an exchange of people and knowledge, enhance the scientific and entrepreneurial work force in Colombia, and lead to collaborative advancements in science and technology to benefit the economic future of the Americas.

Purdue's effort is being led by the College of Engineering and the Global Policy Research Institute. They are working with the Colombian Ministry of Education; Colciencias, the Colombian department for science, technology and innovation, which is the equivalent of the U.S. National Science Foundation; and Colfuturo, a private foundation that promotes, orients and finances Colombian graduate students studying outside the country.

The plan, inspired by former Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos’ vision for "Colombia 2025," looks to catapult the country as a leader in science and technology in Latin America. This vision fit well with the College of Engineering's strategic plan, "Extraordinary People, Global Impact."

"Key to engineering's strategic plan is defining what it means to be a global university in the 21st century, advancing learning, discovery and engagement on a global scale," said Leah Jamieson, Purdue's John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering. "This effort with Colombia perfectly fits with that mission."

From left, Juan Ernesto de Bedout, chair, College of Engineering Advisory Council; Arden Bement; Leah Jamieson; Fancisco Santos Calderon, recent vice president of Colombia; Arvind Raman; Carolyn Percifield; and Jean-Paul Allain.

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Purdue signed agreements with the Colombian Ministry of Education, led by Minister Maria Fernanda Campo and Vice Minister of Higher Education Javier Botero Alvarez, and with Colciencias, led by Director Jaime Restrepo Cuartas.

The cooperation program will include:

* Establishing tailored doctoral programs in priority research areas for Colombian students. Part of the agreement calls for approximately 60 Colombian students supported by Colciencias  to study towards doctoral degrees at Purdue  in strategic areas for Colombia including nanotechnology and  biotechnology.

* Hosting and training younger researchers.

* Hosting and training postdoctoral scholars in the focus areas.

* Linking Colombia's growing scientific communities to worldwide networks through Purdue's nanoHUB tools.

* Ensuring that Colombian investments in science and technology reach all levels of society by sharing Purdue's experience in service learning and educational programs. 

"Purdue is well-positioned to help Colombia enhance its base of world-class scientists and increase their visibility," said Arden Bement, director of the Global Policy Research Institute. "One of our driving passions is to help emerging markets do the kind of research that eventually will improve the world."

Colciencias has identified priority research areas, including advanced materials, complex systems, genetic resources and biodiversity, agro-industrialization, genomics, and bioinformatics. The focus of the agreement will begin with nanotechnology and biotechnology. The agreement will bring to Purdue as many as 60 top Colombian doctoral students, 20-40 young research scholars and a group of postdoctoral researchers over the next three to four years, beginning in fall 2011. 

Colfuturo, led by Director Jeronimo Castro Jaramillo, will fund the doctoral students who will study in Purdue's engineering programs. Another agreement with the Ministry of Education opens the door to the establishment of a new program focused on efforts to promote science and technology in Colombian K-12 education and in rural communities through the Educational Frontiers Research program. 

From left, Leah Jamieson, Arden Bement and Jeronimo Castro Jaramillo, director of Colfuturo.

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As part of the agreement, the Colombian scientific community will be able to connect with the rest of the world through Purdue's nanoHUB.org cyberinfrastructure.

"NanoHUB connects users in 172 countries," said Gerhard Klimeck, director of the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) at Purdue and a professor of electrical and computer engineering. "They learn about nanotechnology through classes and tutorials and run sophisticated modeling and simulation tools. More than 150 classes at 120 institutions used nanoHUB simulations in the classroom in the past academic year."

In addition, nanoHUB will be an important tool to connect faculty from Purdue with Colombian scientists, said Jean Paul Allain, assistant professor of nuclear engineering and a member of the College of Engineering team working on the Colombia-Purdue Institute.

From left, Juan Jose Trujillo, vice director of Colciencias; Jaime Restrepo Cuartas, director of Colciencias, Leah Jamieson and Arden Bement.

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"Purdue's strong alumni network has been key to building our relationships in Colombia," Jamieson said. "We are grateful to Juan Ernesto de Bedout, who earned a bachelor's degree in 1967 and master's in 1968 in industrial engineering and is group president of Latin American Operations for Kimberly-Clark Corp. and chair of the College of Engineering's Advisory Council. He facilitated the introductions that have led to this strong, multifaceted collaboration."

Arvind Raman, professor of mechanical engineering, said other alumni and Purdue supporters who helped form the bridge between Purdue and Colombia are Gilberto Gomez, Diana Gedeon and Carlos Plata, all alumni; Alvaro and Elena Velasquez; Manuel Santiago Mejia of Colciencias; Felipe Alvira of Kimberly Clark; and Pedro Prieto, director of the Center of Excellence in Novel Materials, Universidad del Valle.

"On the Colciencias side, we are grateful to Dorys-Yaneth Rodriguez, director of Knowledge Networks, and Mauricio Rodriguez, program manager for biotechnology, for their support," Raman said.

In addition to Allain and Raman, others on the College of Engineering team for the initiative are George Adams, NCN associate director; Monica Allain, managing director of Birck Nanotechnology Center; and Michael Ladisch, distinguished professor of agricultural and biological engineering. They were supported by Carolyn Percifield, College of Engineering director of strategic planning and assessment; Indrajeet Chaubey, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering; Chris Martin, College of Engineering director of financial affairs; Andrew Bean, mechanical engineering; Mary Millsaps and Sally Rehmel, Sponsored Programs Services; Cecilia Tenorio, director of the College of Liberal Arts community assistance program; Yating Chang, in the Office of Professional Practice.

The program is being coordinated with the Global Egineering Programs, led by Rabi Mohtar, professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

The agreements with the Ministry of Education and Colfuturo were signed Oct. 26 in Bogota. The agreement with Colciencias was signed Oct. 27 in Bogota.

Media contact:  Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu  

Sources:   Leah Jamieson, 765-494-5346, lhj@purdue.edu  

                    Arden Bement, 765-496-6713, bement@purdue.edu