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Friday, September 22, 2023


Department pairs with Russian colleges

The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics announced on June 6 a partnership with Novosibirsk State University and the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in exchanging students and faculty to further scientific research in both countries.

"There are so many developments in science and technology that increasingly need the benefit of collaborative efforts," Vice Chancellor for the UH System and Vice President for Research Donald Birx said in a release.

Heading up the agreement are Director of the Russian Academy’s Department of Growth and Structure of Semiconductor Materials Oleg Pchelyakov and UH professor of physics, chemistry and electrical and computer engineering, Alex Ignatiev.

Ignatiev said he hoped the academic exchange would bring breakthroughs in geology, astronomy, physics and mathematic areas of research as a starting point to other areas.

"You may know that Novosibirsk University is one of the few universities in Russia which are linked to the Russian Academy of Sciences, and they are focused only on math and science," Ignatiev said. "Those are the kind of talents that we really would like to see enhance here at the institution."

The partnership, which has been in the works since 2005, is different from past agreements the University has made with international institutions because a single department is taking the initiative to head a collaborative program rather than the University as a whole.

The details of the arrangement will be finalized later this year, but the first exchanges of students and faculty are expected to take place as early as Spring 2008.

"The details of the collaboration have yet to be defined because I will be in Russia in August and October, and we will meet with the Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences to put more meat, so to speak, on the agreement, vis-à-vis more details about the exact exchanges and specific areas where those exchanges will take place," Ignatiev said.

Ignatiev does not expect the influx of research to affect the Science and Engineering Research and Classroom Complex, inaugurated in April 2006. SERCC was built as a "shell" building, meaning it was left empty as a way to attract incoming researchers to equip the facility for research and development as needed.

The partnership is an attempt to make research a priority between the institutions. Ignatiev is also the director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials, which develops space materials for NASA, that have been used by the International Space Station.

Ignatiev still conducts research and development for space materials and is attempting to follow up on the Wake Shield Program that UH was involved in 1994, which produced the space materials in a vacuum environment.

Approximately 9,000 people are involved in the research laboratories in Novosibirsk and the Russian Academy of Sciences, which makes them a leading force in scientific research that could strengthen UH’s research area.

"This agreement with the Russian Academy of Sciences is a very major step for an institution," Ignatiev said. "The research collaboration is in a stronger position than it would (be) in other places."

The Russian institutions have ties to UH not only through other agreements in place with other departments, but also through current faculty, such as professor of mathematics Yuri Kuznetsov, an alumnus of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"They (the Russian institutions) know people here already and so they felt that because of that connection, that this would be a good start," Ignatiev said.

Ignatiev said that the exchange of students and faculty could have the possibility of overlapping in developing joint programs between schools, and that the Russian institutions may later make partnerships with other fields within the University, such as engineering, technology, mathematics and possibly optometry to help develop new technologies.

"More and more, we’re seeing talented individuals and groups worldwide pooling resources and working better together than ever before," Birx said. "This partnership will facilitate this sharing of talent – both on the faculty and student levels – that is so crucial in today’s expanded research endeavors, creating scholarly communities across traditional lines."

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