UT signs agreement to form research partnership with Mexico

Zainab Calcuttawala

UT and the National Autonomous University of Mexico signed an agreement that seeks to pursue research in areas of mutual interest and to facilitate the transfer of energy expertise between the schools, according to Jorge Piñon, director of the UT Latin America and Caribbean Energy Program.

Provost Gregory Fenves visited Mexico City earlier this month to sign the agreement, which the University hopes will strengthen academic bridges between the two institutions, according to a press release from the University. 

The collaboration between students at the two universities will benefit engineering research at UT, said Carlos Torres-Verdin, petroleum and geosystems engineering professor.

“This is a very exciting and important opportunity within the college of engineering because [the National Autonomous University of Mexico] is the best university in Mexico in many areas of research,” Torres-Verdin said. “They have excellent students come here.”

The collaboration in energy research will be vital for the success of new governmental reforms in Mexico, which will open the energy industry to foreign investment, Torres-Verdin said. 

“Mexico does not have the volume of energy professionals needed to supply the big demand when foreign companies land in Mexico to start petroleum exploration,” Torres-Verdin said. “This agreement with [the National Autonomous University of Mexico] is important because it will facilitate the development of professionals that Mexico needs to successfully develop its energy resources.”

Cooperation agreements alone will not ensure that Mexican students will come to UT because tuition fees remain out of reach for many Mexican citizens, according to Joshua Christopher Bautista-Anguiano, a petroleum engineering graduate student who attended the Mexican university. He said the Mexican government offers scholarships, but the state only covers up to 20 percent of a student’s tuition costs.

“The main thing that students in Mexico are concerned about is tuition fees.” Bautista-Anguiano said. “I know a lot of people who would have liked to go abroad. Either they did not have enough money, or they did not have enough scholarships. I know the agreements are there, but if they cannot find a sponsor, they cannot come.”

Sharing energy expertise will also help alleviate environmental concerns regarding fracking, a method used to drill through rocks for natural gas, in Mexico because it will make the shale oil extraction process safer, Piñon said.

“It makes sense for UT to exchange information with Mexico because we have learned quite a bit about fracking,” Piñon said. “This way they can do a much better job — a much safer job.”