UT and Mexico partner in new geosciences exchange program

Pranav Nair

This summer, 16 students from UT and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico will participate in an exchange program to study and develop computation techniques that will help scientists collect and analyze geoscience data.

According to Jorge Pinon, program manager for the Jackson School of Geosciences, as the need for energy reform becomes more urgent amid the revelations about the modern environmental concerns of climate change, collaboration efforts such as the summer program aim to nurture a new generation of geoscientists that may solve the problems that perplex the brightest minds of the present.

The program, which will include six weeks of instruction and three weeks of fieldwork in the Central Mexican Altiplano and the Texas Hill Country, is the result of a collaboration between the UT International Office and School of Geosciences faculty led by associate professor Suzanne Pierce.

Pierce, who is also a research scientist at the Texas Advanced Computer Center, said the idea for an exchange program started last March when Study Abroad Office administrators approached her about a possible international collaboration venture following a workshop she led on intelligence systems sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

“We talked on Skype many times,” Pierce said. “We worked really hard and could not have pulled this off so quickly without all the efforts of our staff and the trust we share.”

The exchange program aims to educate students in different kinds of energy management, data collection and computation through a partnership between the Jackson School of Geosciences and the Geosciences department at UNAM.

“This program will help our students and their students become well versed in [computation, data analysis] skills and each other’s cultures as well,” JSG science writer Monica Kortsha said.

According to Kortsha, School of Geosciences dean Sharon Mosher visited Mexico last summer to converse with his counterpart at UNAM about ways the two schools can cooperate to achieve mutual goals, and this week, he will accompany UT President Gregory Fenves there to conduct talks of furthering academic exchanges such as the summer exchange program.

This initiative is not the only time the two institutions have cooperated.

“We are not just going there to teach them,” said Pinon, speaking of the recent cooperation efforts between the two universities. “We are going there to learn from them.”