UT professors collaborate with Mexican institutions through ConTex

Lauren Schneider

Nine professors from across UT recently received the 2018 ConTex Collaborative Research Grants. This funding allows the research bonds between UT and Mexican institutions to continue to grow. ConTex was founded in 2016 and is a joint effort between the UT System and Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology, according to the ConTex website. The goal of ConTex is to promote collaborative research between the United States and Mexico by allowing Mexican academics to contribute to UT research.

In at least one case, collaboration is a political necessity, according to James Austin Jr., senior research scientist at the Jackson School of Geosciences. He said he will study the southeastern Gulf of Mexico with ConTex’s support.

Austin’s team will be drilling in Mexican, Cuban and U.S. waters. In order to do this, all three nations must be on board, Austin said.

“(ConTex is) setting up the cooperation that we’re gonna need from Mexico and Cuba to get that (research) done,” Austin said. “ConTex doesn’t pay salaries. It doesn’t pay for the actual conduct of the research, but it does pay for the getting together and talking about all that.”

Mexico’s input is especially useful for UT researchers who focus their studies in the region, according to government associate professor Kenneth Greene.

“There’s a special advantage when doing a project in Mexico to have a collaborator who’s in Mexico … in part because he grew up in Mexico, so he has more of a different perspective than the average collaborator might compared to me,” Greene said.

Greene will conduct research with Alberto Simpser from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México. According to Greene, they will study vote-buying practices in Mexican elections.

Juan Murcia-Delso, assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, met with professor Sergio Alcocer of the National Autonomous University of Mexico after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico last year.

“After the earthquake last year, I went down to Mexico,” Murcia-Delso said. “I got in touch with professor Alcocer, and we talked about maybe putting together some proposal trying to collaborate on this topic. The ConTex project opportunity came in, and we decided to propose and we finally got the project.”

Murcia-Delso said his project will collect preliminary data about structures retrofitted for seismic activity after the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City.

“We want to learn about those practices and retrofit of buildings that did well (in 2017) and then report why did this happen,” Murcia-Delso said. “We’re trying also to strengthen the links between the (National Autonomous University of Mexico) and also UT. That’s another important goal of the project.”

Greene said he wants to see more collaboration between the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and UT.

“There have been a number of collaborations between the universities over many years, but those kinds of international collaborations can always be reinforced, so I’m hoping that occurs,” Greene said.