The University of Texas-Pan American is expanding its influence overseas by entering into a partnership with one of the leading universities in South Korea.
Dr. David Allen, dean of UTPA's College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, interim vice provost of research and sponsored projects, traveled to South Korea on May 13 to have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), located in the city of Daejeon, which is about 100 miles south of Seoul.
"This simply says we believe in each other, we like each other, we think that we have something that the other needs and that we will look for opportunities to encourage our faculty and our students to interact," Allen said. "They also feel comfortable with the direction the institution is going in with the engineering college in particular, and they believe that our institution should be able to accommodate their needs in the Valley for purposes of populating companies that they may spin off in the Valley."
The memorandum establishes a wide variety of projects and initiatives the two higher education institutions will collaborate on, including student exchange programs, research and commercialization of technologies the universities have developed.
"This means opportunities for students, faculty and everybody involved," Gonzalez said.
KAIST President Dr. Nam Pyo Suh signed the agreement on May 17.
"KAIST is one of the most prestigious Korean institutions," Gonzalez said, adding that the university is equated to The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
One such project in which UT Pan American is involved with KAIST involves testing electric vehicles using technology invented by KAIST President Dr. Nan Pyo Suh. The project is one of many the University is working on as part of The North American Advanced Manufacturing Research & Education Initiative (NAAMREI). The City of McAllen, the McAllen Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and South Texas College are also collaborators on this project.
As part of the project, some McAllen municipal buses have been retrofitted to run on electricity using the technology developed by Suh.
"This is a tremendous opportunity and we want to mention Dr. Taeyong Yang and Dr. L K Song (faculty members at KAIST) who have been instrumental in working with us," Gonzalez said.
The two institutions have been developing their research and manufacturing collaboration for the past few years. Most recently, representatives of KAIST visited UTPA several times in the past year, including a trip in June 2011 to the University's Rapid Response Manufacturing Center (RRMC) to discuss the possibility of collaborating with the UT Pan American, the MEDC and others on commercialization and advanced manufacturing ventures.
Although the MOU is an overarching document that establishes the beginning of the working relationship between the two institutions, joining forces with KAIST will benefit UTPA greatly, Allen said.
KAIST is advanced in research capabilities, but it has little resources in manufacturing. UT Pan American is still growing its research potential, but is located near the U.S.-Mexico border, where there is a growing manufacturing industry, so the two universities are a perfect match, he said.
"We hope to use this relationship to spawn and flower intellectual creativity," Allen said.