The University of New Mexico has enjoyed a long history of mutually beneficial collaborations with the Universidad de Concepción (UdeC), one of the top three universities for Engineering and Physics in Chile.

UNM faculty members are travelling to Chile this week to strengthen the connection with faculty peers at UdeC and to work on plans to enhance joint efforts in research collaboration, faculty exchange and student recruitment. Discussions will aim to broaden awareness of educational and research opportunities for engineering and science students at UNM.

Majeed Hayat, associate director of the UNM Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM), co-chair of the Optical Science and Engineering Program (OSE), and professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), is traveling with Arash Mafi, CHTM member, associate professor with the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and leader of the Photonics Research Group at UNM.

Multidisciplinary research is carried out by UNM students at the 60,000 square foot CHTM facility in UNM’s research park. CHTM has become an internationally recognized research center of excellence with signature research programs in the areas of photonics, microelectronics, nanotechnology, manufacturing and materials science.

Since its inception in 1983, 220 graduates with Ph.D.s and 244 graduates with Masters of Science degrees have conducted their research at CHTM. The majority of these students earned their degrees through ECE, along with students who received degrees through OSE, Physics & Astronomy, Computer Science and Chemistry.

UNM faculty has found in UdeC and its excellent faculty a rich and attractive environment for research collaborations. UNM faculty members have made several working visits to UdeC. This includes visits by:  Richard Holder, Chemistry (also former UNM Provost); Ivan Deutsch, Physics and Astronomy; Payman Zarkesh-Ha, ECE, and Hayat. In 2016, Zarkesh-Ha will be at UdeC for six months as part of his sabbatical leave.

Majeed Hayat, associate director of the UNM Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM), co-chair of the Optical Science and Engineering Program (OSE).

This association is recriprocal. Jorge Pezoa and Sebastian Godoy, ECE faculty at UdeC, graduated from UNM, having conducted their research in the laboratories of ECE at UNM and CHTM. In addition, Sergio Torres, senior faculty at UdeC, completed his Ph.D. under Hayat at his prior institution (Dayton).

Another example is Aldo Delgado, UdeC faculty in Physics, who visited UNM to conduct his postdoctoral training at the Center for Quantum Information and Control (CQulC). These successful faculty members now have their own graduate students at UdeC, and send some of them to UNM as the collaboration between the two institutions continues to evolve.

“For the past 12 years, graduate students from UdeC have conducted their research at CHTM and pursued masters, doctoral, and post-doctorate degrees in Engineering and Physics at UNM,” said Hayat. “In fact, ECE at UNM has a dual-degree agreement with UdeC that began in 2006. Students may earn degrees recognized and accredited by both institutions. We would also like our UNM students to take advantage of this opportunity and travel to UdeC to enrich their educational experience. Participating in the dual-degree program is an excellent way to do this.”

December’s recruitment discussions will focus on students for three academic programs at UNM: ECE, Physics & Astronomy, and OSE.

Keith Lidke, associate professor with Physics & Astronomy, is providing input on the materials that will be presented to students and faculty at UdeC. In addition, Chemistry students will be included in the outreach for the first time.

“What makes this trip special — beyond ordinary recruiting efforts — is that we plan to formalize our successful relationship with UdeC,” said Hayat. “There is already a strong connection between faculty members at UNM and at UdeC. We would like to count on admitting upwards of five students from UdeC every year, with incentives for them to choose UNM.

“UdeC advisors already know that research in the targeted programs and a graduate degree through UNM is a good recommendation. This helps the students plan their educational path, and possibly enroll in the dual-degree programs. We want to take the next steps to increase awareness and to ensure their top students know there is a place for them at UNM,” he added.

Arash Mafi, CHTM member, associate professor with the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and leader of the Photonics Research Group at UNM.

Outstanding students from UdeC who have achieved their Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degrees may benefit from the research opportunities at UNM to further their education. The Chilean government may support these top students in their studies with Fellowships. Some may be supported at UNM with Research Assistant (RA) or Teaching Assistant (TA) Fellowships funded by CHTM, ECE, OSE, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, or possibly other UNM units and programs.

Hayat is excited about building on the existing strong foundation of cooperation to attract excellent students. He hopes it is the start of long-range formal recruiting efforts that reach out to other, select, top engineering and science schools for international students. “When we can plan to recruit from the best international students each year for our programs, we will be on a par with the top research schools in the U.S.,” Hayat said.

“The quality of a university depends to a large extent on the quality of its students,” said Mafi. “Our recruitment is inclusive of students both from the U.S. and from abroad. In addition to making international students aware of educational and research opportunities here, we want them to know about UNM, Albuquerque, and New Mexico. It’s not just the climate that is friendly here — the people are friendly and we enjoy an interesting, diverse and welcoming culture in a beautiful setting.”