Twenty-six top undergraduate students from Universidad Nacional de Colombia will spend up to six months at Purdue University learning from research to gain experience they can apply to their work back home.
The visit is the result of a partnership, started in 2010, between Purdue and the government of Colombia that created the Colombia-Purdue Institute, designed to enhance the scientific and entrepreneurial workforce in the South American nation.
The students, scheduled to arrive on campus Saturday (June 21), will work with faculty in six Purdue colleges - Agriculture, Engineering, Health and Human Sciences, Pharmacy, Science, and Technology. The students will be involved in research across many fields of study, such as involving how to apply technology for use in medical devices, better using natural products in pharmaceuticals and producing biofuels for aviation.
"They will gain expertise from top-level laboratories and faculty at Purdue across many disciplines and take back to their country what they learned," said Tamara Benjamin, sustainable agriculture and natural resources scientist in Purdue's Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. She is coordinating the visit on behalf of the CPI.
Colombia is a strategic partner for Purdue, said Arvind Raman, the associate dean for global engineering programs who is on the CPI leadership team. He noted that Purdue has more students from Colombia than any other country in Latin America, resulting in a strong alumni base. Colombia also is the only non-Asian country among the 10 nations internationally with the most students enrolled at Purdue.
The partnership and the 2012 free-trade agreement between the United States and Colombia are increasing opportunities for both countries. Purdue's Office of Global Affairs recently opened an office that focuses on engagement with Colombia.
"The relationship between Colombia and Purdue continues to mature," Raman said. "In the past, our links were more one-way, with only students from Colombia coming here. But recently it has become truly two-way, with large amounts of joint research as well as study abroad opportunities there for Purdue students."
As a part of the partnership, several Purdue delegations have visited Universidad Nacional de Colombia (National University of Colombia) in Bogota in recent years. They include the provost, chief global affairs officer, deans of the Colleges of Science and Engineering, several department heads, and many faculty members.
The Colombian students' visit follows an agreement that Purdue President Mitch Daniels and the rector of Universidad Nacional de Colombia signed in January in Colombia. During that trip, Daniels met the students who are now visiting Purdue, and he will meet them again during their time on campus. Accompanying the students on their visit will be Diego Hernandez, the Colombian university's vice rector.
The students will live together on the Purdue campus but also will be assigned to "host" families in West Lafayette or neighboring Lafayette. This partnership is through the Purdue International Programs' International Friendship program. The idea is to involve them in the local community, such as by attending sports events, picnics and other activities with the families.
"We want them to do more than just sit in a lab," Benjamin said. Having a close connection to the community would be especially beneficial should any of the students return to Purdue as a graduate student.
Students selected for this program are among the top 10 percent of the students from Universidad Nacional de Colombia, the country's top public university. Twenty-two students will learn at Purdue for six months, and four will be on campus for three months.