“There’s no development without science, and I want to use science to help my country.”
– Thaísa Freitas Carvalho de Lima
Ottawa is colder than almost every part of Brazil, but visiting students from that country have nothing but warm feelings for the way they have been received at the University of Ottawa. About 80 students have come here so far through the Science without Borders program, an ambitious initiative launched in 2011 to fast-track the next generation of Brazilian scientists and engineers by providing them with a rich international experience. The University of Ottawa participates in the program through CALDO, a consortium of Canadian universities that is building academic and research partnerships with Brazil.
“It’s an amazing program,” says João Renato Prandina, who specializes in geotechnical engineering. He arrived in Canada last summer and plans to spend the next four years completing his PhD. The Brazilian government pays for all of his expenses, which gives him enough security to consider taking his career in a more daring direction.
Before coming to Canada he worked in the mining industry in Brazil, and developed a fascination for how rock waste could be recovered and reused by the construction industry, which so far has shown little interest in this possibility. “For me, this rock waste is gold,” he says. “It should not even be called waste.”
Prandina would like to found a firm that could fill this market niche; he regards Canada as an inspirational destination, a place where innovative entrepreneurship thrives. He suggests that Brazil has a vested interest in sending him here to acquire this valuable mindset.
“Too many people simply want to work for the government,” he explains, “and the government wants more people who will learn to take risks with their own businesses.”
The doctoral candidate is also pleased to work with a number of professors who are not only accomplished academics, but who bring their own industrial experience to the University. “It’s exciting to see that,” he says, “because you get the theoretical and the practical."
That combination also appeals to Thaísa Freitas Carvalho de Lima, an undergraduate in the Department of Biology. She points out that Science without Borders has made an invaluable contribution to her education and the application of that education to improve the lives of others. “There’s no development without science,” she says, “and I want to use science to help my country.”
She is only in Canada for a year, and will return to Brazil in early 2014. Yet she has had plenty of time to expand her understanding of health and environment issues.
“I am interested in estrogen,” says Lima. “It is usually associated with female reproduction, but it is also important to the reproduction, fertility and development of males.”
She adds that the University’s biology department has some outstanding expertise in this field, which is why she feels privileged to study here. Her internship is also a source of pride for her father, a biologist who appreciates just what a difference this kind of international experience will make for his daughter.
by Tim Lougheed
Tapping into talent from around the world
Mitacs Globalink is a competitive program, run by a non-profit Canadian research organization, which pairs top-ranked undergraduate students from around the world with faculty at Canadian universities for a 12-week summer research project. Students get hands-on experience in the lab and have the opportunity to meet with local business leaders and visit companies related to their field of study.
Last summer, the University of Ottawa hosted 10 talented students from Brazil, China, India and Mexico, including Liang Feng of the Department of Electronic Engineering at Nanjing University in China. Under the supervision of physics professor Jacob Krich, Feng developed a software model that analyzes the efficiency of intermediate-band solar cells, helping to make better use of solar energy and winning him the Mitacs Undergraduate Award for Outstanding Innovation.
“Through this internship, I developed a much deeper understanding of various modelling software and the complex physics involved in semiconductors,” says Feng. “This wonderful experience left me with an unforgettable impression of both the University of Ottawa and Canada.”
– SEAN RUSHTON
A winning equation for African students
When physicist and mathematician Neil Turok opened the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in South Africa in 2003, one of his goals was to tap into the power of teaching sciences to help Africans take charge of their own development.
AIMS-HeadStart, a University of Ottawa student mobility initiative funded by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, takes part in this mission by supporting higher education for Franco-African students. Through HeadStart, the University not only hosts the brightest graduates of the AIMS network for a six-month research project, but also sends professors to teach at AIMS-Senegal, of which the University is a founding partner. Mathematics professor Thierry Giordano coordinates the program at the University.
The initiative opens the way to unprecedented learning opportunities for the students. “I was able to redirect my studies in an area that is not available in my country,” says Poclaire Kenmogne, a 2013 fellowship recipient from Cameroon. For the University, AIMS provides a way to help Africa by investing in the continent’s most precious resource: its people.
– SOPHIE COUPAL