In the fall, Dr. C. Nataraj, Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, visited the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH) to present a seminar on autonomous systems and to discuss with engineering administrators a memorandum of understanding that would involve faculty and student exchange, as well as collaborative research, between that institution and Villanova University.
"One of our goals," Dr. Nataraj said, "is to give highly qualified, motivated USACH students an opening to come to Villanova to do doctoral research in areas in which the College of Engineering is particularly strong." Another goal is to give Villanova engineering students the opportunity to study at USACH for a summer, semester, or year.
In addition, faculty from the two institutions will collaborate on research. For example, Dr. Danilo Bassi, a USACH professor who visited the College last year, has returned for the current academic year to contribute to research on unmanned systems and robotics. With his software expertise, he adds an important dimension to the mechanical-electrical work being done. "This collaboration is productive because Dr. Bassi brings expertise and research perspectives that the College does not have," Dr. Nataraj said.
Dr. Alfonso Ortega, the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research and the James R. Birle Professor of Energy Technology, laid the groundwork for the collaboration between the two universities. While in Santiago in April to advise at a nano workshop, he established a working relationship with USACH. As a result, two Chilean students are already pursuing PhDs at the College.
During his trip, Dr. Nataraj also toured an unmanned aerial vehicle research facility and was invited to the home of the U.S. ambassador. Guests included the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—the primary R&D organization for the U.S. Department of Defense—and people from Office of Naval Research Global, an entity that promotes international, collaborative research.