Villanova PhD Alumnus Grows Partnership with Chilean University

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Justinus Satrio, PhD, works with then-doctoral student Rene Garrido, PhD, in the College’s Biomass Resources & Conversion Technologies Lab.
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Justinus Satrio, PhD, works with then-doctoral student Rene Garrido, PhD, in the College’s Biomass Resources & Conversion Technologies Lab.

One of the College’s first PhD graduates returned to his home country to further Villanova’s relationship with the University of Santiago.

In 2009, Alfonso Ortega, PhD, Villanova University Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Programs, helped to facilitate a relationship between Villanova and the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH). The resulting partnership brings USACH students to Villanova to help them develop as Chile’s next generation of engineering professors. USACH provides students with a first-year stipend, and Villanova covers tuition. Once students earn their doctoral degrees, they return to Chile and join the faculty at USACH. In addition to the doctoral student program, objectives of the universities’ partnership include faculty and student exchanges, collaborative research and USACH faculty training. 

In 2010, through the VU-USACH agreement, the College’s Chemical Engineering Department welcomed its first PhD student, René Garrido. Dr. Garrido studied biofuels with faculty advisor and Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Justinus Satrio, PhD. He subsequently wrote his thesis on Biomass Resources and Conversion Technologies. After graduating in 2014, Dr. Garrido joined USACH’s Geographical & Environmental Engineering Department. Passionate about his studies at Villanova and hoping to ignite the same enthusiasm among USACH students, Dr. Garrido arranged a visit by Dr. Satrio and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Metin Duran, PhD. While in Santiago, Dr. Satrio met with deans, faculty, and academic researchers within the University’s College of Engineering to further expand the partnership with Villanova.

Stemming from Dr. Satrio’s visit, the faculty at both schools are developing an independent study course in the area of sustainable engineering that they hope to launch in the near future. Students from Villanova and USACH will collaborate on service learning projects related to sustainability, a topic that both schools are committed to. In the process of working together, USACH students will improve their English and Villanovans will be fully immersed in the Chilean culture.

While studying at Villanova, Dr. Garrido was particularly impressed by the Villanova Center for the Advancement and Sustainability in Engineering (VCASE), whose mission is enabling a sustainable future through interdisciplinary research on resilient infrastructure, energy, and the environment. With his newfound knowledge in renewable energy and sustainability, Dr. Garrido was eager to share what he learned with his Chilean peers. 

In November 2015, Dr. Garrido along with his colleague, Christian Seal, PhD, a USACH professor of Civil Engineering, visited Villanova to meet with faculty and Drosdick Endowed Dean of Engineering Gary A. Gabriele, PhD. They discussed replicating the VCASE model within USACH with a focus on solid waste management. By keeping an open dialogue with the Villanova team, they hope to ensure the success of this new model.


Dr. Garrido is thrilled to again be working with Villanova, and is excited to share this knowledge with his students. He explains, “Collaborating with Villanova is my way of giving back to the program. Fifty percent of USACH students are in the engineering program, so it will be great material for them to learn.”


Dr. Ortega was on target in 2009 when he predicted, “Villanova will become a preferred university for top USACH students who want to earn their PhDs.” Over the past six years, the College has seen several Chilean students come through the program and go on to teach at USACH, including Dr. Sergio Yanez, who is now a civil engineering professor.  Three new USACH students started Villanova Engineering’s PhD program this academic year.


When asked about the success of the partnership to date, Dr. Ortega proudly responds, “Villanova grads are distinguishing themselves, transforming their countries and making a difference.”