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In India, Munroe-Blum secures a new research partnership

McGill is hoping that a new agreement with TERI University in India will put the university at the forefront of climate research. The research memorandum focusses on three different aspects of environmental research: urban transportation, biofuels, and renewable energy.

Principal Heather Munroe-Blum and Denis Thérien, McGill’s vice-principal (research and international relations), secured a memorandum of agreement with New Delhi-based TERI University, as well as similar agreements with three other Indian universities, while accompanying Quebec Premier Jean Charest on a trade mission to the country.

The agreement was also signed in order to increase the ease of communication between universities. TERI University is already renowned for its climate research, and this agreement will help to enable better student and faculty exchanges.

“One of the goals we have been constructing is to improve student mobility, and not only students, but faculty as well, and both ways,” said Thérien. “We would like Indian students to come to McGill, and we want McGill students to go to TERI … It’s a two- way relationship.”

Dr. P.P. Bhojvaid, vice-chancellor of TERI University, who co-ordinated the agreement from TERI’s side, has lived in Montreal and knows the McGill community well. The universities had been in academic contact prior to the agreement and the research memorandum is intended to serve as a formal recognition of this partnership.

“There are already relationships between colleagues at McGill and colleagues from TERI University. You have to be aware there are two things, the institute and the academy, and we are already working with both on all three legs. The agreement that we signed was to formalize something already in place,” said Thérien.

The prospect of going to study in India is certainly exciting for some students.

“I would love the experience of studying in India because it would bring a different perspective,” said Max Luke, U1 biodiversity and conservation. “As an environment student, too, it would be great to go there because I think McGill has made a really good choice with this school and this research collaboration.”

Professor Donald Smith of the department of plant science is one of the researchers involved with the biofuel portion of the project. He explained the growing importance of this type of research given current global economic conditions.

“Global energy demand is rising steeply in both developed and developing nations and, at the same time, we are about at the point of maximum rate of extraction of crude oil, thus demand is beginning to outstrip supply,” he said.

One of the keys to Smith’s work is to lower the input and maximize output of the energy involving biofuels – achieving this is critical to future success.

“Brazil currently produces 50 per cent of its fluid fuels on only one per cent of its agricultural land,” Smith said. “Through developing the resource, [Brazil] has positioned itself extremely well for a world where fossil fuels are relied on less and less.”

Right now, both schools are looking on their respective sides for funding to help the program. In terms of the research, Thérien said, “the first concrete next step is the workshop on the theme of biofuels between colleagues of McGill and colleagues of TERI which should take place in the next few weeks.”

The two schools are also quickly working to benefit the students and exchange professors.

“We are looking at how possible it is in a short time frame to exchange courses and programs; to have some professors go there and teach our models,” Thérien said. “For example, something we discussed last week was sending our professors over there to teach a very intensive three week course.”

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