University at Buffalo, Indian universities sign historic MOU during nanomaterials workshop

Leaders from top research universities in India are in Western New York for a three-day materials science workshop at UB focusing on the development of joint projects relating to nanomaterials.

The UB-Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) UB-Indo Workshop, which began Monday and concludes today, centers on the design, synthesis and data-driven discovery of nanomaterials for electronics, photonics and biotechnology. Activities include presentations, strategy sessions, laboratory and facility tours, and many opportunities for networking.

During the workshop, UB and six institutes of higher learning from India signed a five-year memorandum of understanding, effective May 17, 2022 to May 16, 2027.

Under terms of the document, the institutes agree to collaborate in educational and research fields “that are relevant to the academic, scientific, industrial, social, and cultural interests and needs” of the counties involved. Those fields include, but are not limited to, “nanomaterials and nanotechnology, biotechnology, advanced sensors, photonics and cyber-physical systems including artificial intelligence,” the agreement states.

“We look forward to forging what promises to be a highly productive partnership with this distinguished group of researchers,” President Satish K. Tripathi said. “As our institutions share a steadfast commitment to the greater good, this workshop serves as a springboard for collectively leveraging our expertise to advance research toward a healthier, more sustainable future.”

“International collaboration in science and technology is crucial when it comes to addressing pressing global challenges,” said Venu Govindaraju, UB vice president for research and economic development. “This workshop brings together researchers from UB and India to articulate a vision for multidisciplinary, international collaboration involving the design, manufacture and application of nanomaterials to address global challenges in health, energy and the environment.”

The goal is to identify specific opportunities for collaborative projects, joint grant proposals, publications and exchange opportunities for students and faculty between UB and leading universities in India.

Invited guests include leaders and scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay; Indian Institute of Technology Delhi; Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur; Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur; Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi; and Ashoka University.

Participants also include Dhananjay Tiwary, science and technology counsellor for the Embassy of India in Washington, D.C., and researchers from U.S. federal agencies including the Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Research Laboratory and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

UB faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are also attending.

“Advances in materials science are vital to health care, green energy, quantum technology and many other crucial sectors. This workshop is an opportunity to share scientific updates, identify joint priorities and develop joint projects that result in impactful research,” said workshop co-chair Paras Prasad, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB departments of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Electrical Engineering, and executive director of the Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics.

“IIT Delhi has several research projects currently with various faculty of UB,” said workshop co-chair Ashok Ganguli, deputy director for IIT Delhi and the Prof. N.K. Jha Chair Professor in the IIT Delhi Department of Chemistry. “This meeting is to widen the horizons with multiple partnering institutions and explore additional areas of partnerships in a range of areas, including nanotechnology, photonics, sensors and medicine. This would be a unique meeting where several top functionaries of various IITs and of UB would be at the same platform.”

The workshop organizing committee includes:

  • Jonathan Bird, chair and professor, UB Department of Electrical Engineering.
  • Sunil Khare, Institute Chair Professor and dean (research and development), IIT Delhi.
  • Krishna Rajan, SUNY Distinguished Professor, Erich Bloch Chair and Empire Innovation Professor, UB Department of Materials Design and Innovation.
  • Stanley Schwartz, UB Distinguished Professor, Department of Medicine and Department of Pediatrics.
  • Ashutosh Sharma, Institute Chair Professor, IIT Kanpur.
  • Mark Swihart, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair, UB Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

The event was organized with support from the Science and Engineering Research Board of India’s VAJRA (Visiting Advanced Joint Research) program, and the UB Office of Research and Economic Development.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for a group of top-class learning institutions to collaborate on the frontiers of science and technology. It’s a winning situation that brings in fresh talent, with students from all sides getting involved with an intellectually rich and accomplished group faculty together,” said Santanu Chaudhury, director of IIT Jodhpur. “Collaboration is fundamental to advancement, but equally important is that this isn’t a discipline specific endeavor. It is that multidisciplinary approach that is responsible for many of today’s scientific breakthroughs.”

“This collaboration provides the enabler needed to connect researchers who can provide impactful solutions. The minds of everyone involved, including the students we bring into the loop, are the ones that can bring about those meaningful results. And the students are a critical part of this process,” said Subhasis Chaudhuri, director of ITT Bombay. “Every university system needs their students in the role of active participants. The researchers working today advance our current knowledge and understanding, but by involving students, we’re also helping prepare the future researchers who will continue the work we have started.”

Workshop topics include artificial intelligence- and machine learning-driven material design; applications in photonics; nanomaterial synthesis and processing; applications in (nano)electronics; applications in nanomedicine and biotechnology; and application to sensor technology.

L.S. Shashidhar, dean of research at Ashoka University, called it “an honor and privilege for Ashoka to join this multi-institutional consortium of five IITs of India and the University at Buffalo to work collaboratively on multidisciplinary projects in the areas of energy, environment and health.”

“Ashoka, India’s premier liberal arts research university, focuses on the innovative application of knowledge to address diverse societal problems, specifically those related to health and environment,” he added. “Ashoka would be active in promoting joint PhD and student exchange programs and collaborative research with the University at Buffalo.”

Abhay Karandikar, director of IIT of Kanpur, said the conference has “been quite productive.”

“We had research conferences during which we discussed cutting-edge research in areas such as nanomaterials,” he said. “It was productive because a lot of collaborative ideas came up. If fact, [Wednesday’s] final discussion will explore this even more — work areas that researchers from other institutes and the University at Buffalo can collaborate on.”

Ganguli, the workshop co-chair and deputy director for IIT Delhi, said the conference is “a once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

“It’s a historic moment. I don’t think there has been an agreement for IITs among the five institutions from India having a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with an American university,” he said. “I think this is the first time that has happened. This brings all of our colleagues and researchers together on the same platform. There may be researchers from two or three IITs joining with UB on a single problem. It gives a much wider choice of research areas to work from. Although there are similarities among the IITs, we each have our own strengths.”

Read more: University at Buffalo

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