March 28, 2007

Jennifer Tanner
Communications Specialist

Charles Harmon Director of University Relations, Dr. Thomas Manning VSU Chemistry Department (229) 333-7178

VSU, Cuban Students Collaborate

VALDOSTA - Students at Valdosta State University and a university located in Cuba (Instituto Superior de Tecnologías y Ciencias Aplicadas (InSTEC)) recently completed a joint project in chemistry. Approximately 60 VSU General Chemistry and 13 Havana students worked on the joint project entitled “Electronic Qualitative Analysis Schemes.”

The project required students to develop chemical riddles that focused on various aspects of the periodic table. The riddles were then exchanged to see who could and could not solve them. Computational exercises were performed in two computer labs at VSU and one in Havana. Cuba has very limited Internet access, due to U.S. embargo prohibitions, so the interaction was unusual. VSU senior chemistry students Peter Vu, Sofia Ullah, CJ Mock, Jeff Felton, Landon Lassiter and Vineet Kumar helped supervise and facilitate smooth operations during the project. The exercise or riddles developed in English at VSU were translated into Spanish by Cuban chemistry professor, Aurora Perez Gramatges.

Dr. Thomas Manning, of the VSU chemistry department, initiated the project after a trip to Cuba in October of 2006. He was traveling with a delegation from the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific organization. The 20-member delegation traveled to Havana to participate in the 27th Latin American Congress on Chemistry and the 6th International Congress on Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, held simultaneously.

The conferences gave American and Cuban scientists an opportunity to freely communicate and initiate collaborations, such as this one. The US economic embargo against Cuba prevents most interaction; however, academic collaborations are allowed when supported by an institutional agreement, as in this case. Both VSU and Cuban students enjoyed participating in the exercise, according to an assessment of the program.

"This exercise was not only a good academic and educational endeavor but also a good show of positive diplomacy from both sides, which has led to bigger opportunities,” Manning said. “Faculty and students in Havana and VSU are currently developing novel computer based methods to incorporate cutting edge topics into a chemistry curriculum. This is an excellent point in history to conduct such a project as this."
Other VSU project supporters were Dr. Jim Baxter, Mr Joe Newton, Mr. Ike Barton, Dr. Ivan Nikolov and Mr. Dave Starling.

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