Professor Seamus Curran, Director of the Institute for NanoEnergy, has been working in the field of alternative energy since his PhD days almost 20 years ago in Trinity College, Dublin. As an Irishman now working at the University of Houston (UH), he sees the opportunity for UH to work more closely with Irish academic institutions in a variety of areas, in particular in energy. With the increased transatlantic focus since 2008 on energy security, energy research and the green economy and recognizing the current financial challenges faced by Ireland, Professor Curran has been stepping up his activities in this area. For the last two years both he and Professor Pinsky, Chair of the UH Physics Department, have been working hard, including several visits to Ireland, in order to bring one of those Irish institutions, the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), to the negotiating table. Those efforts finally saw the light of day today when INE hosted a high level delegation from DIT on the UH campus.
Late this afternoon the UH’s President Khator and Professor Brian Norton, the President of DIT, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the purpose of strengthening the relationship between the two institutions in order to provide opportunities for cooperative research and education in a variety of areas and with a focus on energy. The MOU sets the basic framework for future collaboration and separate program agreements will be created over the coming months which will define terms on a project-by-project basis.
The DIT delegation was represented by Professor Brian Norton, Professor Michael Devereux, Director and Dean of the DIT College of Sciences as well as Professor Hugh Byrne, Head of DIT’s FOCAS institute. In addition the Irish Consul General, Martin Rouine participated in the signing and commented on the importance of the type of international collaborations planned under this MOU.
The MOU envisages that DIT and UH will identify three discipline areas for joint collaboration, will explore a system of full credit transfer for undergraduate, postgraduate and research students, will investigate the merits of faculty and research staff exchanges to facilitate collaborative research programs and will seek out joint funding opportunities in relevant areas. The formal signing, which took place late in the afternoon, was preceded by a busy day for the Irish delegation which visited with Deans and Chairs of most of the main colleges and departments across the UH campus.
One of the discipline areas which has already been identified is energy and this will be the main focus for the Institute for NanoEnergy and its existing ties with DIT. During the various meetings Friday there was a significant amount of discussion about energy and how the Institute for NanoEnergy (INE) can lead discussions between UH and DIT in this area. Major areas of interest are materials science as it relates primarily to wind energy and solar power but also to tidal and wave power. Another commonly recurring theme over the course of the day concerned the unique challenges posed by integrating variable renewables into the electricity grid and how INE can spearhead collaborative work in this discipline between DIT and UH.
Photo 1. UH President Renu Khator and DIT President Brian Norton sign the MOU
Photo 2. Professors Chu, Norton and Devereux meet at the Texas Center for Superconductivity
Photo 3. President Norton shares a joke with Martin Rouine after the signing ceremony
Photo 4. The Irish delegation visits with Professor John Bear, Dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics