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UNAM and the Illinois University System Join efforts on an important symposium on Energy

Updated: May 19, 2023

Within the context of the important discussion in Mexico regarding energy reform, an important virtual symposium on energy took place organized by the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Illinois Mexican and Mexican-American Students Initiative, also known as I-MMAS.

IMMAS is part of the University of Illinois System that congregates the universities of Chicago in Urbana Champaign, Chicago (UIC) and Springfield and promotes an extensive network of Mexican and Mexican-American academics promoting synergies for research, professional and academic development in search of solutions to important challenges faced by humanity worldwide.

During the symposium, researchers and experts in their own fields of action and specialization focused on different forms to produce, transform and store energy while sharing solutions destined to mitigate the risks on the environment. Topics such as geothermal energy systems; wind and solar energy; bioenergy and infrastructure, where discussed profusely. The list of issues discussed was revealing of the commitment of the academic and scientific communities, the different schools and faculties and particularly the students from both countries by providing a variety of potential solutions that will allow to meet the energy demands while mitigating harm to the environment and health risks and creating a common front to deal with global challenges such as the one represented by energy security. The event, which was transmitted virtually represented a unique opportunity for participants to get to know each other, connect, communicate, and expand their networks and possibly work together.s

The symposium was inaugurated by the President of UNAM, Dr. Enrique Graue Wiechers and the President of the University of Illinois, Dr. Timothy L. Killeen. Dr. Elvira de Mejia, professor on food science and director of the division of nutritional science at the University of Illinois was, along with Dr. Víctor Castaño Meneses, distinguished scientist and researcher of UNAM and the Mexican Academy of Engineering, who coordinated this important initiative, third of its type, preceded by similar symposiums focused on water and health issues.

During his remarks, where he welcomed all the attendees, Dr. Enrique Graue referred to this exercise as an important step destined to enhance cooperation between the universities and towards promoting the exchange of ideas between both communities. He recalled that last year, along with President Killeen, both signed a cooperation agreement to promote scientific, cultural and academic exchanges in areas of common interest. Dr. Graue expressed his desire that the symposium mark the beginning of many other activities that will have lessons for the common challenges we will face as societies and he acknowledged that the research work on energy is of vital importance on issues such as the fight against climate change. The President of UNAM closed his remarks underscoring the mutual belief with President Killeen that working together is the best way to enhance research, education and bilateral development.

Dr. Timothy L. Killeen acknowledged the great efforts by I-MMAS to promote transborder collaboration in such delicate issues for the wellbeing of the planet. He underscored that one of the goals set by the initiative when it was first created was precisely to promote academic exchanges between Mexico and the State of Illinois. He recalled that one of the objectives is to help people understand important topics such as the global crisis on energy and explore alternative solutions that will make us less dependent on non-renewable energy sources and less vulnerable to its negative effects both on the environment and on our health.

He mentioned that the pernicious effects of climate change from non-renewable sources of energy are well known to everyone and they manifest in higher temperatures, drastic climate changes and the destruction and devastation of ecosystems. He reminded everyone that non-renewable sources of energy produce contaminants in the environment, pollute the soil and water and generate waste that tends to negatively affect our health. On the other hand, he mentioned that actual trends on energy use give room to optimism.

President Killeen confirmed that according to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy capacity worldwide has increased by forty-five percent in 2020, that is, the biggest increase on record since 1999, meaning that there is an unprecedented boom particularly on solar and wind energy. The agency also states that sources of renewable power are the only ones that have registered an increase in demand, while consumption of other types of energy has declined. It also anticipated that new forms of renewable energy will be the trend for 2021-2022, something we already see in several parts of the world. Nevertheless, and even when there is room for optimism, Dr. Killeen stressed the need to invest even more and find innovative solutions that will reduce emissions and safeguard our planet. In a very positive tone, he concluded his remarks with a lot of pride for the work undertaken by both universities in their common goal for a better, more prosperous and sustainable future between Mexico, Illinois and the North American region.

For his part, Ricardo Estrada, who is a member of the Board of UIC, a Mexican migrant born in Guanajuato and who has shown great leadership among the community, celebrated the alliance between the Illinois University System and UNAM and thanked President Enrique Graue for his attentiveness in welcoming during their visit to Mexico in 2017.

Dr. Victor Castaño Menesses talked about the intention that both universities have to engage and finance projects in three fundamental areas such as heath, water and energy with the goal to solve and mitigate problems such as poverty, the deterioration of the environment and joint effort in sustainability between Mexico and the United States.

One of the research areas that caught our attention was the one undertaken by Senior Scientific Specialist, Ms. Martina del Cerro, who works for the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who kindly agreed to partake in this edition of our Magazine UNAM International.

The event outlined above is a testament that the General Agreement on Collaboration between UNAM and the University of Illinois and signed in 2021 by Presidents Enrique Graue and Timothy Killeen works with its main objective to enhance collaboration between the parts to engage in academic, scientific and culture in areas of common interest.

The symposium can be viewed in its entirety in the following link:

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