A science delegation from Mexico says it has found the right partner in the University of Arizona — and hopefully the answer to some of the country's most pressing concerns in mining and technology.
The delegation, led by Sen. Alejandro Tello, president of the Mexican Senate's Commission on Science and Technology, visited the UA this week to confer with administrators and faculty. Tello's home state of Zacatecas is rich in mineral wealth, responsible for making Mexico the world's largest producer of silver, and he was specifically interested in issues pertaining to sustainable mining. The first day of the three-day visit included a trip to the ASARCO mine in Sahuarita, about 25 miles south of Tucson.
"Zacatecas is the leading producer of silver in the world, and the University of Arizona is a world leader in sustainable-mining studies," Tello said through an interpreter at a reception Monday evening preceding the launch of the annual UA College of Science Lecture Series. "I've found an excellent response to the questions I had, both the theoretical and the practical."
Others in the delegation included José Franco, immediate past president of the Mexican Academy of Sciences; Teresa De León, director of technology commercialization for Mexico's National Council for Science and Technology; Ofelia Angulo, academic director of the National System of Technological Institutes; and Victor Gutiérrez, president of the National Chamber of Electronics, Telecom and Information Technologies.
The group was hosted by José Lever, director of the UA's Mexico office, and Justin Dutram, program coordinator for the UA's Office of Global Initiatives. UA President Ann Weaver Hart gave an official welcome to the visitors before the reception.
Gutiérrez said that Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has introduced a series of economic reforms, with one goal being an increase in the number of information technology professionals across several fields. Gutiérrez identified seven of those fields: business analytics, big data, mobile Internet, advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing and digital interconnection. Those, he said, could have an economic impact of as much as $35 trillion for Mexico over the next 10 years.
Of the UA, Gutiérrez said, "You are leading in fields like mining and engineering, and there is a lot of innovation in robotics. You are doing a lot of research in the telecommunication fields."
Gutiérrez said he was especially impressed by Jeff Goldberg, dean of the UA's College of Engineering, which this summer will accept 30 graduate students from Mexico. He credited Lever with calling attention to the UA's array of scientific endeavors.
"He has explained to us much of your activity and programs," Gutiérrez said.
Lever, who has been with the UA for nearly eight years, said the visit to the Sahuarita mine provided an indication of how the UA-Mexico partnership can benefit both sides.
"It was enlightening," he said, "and it showed in an undeniable way how the teamwork of the University, the community and the industry can make responsible mining work for everyone's benefit."
Lever said the delegation's visit demonstrated that the groundwork being done in Mexico by the University is paying dividends.
"We started spreading the word with the right people in Mexico about the UA's strength," he said, "and that went to the ears of the senator."
The visitors joined a packed house at Centennial Hall for the kickoff of the lecture series, which featured an engaging talk by the Rev. Guy J. Consolmagno, a planetary scientist with the Vatican Observatory Research Group. The series, now in its 10th year, will be presented on Mondays through March 9.
The delegation toured the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab on the second day of its visit. Mexico's National Astronomical Observatory is located in the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir range on Baja California peninsula, at an elevation of more than 9,000 feet. The UA is working with astronomy groups at the Instituto Nacional de Astronomia, Optica y Electronica, located in Puebla, Mexico, and the Instituto de Astronomia, Universidad Nacional Autonomia de Mexico, based in Mexico City, on the designs for a 6.5-meter telescope at the site.
The Mirror Lab will produce the primary mirror for this proposed telescope, the San Pedro Mártir Telescope, or SPMT, which probably will coordinate with its twin instrument, the 6.5-meter telescope at the MMT Observatory on Mount Hopkins near Green Valley, Arizona. Both observatories are envisioned to operate through a collaboration involving the UA, the aforementioned Mexican partners and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.