Keith Molenaar, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, recently visited the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) in Guayaquil, Ecuador, to discuss expanding the collaboration between the two universities.  

ESPOL is the No. 1 university in Ecuador, and the ongoing collaboration between CU Boulder and ESPOL includes joint research activities and student and faculty exchange programs.

Molenaar said he had a very productive visit that included a series of meetings with local researchers and ESPOL leaders, including its president, Cecilia Paredes, and dean of research, Carlos Monsalve. Molenaar also visited ESPOL’s most prominent research centers to identify potential areas for research collaboration between CU and ESPOL.

During his stay at ESPOL, Molenaar also met with four students from CU’s Mortenson Center in Global Engineering who are engaged in a two-month research project at ESPOL as part of their practicum activities. The students -- Jaclyn Taylor, Emma Reuter, Kerry Hicks and Matt Burke -- are participating in two capstone projects related to seismic and flooding risks.

Molenaar took some time to answer a few more questions about the collaboration and his experience. 

What was the main objective for your trip to EPSOL?

The primary objective was to build our collaborative research relationship. The University of Colorado and ESPOL have been collaborating on research and education for more than five years. Last year, ESPOL sent a leadership delegation to Boulder. This year, I visited Guayaquil to continue the exchange.

What are ESPOL’s most prominent research areas that CU’s engineering research could benefit from a collaboration? How could ESPOL benefit from this ongoing collaboration? 

Our strengths in research are well aligned. Water management, water quality, environmental determinants of health, materials engineering, embedded systems and robotics are all areas of mutual collaboration. The area of water management through a collaboration between CU’s Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems and ESPOL’s Center for Water and Sustainable Development could prove to be one of our most impactful partnerships.

What kind of student exchange opportunity will be available between ESPOL and CU? How can a student get involved and benefit from the collaboration between the two universities?

In addition to our collaboration through the Mortenson Center, we are promoting the exchange of PhD students for joint research projects. Ecuador provides an exceptional site for engineering research. The unique topography and environment provide a laboratory unlike any we have near Colorado and vice versa.

You met four students from the Mortenson Center. What kinds of research will they will accomplish during their stay, and how involved will they be with ESPOL students and faculty?

They are doing work in the area of vulnerability relating to seismic and flooding events.  They are living near the university, collecting data in the field and using the university labs to analyze their results. 

Did you have the opportunity to visit outside of the university? If so, what was your favorite experience in Ecuador?

My hosts were extremely gracious. Guayaquil is a vibrant city. I was able to visit both the historic districts and the riverfront in the evenings during my stay.

Read more about CU-ESPOL collaboration

Published: July 8, 2019