New agreements between the University of Lethbridge and universities in Ukraine will bring more opportunities for students and faculty to collaborate and experience a new culture.
Dan Weeks, U of L vice-president research, was in Ukraine this past week to sign memorandums of understanding with Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University, with The R.E. Kavetsky Institute of Experimental Pathology, Oncology and Radiobiology and the Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas.
"There's so much we can do. It was a very exciting trip," Weeks said in a telephone interview. "I am absolutely overwhelmed by the opportunity for our students, our faculty and our researchers to do work with Ukraine."
The agreement with Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University will allow the two institutions to collaborate on research studies looking into exposure to occupational and environmental ionizing radiation.
The MOU signed with the Kavetsky Institute will provide the opportunity to study the epigenetic effects on the workers at Chernobyl power plants, including incidences of cancer. Epigenetics looks at how an individual gene can go wrong in response to environmental conditions or other factors.
The MOU with the Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas will allow for collaboration in the areas of remote sensing, geomatics, water quality monitoring and water resource management.
The U of L was one of about a dozen universities taking part in a Canadian Bureau for International Education mission in Ukraine. The group met with the presidents of 30 universities in Ukraine. The U of L has two prominent researchers from Ukraine in Olga and Igor Kovalchuk and they helped open doors for Weeks.
He foresees opportunities for students at all levels to participate; joint degrees may be a possibility and the MOUs pave the way for doctoral students to get experience in different laboratories.
"Right now the University of Lethbridge is building a new plan for post-doctoral fellows and that is a big interest here in this country," Weeks said. "At all levels there are opportunities for us to interact with all these universities in Ukraine."
He said Ukrainian universities have a mandate to look at green technologies to do oil and gas extraction so interest in Alberta's reclamation efforts is keen.
"Our economies are very similar. It's an agricultural based economy here with oil and gas very prominent. The climate is not all that different and there are many Ukrainians in Canada. The fit is really good for us," Weeks said.
Additional partnerships are also possible as interest was high in the U of L's Faculty of Management with its trading floor.
The MOUs go into effect immediately and Weeks said he expects faculty exchanges could be arranged in as little as six to nine months. Already seven or eight students from Ukraine are studying at the U of L but more exchanges are on the horizon when details can be worked out.
The partnerships are in line with the U of L's strategic direction to become a destination university, not only for students in Alberta but also internationally.