During the past week, a delegation from the University of Maine of the United States from the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, REU, visited part of the Biobío Region. With this, the UDT initiative completes its ninth version.

Since then, students from different areas of engineering have participated. “Our students have the opportunity to join a working group with peers from the United States. Although it is not radically different from what is done here, there are differences from a cultural point of view, starting with the language, there are other values and all this is enriching,” explained Alex Berg, Director of UDT.

“A fundamental point of our work is to have contacts, to create networks, to awaken interest in research in the students. To this we added an international component, with this agreement with the University of Maine,” added the director. He also explained that his unit has a long history of collaboration with this U.S. university, especially in the area of co-direction of theses and joint studies. “We work closely with international networks, we have several that are very powerful and these networks are not only on paper, but we really exchange with them,” he said.

For his part, Douglas J. Gardner, Director of the Sustainable Materials Technology Program in the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine and leader of the visiting group, explained that this stay “is part of a project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and is a collaboration with UDT for the exchange of students. We have two students from Chile visiting the University of Maine and then two students from the United States coming to the University of Concepción”.

The stay also included visits to the CMPC corporate building in Los Angeles, the Nueva Aldea industrial complex of the Arauco company and the Concepción Paper Mill (FPC) in Coronel, among others, while at the UdeC they visited the Biotechnology Center.

Alex Berg emphasized that this tour is of great value for the North Americans who visit us, because the forestry industry in our area has a much more advanced level of development than in the United States. “Over there, the pulp paper mills are old, and here we have frontier technology, the mills are much larger. From a technical point of view, visiting our forestry industry is enriching for them because they don’t know it in that magnitude, with that modernity and with the approach we have here.”

“We had to suspend the implementation of this agreement for the last two years due to COVID,” said Prof. Gardner. This week corresponded to the last week of the exchange period. “All the students develop their individual research projects in the area of forest bioproducts and then we come here and they present the results of their work and then the rest of the week we visit production and research facilities, because in Chile they manufacture different types of forest wood products and we are interested in learning how things work, how they are made here compared to Maine in the United States.”

Of the 10 participants, two arrived ten weeks early. One of them is Lyzzett Lozano from Southwestern College, who was at UDT since early June. “I studied the bark of pine and eucalyptus trees. I finished doing that project this week and on Monday I did my presentation and I’m also working on a paper.” The student valued an element that surprised her: “I didn’t think there were so many women; it impresses me a lot because it is something you hardly see in the United States. So, it is an invitation to more women to dare to study internationally,” the student emphasized.

“In addition, we have met students of marine biology, electrical engineering, and we were able to get to know those faculties”, added Lyzzett and explains that, since her chemistry background, “I have always been attracted to the forestry area and this stay has been very clarifying, because I did not know where to start and here I have learned a lot about how all the disciplines of science are related”.

Based on:  VRID UdeC