Often, breaks between semesters offer a time for the university community to power down. Faculty at Temple College of Engineering used recent breaks to take their research interests abroad to collaborate and learn alongside their international colleagues.
Bojana Gligorijević, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, spent time in her native Serbia, giving a series of lectures at Belgrade University, Life Sciences Institute IBISS and the American Cultural Center. Her work was also featured at an accompanying exhibition titled Science & Art Makers at the Museum of Applied Arts. The showcase featured fluorescent microscopy images and video material from her lab, tracking cellular movement and different molecular processes within the cells.
"First of all, I'm a scientist who is passionate about sharing knowledge. This is why I wake up in the morning. I want to collect, synthesize, discover and share that knowledge," Dr. Gligorijević said. She stressed the importance of this kind of international cooperative work.
"Increased exchange between countries is important—and not just because I speak the language. I would go to Norway or France, too," she added. "I truly believe that science is a universal language. Being exposed to different cultures is an important part of both personal and academic growth for scientists and engineers."
Bioengineering Assistant Professor Evangelia Bellas and Mechanical Engineering Research Associate Professor Dmitriy Dikin also spent two weeks abroad together with 22 professors from various American universities, travelling through Israel with the Faculty Fellowship Program sponsored by the Jewish National Fund, an international nonprofit.
The trip included visits to local universities, hospitals, industrial and agricultural companies, offering fellows a chance to experience the history and culture and explore academic partnership opportunities. Attendees gained a deeper awareness of Israel as a 'start-up nation,' and examined success in areas like efficient farming, water management, renewable energy, cybersecurity, and how the country addresses regional and global challenges. Dikin met with colleagues working on nanostructured composite materials.
"It was quite surprising to find that we are pushing similar research directions and facing similar technological challenges," Dikin said. "We had very fruitful discussions and are looking forward to preparing joint proposals. From the cultural side, I learned that this small country remains hospitable for all and extremely creative."
One of those opportunities for Dr. Bellas included a meeting with Yaacov Nahmias at Hebrew University, who had started a tissue engineered meat company—a natural fit for Dr. Bellas, whose research specializes in tissue engineering fat.
"In one of the tests, they gave a tissue engineered chicken finger to a seven-year-old boy. He loved it. Then they told him where it came from and he spit it out," she laughed.
As Dr. Bellas explained, one of the things that early tissue engineered meat companies often missed the mark on was leaving out a key textural and flavor component: fat.
"In general, there is an opportunity to make meat healthier. When you engineer it, you can add the healthy fatty acids and remove the saturated fats and add flavors to make it taste a certain way. It's like designer meat with the right nutrition," she said.
This was just one of a number of conversations that could lead to potential collaboration down the road.
"Israel has some very strong programs in biomedical engineering. I couldn't pass up going to see these top-notch researchers on their home turf," Dr. Bellas said, adding that the history was just as inspiring as the shared experience of their work.
"Their labs look like our labs. We all have the same issues with research," she laughed.
All in the universal language of science and engineering.
Read more about Dr. Gligorijevic's trip through an interview with Belgrade University.