Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Engineering Graduate Students from Mexico Study Environmental Issues Faced on Both Sides of Border

KINGSVILLE - May 16, 2007

Contact: Julie Navejar
kajam03@tamuk.edu or 361-593-2590

Graduate Students from Mexico
Featured in photo (L-R): Celia De La Mora Orozco; Augusto Sanchez;
Sergio Santos; Raul Rivas; Lizeth Oliva-Soto

American concerns with “going green,” conserving natural resources and efficiently distributing those resources are just as prevalent across the border in Mexico.

This is evident in the number of Mexican students pursuing their graduate studies in environmental engineering at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. According to Dr. Kim D. Jones, associate professor and chair of environmental engineering, students from Mexico pursuing their master’s or doctoral degrees in the program have nearly tripled since 2003. They currently make up 14 percent of the program’s total number of students.

“The Rio Grande River doesn’t mark the start and end of the environmental issues for Texas and Mexico,” notes Jones. “We’re trying to show that environmental engineering is a global issue, to address a global market for new technologies and solutions.”
Eight students from Mexico are currently enrolled in the graduate program. They work alongside A&M-Kingsville faculty and fellow graduate students on research projects that address environmental issues that are faced by both Texas and Mexico.

Raul Rivas is a Ph.D. candidate who comes from Ciudad Valles, in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. His research work focuses on biofuels—more specifically, producing ethanol from citrus waste. “The relationship between Texas A&M-Kingsville and the Texas/Mexico border was one of the reasons I chose to come here,” said Rivas. Biological treatment methods for air emissions control is the topic of a technical paper from Sergio Santos of the Reynosa area of Mexico.

Lizeth Oliva-Soto and Augusto Sanchez come to A&M-Kingsville from Monterrey Tech, formally known as the Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. The two institutions have a joint program in which Monterrey Tech students come to A&M-Kingsville to earn a master’s degree in environmental engineering. They then return to Monterrey Tech, present their research work and earn a second master’s degree from that institution.

Oliva’s work looks at the vulnerability of the Silao-Romita Aquifer, which supplies water to the mountain town of Guanajuato, Mexico. The waters face runoff from fertilizers and other contaminants. Sanchez has been studying the production of biodiesel from algae.

The research work of Rivas and Sanchez both echo the growing global need for alternate fuel sources, while Oliva notes that maintaining the viability of water supplies is a concern that goes beyond borders. Dr. Venkatesh Uddameri, associate professor in environmental engineering, is Oliva’s adviser. “Water issues are very big for the United States and Mexico,” said Uddameri. “We share so much. It only makes sense to foster relationships between us.”

Celia De La Mora Orozco studies nutrient removal from wetlands. She came to A&M-Kingsville to earn her Ph.D. through an employee program with the National Institute of Forestry, Agricultural and Animal Research in Mexico, known by the Spanish acronym of INIFAP. Her research on water quality will transfer directly into her post at INIFAP, which is the Mexican counterpart agency to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

Texas A&M-Kingsville has made a name for itself as a respected center for environmental engineering in a number of ways. Regionally, the program is distinctive because of its stand-alone engineering doctoral degree program—the only one in the region that is not a joint program with another university.

The environmental engineering program is also home to the South Texas Environmental Institute (STEI). This is a group of researchers, directed by Jones, committed to promoting applied environmental research and development in the South Texas region.

Through the work of STEI members came a third major part of the environmental engineering program, the Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology-Research on Environmental Sustainability of Semi-Arid Coastal Areas (CREST-RESSACA). A National Science Foundation-funded program, CREST-RESSACA is designed specifically for minority-serving institutions to enhance their research capabilities and address the significant under-representation of minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

All of the Mexican students participated in the CREST-RESSACA conference in November 2006, entitled “Environmental Sustainability: U.S.-Mexico Issues,” held in Monterrey, Mexico. The students and faculty shared their research findings with representatives from academia, industries, environmental groups, research communities and regulatory agencies from both sides to exchange ideas concerning environmental issues impacting the border area.

To enhance the academic ties and partnerships between the two countries, Dr. David Ramirez, assistant professor in environmental engineering, will serve as a Texas A&M-Kingsville liaison to Mexican colleges and universities. He also is among the faculty working with the graduate students from Mexico.

Jones noted, “The support provided by STEI, CREST-RESSACA and the Texas A&M-Kingsville Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering has enabled these students to move forward with their academic goals and contribute to the development of high quality environmental technology and publications.                   

“Looking to the future, as the need for regional environmental engineering innovation continues to grow, I would anticipate even more student and faculty exchanges and programs between Texas A&M-Kingsville and Mexican universities.”

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