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January 25, 2008

Purdue graduate students participate in international research conferences in India

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Five Purdue University graduate students are traveling to India through a Discovery Park program to participate in international conferences on global climate change and the mechanics of cells.

Doctoral students Moetasim Ashfaq, Dileep Birur, Charlotte Kendra Castillo and Kyle Smith will attend the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit: Sustainable Development and Climate Change in New Delhi from Feb. 7-9.

Physics student Jacob Hale, of Salt Lake City, who is working with Purdue professor Ken Ritchie, is participating in the 33rd Mahabaleshwar Seminar on Modern Biology titled, "Laws of Intracellular Transport: Motors, Tracks and Traffic Jams," from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 in Mumbai.

"These conferences will provide an excellent opportunity for these students to interact and learn from leading global thinkers on climate change and sustainable development, as well as innovations in the field of biology and the inner workings of the cell," said Pankaj Sharma, associate director of Purdue's Discovery Park. "This program also fits Discovery Park's mandate in addressing the societal challenges facing our globe today."

Birur, a doctoral student in agricultural economics from Birur, India, is studying how bioenergy advancements can help developing countries become economically and environmentally viable. He also will participate in a conference event titled "Designing Policies for a World of Uncertainty, Change and Surprise: Adaptive Policymaking for Agriculture and Water Resources."

"That interactive exchange and discussion fits perfectly into my research interests, and I am eager to take part in the deliberations," Birur said. "I also look forward to the hands-on interaction with the next generation of scientists across the world and growing my understanding in helping answer the challenges posed by global change."

Castillo, who is pursuing a doctorate degree in earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue, said developing countries face a dilemma in attempting to grow their economies and create jobs while balancing the environmental impact of those policies. Government leaders, policymakers and researchers will lead the lectures and discussions in these areas at the Delhi conference.

"Integrating climate change action with sustainable development -- areas that historically were considered separate disciplines -- is crucial in developing countries," said Castillo, of Quezon City in the Philippines. "Those same countries are the most vulnerable to climate change because traditional livelihoods such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and coastal activities are influenced so dramatically by the seasons."

Smith, of Pinckney, Mich., is spending four months in India with Purdue mechanical engineering professor Timothy Fisher, who is collaborating with C.N.R. Rao, the Linus Pauling Research Professor and Honorary President of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore.

Ashfaq, originally from Pakistan, is researching climate variability, predictability and change. In his project, Ashfaq is using a variety of climate models to understand the processes that govern how the South Asian Monsoon responds to human-induced global warming.

"These conferences represent an expansion of the role Discovery Park is playing as Purdue looks to bolster its international research activities for both faculty and students," said Sharma, who moved to the United States nearly 25 years ago from India.

A Purdue contingent that included Sharma signed an agreement with the Indian Department of Science and Technology in February 2007 to establish formal research collaborations and exchanges of researchers, students and faculty between Purdue and Indian institutions.

As a follow-up to that visit, Sharma said Purdue is planning two research workshops this year -- on carbon nanotubes and nanomedicine, bionanotechnology and pharmaceutical manufacturing -- in collaboration with Indian institutions and corporations.

Writer:  Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133,

Sources: Pankaj Sharma, (765) 496-7452,

Dileep Birur, (765) 494-9673,

Charlotte Kendra Castillo, (765) 404-5909,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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