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UB helping AAU, U.S. engage Indian partners in advanced research

Participants of the UB-Indian Institutes of Technology UB-Indo Workshop, including signees of memorandum of understanding.

Participants of the UB-Indian Institutes of Technology UB-Indo Workshop in May 2022, including signees of memorandum of understanding, seated, from left to right: L.S. Shashidhara, dean, Ashoka University, Santanu Chaudhury, director, IIT Jodhpur, Subhasis Chaudhuri, director, IIT Bombay, Satish Tripathi, president, University at Buffalo, Abhay Karandikar, director, IIT Kanpur, Ashok Ganguli, deputy director, IIT Delhi. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi


Published October 12, 2023

“What you’re seeing is the expansion of partnerships that have existed between UB and India’s higher education system for many years. ”
President Satish K. Tripathi

Over the past year, UB has deepened ties with India’s higher education system, building a foundation to address the world’s most pressing technological challenges through collaborative research and education.

These relationships are enhancing UB’s robust bond to the world’s most populous nation, and they will help the Association of American Universities (AAU) — of which UB is a member — expand higher education partnerships between the two nations.

A joint statement issued Sept. 8 by the White House and India highlighted these efforts, with President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi noting they “welcomed the growing number of multi-institutional collaborative education partnerships,” spotlighting the creation of four joint centers of excellence between UB and leading Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

“What you’re seeing is the expansion of partnerships that have existed between UB and India’s higher education system for many years,” says President Satish K. Tripathi, who in April was appointed co-chair of a new AAU task force assigned to bolster links between the U.S. and India.

The task force — which was created in coordination with the Biden administration’s U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology — released an interim report in June and is scheduled to release its final recommendations later this year.

“Both the U.S. government and AAU have stressed the importance of deep collaboration with India, and here at UB we are incredibly excited to further these strategic partnerships and to advance research in artificial intelligence, biotechnology and many other critical fields,” says Tripathi, who met with Modi during his June state visit to the U.S. to share insights on education and innovation.

Collaborating with six top Indian schools

In May 2022, the university hosted officials from five of the top-ranked IITs — Bombay, Delhi, Jodhpur, Kanpur and (BHU) Varanasi — and Ashoka University, a private university in northern India.

At the three-day research workshop, the six universities and UB signed a memorandum of understanding to identify mutually beneficial research and educational projects.

The participating institutions agreed to collaborate in fields “that are relevant to the academic, scientific, industrial, social and cultural interests and needs” of the U.S. and India. Those fields include, but are not limited to, nanomaterials and nanotechnology, biotechnology, advanced sensors, photonics and cyber-physical systems including artificial intelligence.

The workshop was co-chaired by Paras Prasad, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB departments of chemistry, physics, medicine and electrical engineering, and executive director of the UB Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics; and Ashok Ganguli, then-deputy director for IIT Delhi and the Prof. N.K. Jha Chair Professor in the IIT Delhi Department of Chemistry. 

“The initial workshop was really the starting point where UB and these six leading research institutes solidified a plan to push the boundaries of science and innovation, and create programs to mentor future generations of scientific leaders,” says Prasad, who has been instrumental in leading the initiative.

Second workshop in New Delhi

Following months of virtual discussions between UB faculty members and their Indian counterparts, a second in-person workshop was held at IIT-Delhi from Nov. 28-30 of that year.

This workshop — IIT-UB Conclave on Nanomaterials, Photonics, Sensors, AI and their Applications in Security, Healthcare, and Smart Living — included Tripathi and Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development and SUNY Distinguished Professor, as well as other UB faculty members.

At the Delhi meetings, officials agreed to create the four joint centers of excellence. UB will form these centers with IIT Jodhpur (AI and data science), IIT Delhi (quantum photonics), IIT Kanpur (biosciences and biotechnology) and IIT (BHU) Varanasi (nanomaterials).

“These workshops brought together top scholars from UB and India to develop research teams and programs to focus on some of the most promising areas of discovery — from artificial intelligence and quantum science to nanomaterials and biotechnology — to address society’s most pressing challenges,” says Govindaraju, a member of the AAU task force and co-chair of the SUNY AI task force.

Four joint centers of excellence

A third series of in-person meetings followed this past spring. The UB delegation included Provost A. Scott Weber; Govindaraju; Kemper Lewis, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and other UB faculty members.

This group signed agreements for UB and the four IITs to make the joint centers of excellence official.

These visits — which provided the UB delegation with an opportunity to meet with incoming UB students — served as the launching point for the respective projects. They’re also helping UB to continue to attract high-quality graduate students from India in STEM disciplines, as data from the most recent Open Doors report shows.

Officials anticipate that seed funding from partner institutions will leverage external funding once the projects are up and running.

“These four joint centers of excellence will harness the resources and expertise of our collective institutions, especially our faculty, creating an extraordinary network of knowledge that explores new frontiers in science and technology while helping build long-lasting connections among scientific researchers in each nation,” Weber says. 

These centers are:

  • UB-IIT Delhi Center of Excellence in Quantum Photonics will lead three joint projects. The first will focus on quantum photonics for quantum sensing and imaging, particularly for biomedical applications. The second addresses photon conversion science and technology using inorganic nanostructures, which can provide new ways of manipulating light to improve the efficiency of solar cells and to advance biomedical imaging and diagnostics. The third involves two-photon lithography as the basis for a point-of-care platform for real-time sensing of drug abuse and the administration of antidotes, like naloxone, to counter the drugs’ effects.
  • UB-IIT Jodhpur Center of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence and Data Science has identified two projects. The first, called “Joint Vision Language Grounding for Robotic Manipulation,” will advance learning representations for relative spatial relationships — for example, in front of, next to and to the left of — to enhance human-robot interactions. The second project, “Smart Transportation Systems with Connected and Autonomous Vehicles,” concerns future smart transportation systems involving a mix of autonomous and human-driven vehicles to assure both safety and efficiency of transport.
  • UB-IIT Kanpur Center of Excellence in Biotechnology and Biomaterials is advancing four joint projects. Researchers will use nanotheranostics to explore nasal delivery of medications to the brain to better treat Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury and aging-associated neurocognitive impairment. The second project will develop a portable sensor to detect volatile organic compounds in breath and body odor that could provide a non-invasive way to detect hidden disease. The third project will focus on the detection, prevention and removal of biofilms on catheters, dental implants and other structures non-invasively to reduce morbidity and mortality from infection. The last project will focus on nanotheranostics for cancer, a nanoplatform for delivery of anticancer agents for difficult-to-treat metastatic breast, prostate and oral cancers.
  • UB-IIT (BHU) Varanasi Center of Excellence in Nanomaterials is advancing two projects. The first will examine two-dimensional nanostructures involving borophene and clay, as well as their organic-inorganic hybrids and heterostructures. This class of new materials could lead to numerous applications, including membranes and sorbents for water purification; photo- and electro-catalysis for hydrogen production and carbon dioxide reduction to address climate change; and photonic and electronic devices that support computing and telecommunications. The second project investigates the biosynthesis and bioprocessing of nanomaterials, including materials for extreme environments and remediation to remove toxic heavy elements.