MUSCAT -- As part of its efforts to strengthen internationalization strategies, Sultan Qaboos University recently signed agreements for collaboration with three reputed institutions: Astronomical Observatory Belgrade, Serbia; the University of Western Ontario, Canada; and, Kazakh National Agrarian University, Kazakhstan. The internationalization strategy of SQU, which lays stress on bottom up approaches, is mostly initiated by individual researchers at various colleges with scientist pursuing identical researchers in the foreign institutions. The partnership is activated by doing joint research; exchange of researchers and students; and organising forums and conferences jointly.
A letter of understanding signed between SQU and Astronomical Observatory Belgrade (AOB), Serbia, envisages partnership and multidisciplinary collaboration between scientists from both institutions. Initiatives proposed to be of mutual benefit include development of software tools for real-time photometric analysis of astronomical objects; and development of class and lab material for undergraduate training in observational astronomy, image processing and data analysis techniques. Dr Zach Ioannou, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at SQU, who is the focal point from the university in this partnership, said that the partnership with AOB is really promising as many universities around the world have been investing considerably in launching robotic telescope facilities for automated astronomical observations.
"The majority of these efforts have focused on discovering new examples of optimal transient sources like supernovae and other variable stars or moving bodies within the Solar System. The partnership with AOB, enables SQU students to develop essential skills in telescope observing, data reduction and astronomical analysis with the help of the telescopic facilities operated by the observatory from Belgrade. By developing tools for photometric analysis of astronomical objects in real time, data analysis will become instantaneous. The calibrated data for new or regularly monitored astronomical objects could be easily published on the Internet in real time, which leads to immediate scientific impact", he said.
The robotic and remote capabilities and other astronomical research instruments present an excellent opportunity for astrophysics students at SQU to interact with a modern telescope (the AOB has recently commissioned a new 60 cm telescope). As part of the second initiative of development of class and lab materials for undergraduate training in observational astronomy, SQU students can obtain experience on data analysis by participating in robotic observation sessions. This stage is also expected to give the students experience with international collaboration projects. Dr. Milan Bogsavljevic, Research Associate and Manager of the 60 cm telescope facility, is the focal point from AOB in the collaboration with SQU. He said that AOB is looking forward to the participation of SQU students in observing programs for the 60cm telescope through this established collaboration. "We are also very happy to be able to share our past experience with student education in research techniques. As AOB is actively involved in student training in Belgrade, this international partnership will be of benefit for our students as well and help us in improving the training program in the future", Dr. Milan added.
Studies in Earth SciencesThe letter of intent signed between SQU and the University of Western Ontario, Canada, is aimed at pursuing partnership between the two institutions in research and education through mutual cooperation. The Western Ontario University is one of the leading universities in Canada which has established a strong presence in Earth Sciences research and studies. Prof Sobhi Nasir, from the Department of Earth Sciences, is the lead coordinator from SQU side in facilitating the joint activities. The Canadian university is represented by Dr Neil Banerjee from its Department of Earth Sciences. Prof Sobhi Nasir said a group of academics from the Earth Sciences Department of the University of Western Ontario had visited SQU in January 2013 as part of a joint research on the Meteorites in Oman. "They spent 10 days in SQU and discussed with the Dean of Science and HoD of Earth Science about the possibility of having a letter of intent with SQU for sustained cooperation between the two institutions. Through this LOI, the staff and students from both universities can visit each other and do joint research, internships, conference etc.", he said.
Joint Research in Animal SciencesA letter of agreement between SQU and Kazakh National Agrarian University envisages partnership through various forms of cooperation in training degreed specialists, development of joint scientific and research activities and academic mobility, as well as through rendering mutual assistance in improvement of education and scientific processes. Prof Isam T Kadim from the Department of Animal & Veterinary Sciences at SQU, who took the initiative to establish partnership with Kazak University, is functioning as external supervisor for a female PhD student from that university who is doing her work in the nutritive value and quality parameters of Bactrian camel meat. The student did part of her research work at the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences at SQU, benefiting from its state of the art research facilities in meat science lab.
Prof Kadim further said that he has given a series of lectures to the postgraduate students in the Kazak Universities on a variety of topics related to food Sciences. "As part of the letter of understanding, the Kazak Universities are planning to send more PhD and master students to SQU to do part of their research work in this university. They are impressed by the SQU's expertise and state of the art research facilities in the Department of animal and veterinary sciences. They also have plans to send some of their students to do internship at SQU. We hope that this agreement between the two universities will result in more student and faculty exchange in near future", he added.
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