By OLIVE L. SULLIVAN
Morning Sun Staff Writer
C. Cottrell/The Morning Sun Levi Shaffer, a senior studying mechanical engineering at Pittsburg State University, talks with Suhreta Husic, Ph.D., of the University of Zagreb, Croatia, during a reception held Thursday for visiting international professors. Husic is involved in polymer research and aircraft composite design.
Researchers from Croatia, Korea and the central Asian country of Tajikistan met Thursday at a reception held in their honor at the Wilkinson Alumni Center on the Pittsburg State University campus.
The reception was the final event of International Education Week. Dr. Chuck Olcese, director of International Affairs on campus, said he wanted to recognize these scholars because they are usually overlooked in discussions of international connections. Most people think only of international students or exchange professors who are on campus to teach.
"It's a group that doesn't get a lot of publicity," he explained.
Instead, the scholars come here to work with PSU faculty on research projects that they will continue at home.
Suhreta Husic, of the University of Zagreb in Croatia, and Hyum Joo Lee, of Myong Ji University in Korea, came to Pittsburg to work with scientists at the Kansas Polymer Research Center at the Business and Technology Institute at PSU.
The KPRC is an international center of groundbreaking research in using soybean oil in creating high tech plastics.
Olcese said the center is responsible for many of the visiting scholars on campus -- nine this semester alone.
Lee is working on the functionalization of soybean oil for polyurethane plastics. She comes to PSU from the sister institution in Korea, which has an established exchange program.
However, Lee said, her project on creating a substitute for the use of petroleum in creating plastics is a natural one for PSU. She said Kansas is one of the largest producers of soybeans, so it makes a natural place for a research center. Lee said she has also been able to make connections with scientists at Iowa State University who are working toward similar goals.
"It's better to have contact with the specialties," she said.
Husic is working on composites for aircraft parts at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, part of the former country of Yugoslavia. She has been in Pittsburg for about three months, and will continue her work on lightweight materials for the aircraft industry when she returns home next month.
Husic has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.
"It is very nice here, nice people," she said. "It is my pleasure to be here."
She said she chose the KPRC because of its international reputation. "My professor from my university met in Dallas Dr. Ivan Javni, who is a researcher from BTI. He invited me to come here. It is a great opportunity for me to be here," she explained.
Dr. Phil Halstead, executive director of the BTI, also thanked the scholars for coming to PSU. He pointed out that their research helps bring money into Kansas in the form of grants and in contracts with major corporations who use the technology they help create.
"We couldn't do it without these international scholars," he said, explaining that the others had wanted to attend the reception, but could not leave their labs in time. "They are the backbone of the Polymer Research Center.
Also attending the reception was Dr. Ayubjon Yussoupov, from Tajik State University of Commerce in Tajikistan. He spoke Wednesday in detail about his work, which is research into business education and entrepreneurship in central Asia. His presence at Pittsburg State is sponsored through the United States Department of State.
Olcese said the rainy weather may have kept other scholars from attending the reception, or they may have been hard at work on their projects. Several of the visiting scholars will be leaving PSU in the next couple of weeks. In fact, Olcese joked, one of them was probably packing instead of attending.
Staff Writer Olive Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 231-2600, Ext. 134.