President Abuhijleh, MIT Professor explore ways to bolster engineering research efforts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Dr. Franz-Josef Ulm and President of Birzeit University Dr. Abdullatif Abuhijleh discussed possible ways to encourage and stimulate engineering research efforts in a meeting held on the University campus on January 3, 2018.

Attending the meeting were the Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Faisal Awadallah; the Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Mazen Hamed; and the Chairperson of the Department of Civil Engineering Dr. Ziad Mimi.

Dr. Ulm, who was a visiting professor at the Department of Civil Engineering, has been accepted as a permanent visiting scholar at Birzeit University.

Dr. Abuhijleh highlighted the research efforts ongoing at Birzeit University, “We believe that communication between students, scholars, and professors is essential for continuing research and development, whether within academic institutions or between them. As such, we’ve encouraged students and faculty members to join academic exchange programs such as Erasmus+, which would allow them to gain valuable experience and knowledge and bring it back home for the benefit of others.”

“While we’re living in some very difficult circumstances here at Palestine,” added Dr. Abuhijleh, “we’re making great strides in research efforts. We’re currently in the process of building the Palestine-India Techno Park, one of the most innovative and leading startup hubs and innovation incubators in the region. The Park’s proximity to the University campus will create an innovative, creative ecosystem and a feedback loop that will constantly calibrate the students’ skills and knowledge needed to excel in tomorrow’s markets and research labs.”

Dr. Ulm praised the Palestinian students’ energy and drive for innovation and creativity, “I’ve met a lot of Palestinian students at MIT, and if there’s one thing in common between them all, it’s the great energy and momentum that they have and their zest for driving forward the wheel of innovation and improvement.”

“There are three activities that we can implement to better the engineering research efforts by Palestinians both here and abroad. First, we can create a network of sorts that connects Palestinian scholars, professors, and students in Palestine and all over the world. Second, we can implement winter or summer school programs facilitated by visiting professors from well-known institutes and universities. And third, we can set-up and facilitate the commercialization of the results of research projects.”

“There is a fine line separating research, or academia, and the commercialization of research ideas. And while implementing a system that can maintain an arm’s length principle, so to speak, between the commercial and the research sides of a startup incubator can be difficult, it would provide an incentive for research efforts and a showcase for investors and experts, both here and abroad,” said Dr. Ulm.