MIT-Catholic University of Louvain: “And they had many children”

Catholic University of Louvain

26: That’s how many projects resulted from the agreement concluded in 2011 between the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Belgium’s leading French-speaking university, UCLouvain. These research projects aim to develop new collaborations between teams with complementary expertise in order to expand the limits of science in all disciplines!

In 2011, UCLouvain and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) concluded a collaboration agreement in the framework of the MISTI Global Seed Fund. The MIT-Belgium Université catholique de Louvain Seed Fund supports the development of new collaborations between researchers, professors and research students of both institutions. By means of an annual call for proposals, the Seed Fund is mainly intended to finance exchanges between the UCLouvain team and the MIT team: travel expenses, meeting and workshop organisation, etc. (max $30,000 for two years).

Priority is given to projects that demonstrate complementarity between the teams, involve young researchers and students, and include researchers from both sides of the Atlantic. The agreement concerns all MIT faculties and all UCLouvain sectors. Indeed, although MIT is known mainly for teaching and research in science and technology, it is also renowned in other fields such as management, economics, linguistics, political science and philosophy.

2021 UCLouvain granteesAna Beloqui

Garcia, Louvain Drug Research Institute (LDRI)

“I followed the work of Prof. Traverso (MIT) for many years and contacted him with the idea of submitting a project proposal together. We’re both working on oral drug delivery. My team has a more ‘proof of concept’ approach, while his team has a more translational approach to see how to reach the market.”

Damien Debecker, Institute of Condensed Matter and Nanosciences (IMCN)

“We’ll work on the fabrication of catalysts based on zeolites (crystalline and microporous aluminosilicates) that we’re trying to combine with enzymes to form hybrid chemo-enzymatic catalysts. The MIT team is specialised in (among other things) the design of zeolite nanocrystals, with very interesting properties for our targeted applications: surface hydrophobicity, hierarchical porosity, etc. They’re also experts in characterising the zeolite properties, and in catalyst design and the advanced characterisation of these catalytic materials. Meanwhile, we deliver our expertise in hybrid catalysis, enzyme grafting and encapsulation, and we’ll be in charge of catalyst performance evaluation. We’re targeting reactions for the valorisation of bio-sourced molecules.”

Giacomo Bruno, Research Institute in Mathematics and Physics (IRMP)

“Work is underway to develop techniques for dampening vibrations in the components of future gravitational wave detectors. Gravitational waves are distortions of space and time that travel at the speed of light. Our new collaboration with MIT focuses on the mirror suspensions of two future gravitational wave detectors called Cosmic Explorer (USA) and Einstein Telescope (Europe). The challenge is to design and build suspension systems for mirrors weighing several hundred kilograms. These systems must have very low mechanical losses and be able to attenuate seismic vibrations, noise signals that would drown out those generated by gravitational waves. On our side, we designed, prototyped, installed and commissioned a suspension for auxiliary optical benches of the European Virgo detector. In addition, the UCLouvain team gained experience in innovative designs based on ‘Euler springs’, while the MIT team experimented with new materials with very low mechanical losses. The combination of this expertise will provide new solutions for the suspensions of future detectors. And the observations of future detectors will make it possible to go back to the first moments in the life of our universe.”

New collaborations in the making!

A new call for projects has been launched and UCLouvain and MIT researchers of all backgrounds will soon have the opportunity to join forces again thanks to the support of the MIT-Belgium Université catholique de Louvain Seed Fund and bring out the best of their respective and complementary expertise and skills in order to expand the limits of science even further.

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