When President L. Rafael Reif meets with MIT alumni in São Paulo next week, discussion will likely to turn to how current research at the Institute relates to Brazil. Many of MIT’s strongest connections with other nations have grown through the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives: with programs in 19 countries, MISTI sends hundreds of students around the world each year for internship, research, and teaching opportunities, and has awarded more than $6M in Global Seed Funds to enable collaboration between MIT faculty and international partners.
A great example of how MISTI-Brazil forms research connections: MIT mechanical engineering associate professor Tonio Buonassisi, who has just embarked on his second project with Brazilian researchers, working together to advance solar energy technologies with support from the MIT-Brazil Seed Fund.
Buonassisi has said his interest in energy research was first sparked in the 1990s, while he was a high school student in Brazil, riding the bus through the traffic-filled streets of bustling São Paulo. Two decades later, as the head of MIT’s Photovoltaics Research Laboratory, Buonassisi and colleagues from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul received a 2010 seed fund grant for work on the processing of scalable silicon photovoltaics. And in 2014, he and collaborators at the State University of Campinas were awarded another grant to investigate nanometer-thin semiconductors for solar cell applications.
Other MIT-Brazil Seed Fund projects—there have been 65 so far—have resulted in a better robot for the rehabilitation of stroke patients, insights into the importance of informal waste and recycling collectives, and a new mathematical model that explains the dynamics of certain fluid systems. Many of the early-stage projects supported by the fund have gone on to attract additional funding. They have also generated many peer-reviewed research papers, conferences, and workshops, and even one e-book for general audiences, Resíduos Eletroeletrônicos na Região Metropolitana do Recife (the e-book was written by the Brazilian researchers and co-funded by FACEPE, the Pernambuco state research agency).
The MIT-Brazil Seed Fund was made possible by funding from Santander Universities and cost sharing with FACEPE, FAPESP (the São Paulo state research agency), and CNPq (a national research agency). MISTI is a program through MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
Learn more about Tonio Buonassisi’s work on solar energy.
Read about other recent MISTI-Brazil seed fund projects.