ASU signs sustainability partnership agreement with Vietnam

November 8, 2013

ASU hosted a 10-member delegation of senior Vietnamese government and industry officials from the Vinh Phuc Province in Vietnam on Oct. 29 and 30, signing an agreement for a partnership to support sustainable economic growth in the province.

The delegation was led by Phung Quang Hung, chairman of the Vinh Phuc People’s Committee. Under Hung's leadership, Vinh Phus has grown to become one of the seven provinces in Vietnam leading in manufacturing and direct foreign investment development in the country. ASU and Vietnamese delegation sign MOU Download Full Image

The objective of the visit and collaboration is to seek partnership opportunities to support the sustainable growth of the province.  

“Chairman Phung Quang Hung and the leadership of Vinh Phuc Province are thinking deeply about the role of universities and higher education in promoting economic development and growth, and the importance of creating opportunities for real collaboration,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “We look forward to advancing our partnership with Vinh Phuc Province and contributing to this ambitious agenda.”

Vinh Phuc Province has maintained 18 percent annual average economic growth from 2007 to 2012. The province’s education and training system also ranks as one of the top five in Vietnam. Hung’s sustainable growth priorities for the province include high-tech development and support for industries, health and education, and human-capacity building.

"As part of our province's growth plan, we are looking for partners in development, especially in the United States. We greatly appreciate the goodwill and assistance the leadership and staff at Arizona State University has accorded to our delegation,” Hung said. “We look forward to working with ASU and the Vietnam Higher Engineering Education Alliance in drawing up a cooperation plan in the field of education and training and other areas of development."  

At ASU, the delegation signed a bi-national partnership memorandum of understanding to develop a working group to define and foster research projects that will initially focus on sustainability and later include biomedical and health systems engineering, professional training program in public policy and capacity building to support the development of technology entrepreneurship and sustainable tourism in the region.  

In addition to meetings at ASU, the delegation visited local industry, city and state government leaders to explore trade opportunities. The bi-national working group will meet in Vinh Phuc later this year to develop initial collaborative projects. 

Engineering grad's science fiction featured in new book

November 8, 2013

Zachariah Berkson thinks much can be learned about science and engineering – and their societal implications – by exploring them through a creative lens.

That was his goal in writing two science fiction stories that were selected for “Cautions, Dreams & Curiosities,” an anthology of fiction and essays recently published by the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University and the Intel Tomorrow Project. Zach Berkson science fiction Download Full Image

Berkson graduated from ASU earlier this year with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and is now pursuing a doctoral degree in the field at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

While at ASU he got involved with the Center for Science and the Imagination and helped the center start a student group, The Imagination Project, that organized discussions about “the humanities and science and how we could use them to build a better future,” Berkson says.

His published sci-fi stories are fashioned around a similar theme, more specifically involving “how the technology we are developing today will change the world,” and the ramifications of our increasing ability to manipulate our environment, he explains.

“Rainmakers” takes place in the future, when technologies have been developed that are capable of controlling the weather. It offers a cautionary message about “how we tend to abuse the natural systems we can control,” he says.

In the preface to “Rainmakers,” Brian Walsh, a TIME magazine reporter on environmental issues, writes that the story provides “a lesson to keep in mind as the debate over geoengineering drifts from the theoretical to the practical,” and possibly sets the stage for unintended consequences resulting from endeavors to “fine-tune the planet.”

His other story in the anthology, “Making a Home,” is about houses that can be grown organically instead of built in the traditional fashion. It examines “what living inside a living thing might be like, and how it might change how people interact with each other in the house, and interact with the house itself,” he says.

Berkson’s story ideas sprung in part from his interest in sustainability and the technology we might use to achieve it. The interest emerged during his time at ASU while conducting research through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) under the direction of Jean Andino, an associate professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Berkson worked with Andino’s research group on methods to efficiently convert carbon dioxide into fuel, with the longer-term goal of adapting the process on an industrial scale to provide a viable source of sustainable energy.

The research entailed a highly concentrated focus on technical details. Writing fiction provided Berkson a mental respite from the laboratory. It gave him an outlet to conjure possible future scenarios that might result from our technological advances and how they are used.

“We can get a different perspective on what we are doing by exploring it imaginatively through a creative process like writing,” Berkson says. “I think it’s something that could make us better engineers.”

Berkson is busy with graduate school work, continuing research on technologies for sustainable fuel production and pursuing interests in urban agriculture, crowdsourcing science and do-it-yourself electronics.

But he’s still trying to carve out time for writing. He plans to submit a piece for the next CSI and Intel anthology, “The Future – Powered by Fiction.”

• Read more about the book “Cautions, Dreams & Curiosities.”

• Download the book as a PDF.

• Submit your own creative work for the next Intel-CSI collaboration.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering