ASM/UNESCO Visiting Resource Person Program

For 10 years, the ASM/UNESCO Visiting Resource Person (VRP) Program has allowed microbiologists around the world to share scientific knowledge and develop international connections. ASM is pleased to announce that ASM and UNESCO have signed an agreement to continue the program through 2010.  

Funded by UNESCO and administered by ASM, this program allows scientists who are traveling to resource-limited countries on other business to spend an extra day at a local institution where they present a scientific lecture and interact with faculty and students. The program supplements scientists’ existing travel budgets with small grants that cover the cost of the extended stay. This is a cost-effective way for visiting scientists to have interactions with students and faculty that they would not have had time for otherwise.  

Jean Greenberg of the University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill., is a recent VRP Program participant who visited the University of Cordoba in Argentina in November 2008 on academic business. In addition to delivering a lecture, she was able to spend time talking with students, “. . .discussing not only the experiments they did but what they wanted to try and what big questions were still important to address.” Though the average VRP grant is small ($250), Greenberg said, “The program was very worthwhile and cost-effective since I was able to spend an extra day with the students and that also encouraged them to approach me and have discussions. . .”.  

Likewise, Francis Eko, a 2008 VRP from Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga., found that his discussion with the graduate students at the Institute of Pathology, ICMR in New Delhi, India, was a particularly memorable aspect of his visit, “The passion with which they shared their various research interests and projects with me and their quest for information was fascinating.”  

One of the many benefits of this program is that it brings new knowledge to the host institution. Eko presented a seminar, “Novel Strategies for Developing Vaccines,” and found that, “The visit has heightened the interest of the host and some attendees in vaccine development.” Similarly, Greenberg told ASM that “I think my visit impacted the host institution by providing the students with expertise not immediately available to them.”  

However, the VRP’s involvement does not necessarily end with their visit; like many participants, Nwadiuto Esiobu of Florida Atlantic University, Davie, Fla, found her 2006 VRP grant fostered professional relationships. Since visiting the University of Lagos she has been corresponding with a Ph.D. student and has established an ongoing professional exchange with one of her hosts. Esiobu felt that her visit made her an accessible contact to the students and faculty, creating the possibility of lasting professional collaborations.  

The VRP Program can also strengthen existing relationships. During a 2008 trip to China a VRP grant allowed Jiu Jiang of Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pa., to visit his alma maters, Shanghai Second Medical University and Bengbu Medical College. Following these visits he has continued interactions with the faculty at both institutions—applying for research grants, analyzing experimental data, and setting up investigative collaborations. He will continue this work during return visits to both institutions this summer.  

In addition to sharing scientific research, the VRP Program allows scientists to make personal connections. Jiang describes the program as a “. . .way not only to share academic expertise between two universities, but also to understand each other.”  

The experiences of past awardees demonstrate that a single extra day spent as a VRP can lead to exchanges and relationships that will benefit the participants for years to come. It is clear that this program is a practical and rewarding way to foster microbiology at home and abroad. As Esiobu says, the program has “impact for pennies.”  

ASM is currently soliciting applications for the 2009 VRP Program.  

More information and application materials are available through the International Affairs website at
http://www.asm.org/international/vrp.

 

 

 

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