Global energy symposium comes to St. Louis

Friday, May 4, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:59 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

ST. LOUIS — As a native of Mumbai, the Indian city that is one of the most populous in the world, Pratim Biswas says he’s always been fascinated by humanity’s impact on the environment and global needs for energy.

This weekend, he is the chief organizer of the International Symposium on Energy and Environment, a Washington University-sponsored global summit on energy and the environment, what he considers the most pressing issues of the day.

Biswas is chairman of the university’s department of energy, environmental and chemical engineering.

Presidents and faculty of 20 of Asia’s and the Middle East’s most prestigious research universities are gathering here today through Monday to try to find ways to collaborate in tackling such global challenges as climate change, air quality, potable water and environmentally benign energy sources.

Washington University has established partnerships with 16 Asian universities and another four institutions, from the Middle East, were just added.

Those 20 universities that will be represented at the symposium by their presidents or faculty.

Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton said they’ll look for areas of research to address cooperatively and form working groups to solve energy and environmental problems.

The partnership wants to share curriculum with other institutions so teachers can pick the best for their own classroom, Biswas said. An interactive Web site will allow universities to develop new course content and start discussion groups.

The universities also plan to provide “distance education” where students in one locale can tap into a classroom a world away and exchange research.

Speakers at the forum will include Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.; Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences; and Carl Casale, executive vice president, commercial North America at Monsanto Co.

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