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Mexico, Illinois research exchange blooms at the University of Illinois

URBANA — Mexico and Illinois have a lot in common, according to Elvira de Mejia.

She’s a University of Illinois professor and the director of a new, system-wide Illinois Mexican and Mexican-American Students Initiative. She says her goal is to solve joint energy, food and health problems.

“We have common problems, so we need to find common solutions. And there are very, very talented researchers and scholars,” de Mejia said.

One example – researchers are trying to turn an algae that grows in both places into a source of renewable energy.

The initiative is turning two years old. One of their most visible successes is finding grants in each country to support Mexican student researchers at all three University of Illinois locations.

Senior Javier Aguado is finishing his degree at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Emily Hays/Illinois Public Media

Javier Aguado is a senior originally from Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico. He will finish his degree at U of I.

He has spent the last three weeks in a lab in Urbana doing experiments to figure out which strain of soybeans is the healthiest.

“I found this opportunity here at the University of Illinois, and it seemed like a really good opportunity to be at a top-level facility. You can get trained and get better at doing research,” Aguado said.

The initiative also hosts recruiting events for Mexican-American high schoolers.

Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media.

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Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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