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Advancing sustainability in Peru through bilateral university cooperation: The Arequipa Nexus Institute for Food, Energy, Water and the Environment

Featuring Tim Filley

Monday March 9, 2020  4-5 P.M.

Devon Hall Room 130
Open to the public

The modern research university has an increasingly important role to play as an engine of innovation supporting economic and societal progress. In today’s competitive global environment and a time when societal challenges include resource scarcities, legacies of land use degradation, climate change, and growing social inequities, forward looking universities are fostering a culture of entrepreneurship where innovative thinking is inspired and nurtured. They are developing new partnerships with companies, foundations, and other research-intensive institutions to broaden the exchange of ideas. And, they are preparing students for a rapidly changing job market, in a rapidly changing world.

In Peru, the federal government has formally enacted incentives (Law 30220) challenging the country’s public universities to work toward achieving world-class research status. Meeting this challenge requires fundamental institutional changes at the structural and operational levels, significant sustained financial resources, and the development and adoption of working models for international partnerships with established research universities to build institutional capacity and capability. The Universidad Nacional de San Agustín (UNSA) in Arequipa, Peru has stepped up to the challenge.

This presentation discusses the creation of a new bilateral collaboration between UNSA and Purdue University designed to position UNSA as a regional economic accelerator, to create solutions for the region’s unique socio-environmental challenges, and to prepare future leaders. At the core of this effort is incorporating solutions-oriented research into the fabric of UNSA’s educational approach to build long-term research capacity and capability. This collaboration engages over 160 faculty across both institutions on research projects exploring the regional interdependencies among food, water, and energy systems; developing pathways for equitable utilization of natural resources among important economic sectors such as agriculture and ore mining; and analyzing the tradeoffs between land use and the environment.



Timothy Filley’s research program explores the biogeochemical processes that transform organic matter in terrestrial and riverine ecosystems within natural and intensively managed landscapes. An overarching goal of his work is to demonstrate that detailed mechanistic information about soil organic matter dynamics can lead to better understanding of society’s vulnerability to climate and land use change, and to the potential risks from emerging pollutants. Filley uses isotope geochemistry, molecular biology, and analytical chemistry to study the complex factors that drive organic geochemical transformations in the environment. He has advised 19 graduate students, 5 postdoctoral scholars, and has published 104 peer reviewed manuscripts. Since coming to Purdue in 2000, Filley and colleagues have brought over $25,000,000 in research support to Purdue from 23 research projects supported by funding sources that include DOE, EPA, USDA, NSF, as well as international agencies. These projects were highly collaborative efforts both within Purdue and with other universities and research institutions.

Filley has served in a number of leadership roles at Purdue. From 2012-2016 he served as the director of the U.S.-China Ecopartnership for Environmental Sustainability, a partnership with the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, three Chinese Academy of Sciences Institutes, and other key universities in China. As the U.S. director, Filley worked to foster bilateral research innovation, communication, and entrepreneurship by developing a strategy for subnational scientific collaborations. Filley has served as the acting director (2017-2018) and director (2019) of Purdue’s Center for the Environment (C4E). The C4E, which connects over 150 faculty and student affiliate members from across departments and disciplines, works to promote proactive, interdisciplinary research, learning, and engagement addressing important regional and global environmental challenges. Filley is the co-director and lead principal investigator of the Arequipa Nexus Institute for Sustainable Food, Energy, Water and the Environment (The Nexus). The Nexus is a technical and research alliance program between Purdue University and the Universidad Nacional de San Agustín (UNSA) in the Arequipa region of Peru designed to understand and address challenges to the region’s food, energy and water production and delivery systems. This project includes participation from over 60 Purdue faculty spanning 7 colleges, 100 UNSA faculty, and supports 30 postdoctoral researchers. Filley is co-director of the Purdue Stable Isotope Instrumentation (PSI) facility within the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. PSI is a core Purdue University instrumentation facility specializing in light stable isotope mass spectrometry for analysis of a variety of natural and synthetic materials.

Tim Filley

Tim Filley