By The Star Staff
The U.S. Congress has approved an allocation of $7.5 million to build the Aerospace Research Institute at the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico (RUM-UPR).
The funds, which will arrive at the campus through the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the federal Department of Commerce, will be used to construct a building next to the Department of Mechanical Engineering (INME) that will house the vanguard institute.
“This assignment represents the transition point between a before and after in the aerospace issue at the Mayagüez University Campus and on the island,” said Sheilla N. Torres Nieves, an INME professor and manager of the proposal. “We have been trying to obtain funds from federal agencies for these purposes since 2017. At the university, we have joined many efforts to strengthen the aerospace sector and thus be able to help in the development of this industry, one of the fastest growing in the country.”
“This is the next level of what we want: undergraduate and graduate research on topics of interest to the industry,” she added. “The proposed facilities are the first step in creating this infrastructure from which we can better train our students, continue to do quality research, and continue to support the needs of the industry.”
Dr. Ubaldo M. Córdova Figueroa, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering who while serving as executive vice president of academic affairs and research at UPR collaborated in the search for funds and follow-up with the relevant agencies, concurred with Torres Nieves’ remarks.
“The most important part is having had the vision of Torres. She and others throughout the aerospace ecosystem had established that need,” he said. “After several attempts through various programs in multiple agencies, both local and federal, we were able to identify a way out through the federal government in preparing the budget. Thanks to the support of the resident commissioner, Jenniffer González, the project was accepted by the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives, and was presented in the federal budget approved in December.”
“Follow-through and perseverance were key here,” Córdova Figueroa added. “Also, for me, it was a commitment made to the campus in my years as executive vice president. Hand in hand with the campus and with Dr. Torres, we achieved this great dream and this great asset for Mayagüez.”
UPR President Luis A. Ferrao and RUM Chancellor Agustín Rullán Toro praised the work of Torres Nieves for the initiative that places the Mayagüez campus in a significant position.
“Historically, the RUM has been recognized as a cutting-edge institution in science, engineering and aerospace research. This million-dollar allocation from the United States Congress solidifies our position as a leader in the world of academia since it allows us to expand our infrastructure, curricular offer, and research capacity,” Ferrao said. “This assignment is another example of how the UPR has been proactive in identifying external sources of financing for developing its infrastructure in times of economic challenges. I congratulate and thank the UPRM faculty, especially Dr. Sheilla Torres Nieves, who created the proposal, the students, and all the staff who worked in this process that today bears positive results for the UPR and for Puerto Rico.”