Sept. 24, 2008

DeVoogd to promote science, entrepreneurship in Latin America as Jefferson Science fellow

Timothy DeVoogd, professor of psychology and neurobiology who has taken Cornell courses and lectures to such far-flung places as Singapore, Qatar, Uruguay, Bangladesh and South Africa, has been named a 2008 Jefferson Science fellow by the U.S. Department of State.

As one of seven fellows from universities across the country, DeVoogd will work full time for a year in the State Department's Bureau for Western Hemisphere Affairs, traveling extensively to Latin America to help promote science and technology education and entrepreneurship through collaborations and linkages with U.S. universities.

DeVoogd studies anatomical changes in the brain that are caused by and underlie learning, particularly in birds that learn complex songs or hide stashes of food.

"My teaching at Cornell has been dedicated toward making neuroscience, an area of study that often seems daunting, accessible to advanced biology majors," he said. He has also worked to make education in the sciences accessible to students around the world -- most recently as a consultant for the Asian University for Women, a university under construction in Bangladesh that will be dedicated to providing a first-tier liberal arts education for underprivileged women in South Asia.

"I believe that the United States should foster and encourage such enterprises," DeVoogd said. "We, as well as the target countries, win when they succeed and graduate a generation of women and men who have thought about tolerance and respect of others, of freedom in intellectual inquiry and who have a wide base of knowledge of science and history and culture. I hope that it will be possible to communicate some of this outlook as a Jefferson fellow."

The experience will benefit Cornell as well, DeVoogd added.

"Cornell is exploring numerous ways in which we can become a world university. We have initiated close ties with educational programs in Qatar and China and are exploring ways to do so in Africa. We will be better apprised of further opportunities to do so through the contact with the State Department that this fellowship will bring."

Cornell President David Skorton has spoken widely on the importance of a unified, cooperative and carefully planned national strategy for reducing global inequalities.

In testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology in 2007, Skorton called international education and research among the nation's most effective diplomatic assets, and said that Cornell is playing an active role by increasing its presence around the world.

"I am calling for a new national approach, with university teaching, research and outreach at its center, to address the socio-economic inequalities that threaten our nation and the world, and to spur economic growth though innovation and capacity building as the Marshall Plan did 60 years ago through aid and joint planning," Skorton wrote in his remarks to the committee.

The Jefferson Science Fellows program was launched in 2003 to engage science, technology and engineering academic communities in U.S. foreign policy; and to help bridge the gaps in learning and technology between developed and developing countries. A pilot program was administered by the National Academies and supported through a partnership between the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corp.; the U.S. science, technology and engineering academic community; professional scientific societies; and the U.S. Department of State. It is now substantially supported by the State Department and the scientists' home institutions.