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Northwestern faculty, alums celebrate in Taiwan

University’s research highlighted during trip that also explored potential future collaborations

A distinguished delegation from Northwestern University, including Vice President for Research Eric Perreault, embarked on a five-day visit to Taipei, Taiwan, in early December, fostering connections and engaging with alumni and prominent institutions in the region. The trip aimed to strengthen partnerships, explore collaborative opportunities, and celebrate the contributions of Northwestern's alumni in Taiwan.

The itinerary was filled with scientific and social engagements, starting with visits to prestigious institutions such as the Tang Prize Foundation (led by Northwestern engineering graduate Chern Jenn-chuan ’84), National Tsing Hua University, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, and National Taiwan University. These interactions facilitated vibrant discussions on research collaborations and academic partnerships, emphasizing the shared commitment to academic excellence and innovation.

Among the visit’s highlights were tours of the Taiwan Accelerator and the Taiwan Tech Arena. These dynamic hubs play crucial roles in Taiwan's thriving startup ecosystem, nurturing innovation and fostering entrepreneurship. The Taiwan Accelerator, known for its support in accelerating early stage startups, and the Taiwan Tech Arena, a premier platform for tech ventures, provided insights into the region's burgeoning technological landscape. Members of the Northwestern delegation also toured the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, a pioneering force shaping global technology and innovation, where discussions included potential research collaborations between the two organizations.

One focal point of the visit was an event at the American Club Taipei for Northwestern alumni, parents, and students, featuring a scientific panel discussion.  Alumni Janie Chang ’90 JD and Joseph Sun ’96 MBA, president of the Northwestern Alumni Club of Taiwan, were instrumental in organizing the program, while Naomi Wu ’20, ’23 MS, assistant director of presidential communications, played a key role in supporting logistics.

The panel was moderated by VPR Perreault, who is also a professor of biomedical engineering and physical medicine and rehabilitation. The discussion featured Northwestern faculty members Omar Farha (chemistry), Pedram Khalili (electrical and computer engineering), and Samuel Stupp (materials science, chemistry, medicine), as well as former Northwestern faculty member Der-Tsai Lee, a pioneering computer scientist known for his work in computational geometry. The conversation highlighted Northwestern’s  research and innovation while showcasing aspects of University’s ecosystem that contribute to its top-ranked reputation and impact.

Attended by several dozen Northwestern alumni, the event provided a forum for lively discussions, knowledge sharing, and networking opportunities, strengthening the bonds between alumni and the University.

Among the delegation’s other members were Dévora Grynspan, vice president of International Relations, who led and organized the delegation with support from Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry and the Friends of Taiwan Foundation; Robert McQuinn, senior adviser and vice president emeritus for alumni relations and development; Milan Mrksich, the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Cell & Developmental Biology; Seda Ogrenci, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science; and Hayes Ferguson, clinical professor of engineering and director of the Farley Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

"The enthusiasm and engagement from our alumni in Taiwan was truly inspiring," said Vice President Perreault. "Their contributions, coupled with opportunities to engage with esteemed institutions in Taiwan, reaffirm our commitment to fostering global partnerships and pushing the boundaries of research."

Throughout the visit, participants experienced firsthand Taiwan's rich cultural heritage while forging meaningful connections with alumni, faculty, and institutions. The journey served as a reminder of Northwestern's global network and the enduring impact of its alumni community in Taiwan.

As the delegation concluded its visit, the relationships established and insights gained promise to lay the foundation for additional research collaborations between Northwestern and Taiwan’s academic and entrepreneurial landscape.          

— Matt Golosinski