MIT Portugal Hosts MIT Europe Conference in Lisbon

Industrial and corporate leaders from throughout the world will gather in Lisbon on March 26 and 27 along  with prominent faculty from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Portuguese Government officials and academics for the MIT Industrial Liaison Program 2008 MIT Europe Conference.

This is the first time that Portugal has been chosen to host the annual  conference, which is co-sponsored by the MIT Portugal Program and the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD). The event will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase Portugalʼs commitment to investing in science, technology and higher education to an audience of several hundred influential corporate attendees

The MIT Europe Conference is promoted and organized by the MIT Industrial Liaison Program (ILP). The main goal of this Program is to serve as the main gateway to MIT, enabling companies worldwide to harness MIT resources to address current challenges and to anticipate future needs. 

Siemens, Shell, Eastman Kodak, BAE, BBVA and Corning are some of the companies who will be represented at the conference, which will open with a speech by Mariano Gago, Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education and will be followed by a Keynote address by MIT Prof. Subra Suresh, Dean of the School of Engineering.

Under the theme "Strategic Directions: Research, Operations and Organizations", the talks will cover major fast-developing research areas such as communications, life sciences, energy, and materials, as well as new insights for operational and organizational excellence. To achieve this, the conference will feature top MIT faculty* addressing research imperatives and organizational challenges.

The first day of the conference will conclude with a reception and dinner with Portugal's Prime Minister José Sócrates as special guest speaker. 

GALP Launches New Urban Energy Project with MIT Portugal

GALP Energy will start a new research project in "Sustainable Urban Energy Systems," involving Portuguese and MIT researchers in the context of the MIT Portugal Program.

GALP Energy has been an Industrial Affiliate of the MIT-Portugal Program since April 2007 and now confirms a new agreement with the Program to launch research activities aimed at the development of new urban energy systems.

The ceremony will take place during a dinner on 26 March during the MIT-Europe Conference (25-27 March), during which the directors of GALP Energy and the President of the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), João Sentieiro, will sign the terms of the new project.

During the ceremony, Portugal, through the MIT-Portugal Program, will become the first country to become a member of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI,, the largest energy research initiative underway at MIT.

The ceremony will be attended by the Prime Minister, José Socrates, the Minister of Economy and Innovation, Manuel Pinho, the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, José Mariano Gago, the Dean of the School of Engineering of MIT, Subra Suresh, as well as the Directors of the MIT Portugal Program, Paulo Ferrão and Dan Roos. 

MIT Portugal, International Education Programs Cited by OECD in Favorable Report

Portugal's efforts to reform its higher education system, including major international initiatives such as the MIT Portugal Program, received praise in a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Education Policy Committee Review Panel.

An OECD review panel was invited by the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education to visit Portugal to assess developments over the past year in higher education. The panel met senior officials of the Ministry, university rectors and presidents of public and private universities and polytechnics, students, teachers, lawmakers and banks involved in student loans in early March.

Portugal's Ambassador Visits MIT, Meets MIT Portugal Leaders, Students

Portugal's Ambassador to the U.S. Joao de Vallera pictured with MIT students and MIT Portugal visiting students and professor. Portugal's Ambassador to the U.S. Joao de Vallera pictured with MIT students and MIT Portugal visiting students and professor.

Portugal's Ambassador Joao de Vallera met with MIT Portugal Program leaders, students and other program representatives on March 4 at MIT following a visit to the Boston area. During the meeting, the ambassador, who was accompanied by Consul General Manuela Bairos, received a briefing on the program and its recent activities from MIT Portugal Program Director at MIT Prof. Daniel Roos. The ambassador also had the opportuntity to meet with several visiting students from the MIT Portugal Program, including  Joao Bigotte, Ana Capote, Vasco Reis, Goncalo Correia and a visiting  professor, Ligia Rodrigues. Other MIT PhD Students were also in attendance including Joao Castro, the president of the Portuguese American Post-Graduate Society, and Marcus Dahlem, of the Portuguese Student Association of MIT.

MIT Portugal Supports Research on Gecko-inspired Bandage

ImageA gecko foot shows its adhesive pads. Photo/David Clements WikipediaResearchers from the MIT Portugal Program and MIT have taken a page from nature and created a gecko-inspired, waterproof bandage that could soon join sutures and staples as a tool in tomorrow’s operating rooms. Scientists have long been fascinated by the gecko’s ability to climb vertically and MIT Portugal and MIT researchers took what they knew of the nanofeatures present in gecko feet – which allows them to stick to vertical surfaces – and have now applied this phenomenon to the surface of a bandage.

“Geckos have nanopillars in their skin and these dramatically increase the surface area and promote surface adhesion [which enables them to climb vertically].” said Lino Ferreira, co-author of a paper recently published about the research in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Ferreira is a researcher at the Center for Neurosciences and Cell Biology in Coimbra, and Biocant-Biotechnology Innovation Center, Cantanhede,both in  Portugal He also contributes in the Bio-engineering Focus Area of the MIT Portugal Program.

Ferreira became involved in this research at MIT as a post-doctoral fellow working with MIT Institute Professor Robert Langer and other members of the team. Langer and Jeff Karp, an instructor of medicine at Boston’s Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, led the group of researchers. Both Langer and Karp are also faculty members at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST).

According to Ferreira, the bandage created by the MIT researchers is different than what is currently being used by doctors.

“It is different because some of the biological glues used in medicine raised problems regarding their biocompatibility ,” he said. He further explained that the current adhesives used are either “soft” or “hard” but this adhesive bandage is tailored to match the tissues it will adhere to.

Using nanopatterning technology, the researchers shaped the biorubber bandage into different hill and valley profiles at nanoscale dimensions. After testing on the intestinal tissue of pigs, they selected the substance that would stick the most and would grip and interlock with the underlying tissue.

Ferreira explained that the adhesive bandage created by the MIT team is coated with a glue-like substance to further enhance the adhesion between the nanopillars and the biological tissues. In addition, the material is biocompatible and biodegradable for use in the medical realm and can be moved with the tissue it is adhered to.

Gecko-like dry adhesives have been in existence since about 2001 but there have been significant challenges to adapt this technology for medical applications given the strict design criteria required.

“We are promoting adhesion inspired by nature and the bandage is degradable so after a certain time it disappears,” said Ferreira.

The resulting bandage “is something we never expect to remove,” said Karp. Because of that difference between the bandage and gecko feet, Karp said, “we're not mimicking the gecko”-which has sticky paws but can still lift them up to walk-“we are inspired by the gecko to create a patterned interface to enhance the surface area of contact and thus the overall strength of adhesion.”

According to Ferreira,  the technology is being further developed before it could come to market.

“What we show is proof of concept that this kind of approach might be an alternative approach to the current medical adhesives,” he said.

According to Langer, “This is an exciting example of how nanostructures can be controlled, and in so doing, used to create a new family of adhesives.”

Other MIT authors of the paper are co-first authors Alborz Mahdavi, a former MIT lab technician now at the California Institute of Technology; Jason W. Nichol and Edwin P. Chan, HST postdoctoral fellows; David J.D. Carter and Jeff Borenstein of Draper Laboratory; HST doctoral student Chris Bettinger; and MIT graduate students Siamrut Patanavanich, Loice Chignozha, Eli B. Joseph, Alex Galakatos and Seungpyo Hong, all from the Department of Chemical Engineering. Additional authors are from Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Basel, Switzerland.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) program of the National Science Foundation, and the MIT-Portugal program.

This article was written by Michelle Gaseau, MIT Portugal Program with sections written by Elizabeth Dougherty, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. Portions of this article were originally published by MIT News Office.