California-Catalonia Partnerships Thrive and Multiply
In 1995, Peter J. Balsells endowed the Balsells-Generalitat Fellowship program in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering to assist the most talented young engineers and scientists from Catalonia in their pursuit of post-graduate degrees and post-doctoral studies in engineering. The Catalan Government, known as Generalitat de Catalunya, is a partner in this fellowship.
Balsells, a native of Catalonia, overcame great hardship while growing up in Spain during the oppressive Franco regime. His aunt provided him with a unique opportunity to pursue an engineering education in the United States. He excelled in his studies and subsequent career. Today, Balsells is a gifted engineer who holds more than 120 patents worldwide and is founder and chairman of Bal Seal Engineering. "I really had to struggle, so I wanted to help others get the best education possible," Balsells explained. "I'm a big believer in giving somebody the hook, but not the fish."
Eight years and 39 fellowships later, the program is thriving. A major milestone in the program was achieved in 2003 with the first four Ph.D. degrees awarded to Balsells Fellows Francisco Lopez, Alba Perez, Jordi Ros and Miguel Sainz. The students are grateful for the fellowship and the opportunity it provides. "If I didn't have Mr. Balsells help, it would have been very difficult for me to go to graduate school," said recent graduate Alba Perez. "I didn't have the money or the knowledge of how to come here. He is a man who overcame bad situations without compromising his character, and now he is helping others do the same."
A driving force behind the Balsells-Generalitat Fellowship program has been Professor Roger Rangel, a UCI mechanical and aerospace engineering faculty member, who has worked tirelessly to ensure the program's success and expansion. He was instrumental in securing the financial participation of the Catalan government. Based on this success, Rangel has spearheaded two new promising collaborations with Catalonia. The California-Catalonia Program for Engineering Innovation will sponsor research partnerships between academia and industry involving both California and Catalonia. The research will explore new approaches to support research innovations that benefit both California and Catalonia. Three projects have been selected for funding in the 2003-2004 cycle.
"I have been happy to be an active supporter of this program since I first joined the school as dean on January 1, 1997," said Dean Nicolaos G. Alexopoulos. "The long-term goal of the California-Catalonia Program is to stimulate the transformation of knowledge created at the academic level into innovations that create new wealth and build strong local, regional and inter- related national economies."
A new graduate fellowship has also been launched in partnership with the Samueli School and the University of Girona. The Girona Fellowship will provide support for one year to a student from the University of Girona to pursue graduate studies in the Samueli School. Daniel Massaguer is the inaugural recipient of the fellowship.