Tunisians, Moroccans and Brazilians are exchanging knowledge in biotechnology. The Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), in southern Brazil, is offering a master's degree course in Agroindustrial and Agricultural-Food Biotechnology, also offered by an university in Tunisia and another in Morocco.
The degree is granted by the Université de Provence et de La Méditerranée, in Marseille, France, and the universities in the three countries, including the one in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, serve as branches of the French university, offering the course in their own countries and regions.
Besides Brazil, Tunisia and Morocco, the course is also taught in China, France and Madagascar. It is endorsed by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), according to Professor Carlos Ricardo Soccol, who coordinates the master's course at UFPR.
The university in Paraná, which represents the French university for the course in all Latin America, has already graduated three students in the biotechnology course. Currently, three more students are taking the course.
The course started being offered by the Brazilian university four years ago. The subjects of study are biotechnological processes aimed at transforming and adding value to the raw materials that exist in each country. In a nutshell, the goal is to produce molecules using commodities, and then use those molecules to create new, value-added products.
Research by Brazilian students has led, for instance, to the production of bio-ethanol, as well as biodegradable plastic using soy residues. In Morocco, according to Soccol, work is being carried out using olive trees.
In order to enter the course one must first pass a test. The course is free of charge. In addition to carrying out their projects, the students attend classes and engage in group discussions, in English, on the Internet. This is where students from different countries share their experiences. Students defend their projects in videoconferences. In 2003, a congress for the course's students and teachers was held in Morocco.
The Federal University of Paraná began implementing the master's course after Professor Soccol, who studied at the French university, was invited to do so. Soccol holds a degree in chemical engineering and a master's degree in Food Technology, both from UFPR, in addition to other courses in foreign universities.
He holds a doctorate from the Université de Technologie de Compiègne, in France, and post doctorates from the Orstom Institute/IRD and the Université de Provence et de la Méditerranée. Currently, he is also a Professor at Université de Provence et de la Méditerranée.