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Forester News

Cody reflects on his international research

Professor of Chemistry Jason Cody will spend the 2019–20 academic year abroad working on alternatives for renewable energy applications—his third international research assignment.

This time, Cody is headed to Morocco, where he will supervise research and teach at Université Hasan II, Faculté de Science et Technologie to explore applications of chemistry in renewable energy sources. 

The 22-year Lake Forest professor will add the outcomes from this latest year-long sabbatical to the research he amassed over three separate postings in France at the Institut des Matériaux Jean Rouxel in Nantes (IMN)—two as a visiting professor and one has a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow studying renewable energy. 

“The manifestations each time have been different, so I’ve learned new things during each year of research,” Cody said. “Each sabbatical is a chance to see what research is like in different contexts. Every country approaches scientific research in their own way. It’s important to be aware of that.”

Before departing on his latest sojourn, Cody spoke about his international research:

Q: What first inspired you to research abroad?

A: When I was working on my undergrad at The College of Wooster, one of my professors spent every fifth year in Norway. That’s what first gave me the idea. Then, when I was in grad school at Northwestern University, there was a post-doctoral fellow from France in my group. That’s how I made my first connection abroad. Since then, I’ve traveled internationally every eight years to conduct research and catch up on what’s new in the discipline. Also, I helped edit the English text in drafts of scientific papers my colleagues wrote across IMN, so I get to learn about many projects. I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario to catch up on advances in the field.

Q: Why did you choose Morocco as your latest destination?

A: My oldest daughter was on a study abroad and told me there’s really cool stuff going on in Morocco with large-scale renewable energy installations. I didn’t know anything about that. After researching it, I realized I should go to Morocco and learn about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and why they’re doing it. 

Q: How will you bring your latest research back to the classroom?

A: In the chemistry department at Lake Forest, many of our students go into the chemical industry or on to graduate school. To prepare them for both, we teach them that working with international colleagues is a big part of how science is done. They first see that their junior or senior year when we look at scientific papers and see all the international interactions going on. It’s to their advantage to understand that as undergraduates, because very soon they’re going to interact with international colleagues. My experiences abroad enrich my teaching because I speak from an authentic place of having actually seen it firsthand.

Q: What are you most looking forward to?

A: I’m looking forward to learning and diving into a completely different context. There are some things we know we don’t know, but then I’m sure there will be other things we won’t know we don’t know until we get there. That will be fun.

Q: What will be the biggest hurdle this time?

A: My wife and I have the French language skills—French is the official language at the university and the official government language in Morocco—and we know how to navigate different cultures, but people at home speak Moroccan Arabic, which we don’t know. We’re self-teaching for now and we’ll see if there are opportunities for us to take courses when we get there. We leave for Morocco at end of July and will be back next July, in 2020.