NIU signs Soviet accord of its own

By Ken Goze

While glasnost has set much of Europe on end, it also has reached NIU with the signing of research agreements with Soviet scientists.

Marvin Starzyk, chairman of NIU’s biological sciences department, said the agreements will give NIU scientists a chance to work with researchers from the Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan, the site of recent ethnic disturbances.

One agreement near completion would bring Boris Lomsadedze, a scientist from Tblisi State University in Georgia, USSR, to NIU for a month, Starzyk said.

While at NIU, Lomsadedze will work with NIU biologists to isolate certain types of bacteria used to detect pollution levels. Starzyk said scientists can measure pollution by assessing changes in the number and type of bacteria in soil samples.

A second agreement, which already has been signed, invited two scientists from Azerbaijan State University to visit NIU for a month in 1991.

Scientists in Azerbaijan are especially interested in U.S. research of salt-resistant plants, Starzyk said.

Azerbaijan, which grows much of the raisins and other specialty fruits for the Soviet Union, has problems with salt from the Caspian Sea washing into the soil.

Starzyk said the agreement also will allow NIU researchers to test a new medium for detecting disease-causing bacteria in water. Testing the medium in the Soviet Union will allow scientists to see if it is really effective, Starzyk said.

Under an independent arrangement, NIU biological sciences Professor Samuel Scheiner will bring Sergey Gavrilets to NIU from Moscow’s Institute of General Genetics, Starzyk said.

While the language barrier and different systems of government greatly delayed the approval and signing of the agreements, Starzyk said he anticipates few communication problems with the scientists themselves.

These are very sharp people. Many of them speak very good English. They take far more English than we take Russian,” Starzyk said, adding the visits will provide a valuable cultural exchange.

Starzyk said he first became interested in the idea of an exchange when he visited Baku, Azerbaijan, for a semester in 1983 on a Fulbright Scholarship. Starzyk chose to visit Azerbaijan because almost no one from the program had gone there before, he said.