Meet visiting Fulbright Scholar Carlos Linares from WWU’s Department of Chemistry
Carlos Linares, a scholar from Cagua, Venezuela, is on campus to conduct research in Western Washington University’s Department of Chemistry through a fellowship from the U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program.
Linares is a professor of chemistry at the University of Carabobo in Venezuela. He applied to the Fulbright program for three years before being accepted to conduct research at Western in October 2022. He will finish his fellowship this October.
Linares said that he appreciates the Fulbright program and is grateful for the opportunity to be able to conduct research with his peers at Western.
“It’s a very interesting fellowship, because the idea of Fulbright is not just to do research or to teach, but to get in contact and compare our culture to American culture,” Linares said. “One of the main things I think is, ‘What can I bring back to Venezuela?’”
Linares’s research consists of removing elements like sulfur, nitrogen, and metal from crude oil to make it less toxic.
“In my country, we have a lot of crude oil,” Linares said. “These elements are very toxic, so the idea is to remove all of them to get cleaner fuel.”
Linares’s research at Western is a bit different from his work in Venezuela, but still involves some of the same ideas. At Western, his research consists of utilizing carbon dioxide to obtain carbon monoxide, which is better for producing clean fuel. This includes him performing a reaction to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas into carbon monoxide and water in conditions with heat and light.
“The idea is to try to use CO2 because it is a greenhouse gas.” Linares said. “These gases are responsible for some catastrophic effects, such as climate change and ocean acidification. So I am trying to use CO2 in order to get Carbon Monoxide. After that, it is possible to produce cleaner fuel.”
Linares works in the research lab of Mark Bussell, a professor of Chemistry at Western. He explained how he and Bussell are able to learn from each other from their different research methods and ideas.
“Carlos has quickly become a valued member of our research group with his expertise in catalysis and because of his extensive international experience,” Bussell said. “My research students and I are learning so much from him about life, education, and research in Venezuela.”
Linares was also able to travel outside of Bellingham during his time on the Fulbright fellowship, going to Chicago during the second week of April to attend a Fulbright seminar on public health. Despite public health not being his speciality, he said he learned a lot and was able to connect with other scholars in the Fulbright program across the world.
Outside of spending hours in the research lab working on his data, Linares said that he loves exploring Bellingham, and he was even able to see snow for the first time last winter.
“Bellingham is an amazing city, I love the people, the transportation, and the food,” Linares said. “The sea is so beautiful. Every single day, it’s like a picture.”
Bellingham is an amazing city, I love the people, the transportation, and the food. The sea is so beautiful. Every single day, it’s like a picture.
Visiting Fulbright Scholar
Linares and Bussell have also enjoyed spending time together outside of their work in the research lab.
“On the personal side, my wife Kristi and I have really appreciated becoming friends with Carlos and his wife Gilma, sharing about our families and living in different parts of the world,” Bussell said.
Linares said that he wants to replicate his research from Western back in Venezuela, as well as maintain a connection between Western and the University of Carabobo. He said he hopes that, in the future, one of his students will be able to come and study at Western.
One of the main takeaways Linares plans to bring back with him after his time on the fellowship is how to lower the cost of a chemistry degree at universities in Venezuela. He said that in Venezuela, students must attend five years of school to earn a degree in chemistry, unlike Western’s four-year framework. He also likes how Western’s Chemistry Department combines both teaching and research.
“In my country, just the public university teaches chemistry, and it is so expensive,” Linares said. “I want to talk to the faculty back home and discuss what the best way to decrease the amount of years it takes in order to help lower the cost.”