DU professor joins official Cuban delegation

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Tidgewell Pittsburgh politicians, scholars and business people meet with the president of the University of Havana in Cuba as part of an outreach trip from Pennsylvania.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Tidgewell
Pittsburgh politicians, scholars and business people meet with the president of the University of Havana in Cuba as part of an outreach trip from Pennsylvania.

By Kaye Burnet | News Editor

A Duquesne chemistry professor returned from Cuba Thursday after spending a week in the country as part of an official delegation from the City of Pittsburgh.

Kevin J. Tidgewell, who teaches medicinal chemistry in the pharmacy school, participated in the trip to build connections with the University of Havana in Cuba. Tidgewell’s research focuses on finding compounds in the oceans that can be used for medicinal purposes, and Cuba’s reefs have been well-protected during the country’s decades of tense relations with the United States.

“The hope is to start collaborations to conduct my scientific research,” Tidgewell said.

The rest of the Pittsburgh delegation includes U.S. Representative Mike Doyle, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and representatives from Penn State University and the airport, among others. According to Tidgewell, the group met with the heads of various Cuban government ministries for the first four days of the trip.

“Much of what I have seen and done so far is as I expected it to be, but it has been very interesting to watch and be a part of some very high-level meetings,” Tidgewell said.

After meeting with dignitaries, Tidgewell conversed with members of the University of Havana’s chemistry and pharmacy faculty. His goal was to learn about their research and try to find projects they could collaborate on.

According to Tidgewell, the effects of the United States’ 55-year trade embargo with the small island nation are still being felt in Cuba.

“One thing that has struck me is … how much potential for growth and development there is with even small changes to the current policy,” Tidgewell said.

Tidgewell said he has traveled for his research before — to Panama, Brazil and Curacao — but never in such a politically-involved role.

“This delegation represents the whole of Pittsburgh and some of the projects which are already moving forward will have an enormous beneficial impact on Pittsburgh and the region,” Tidgewell said.

In addition to forging research partnerships, the Pittsburgh delegation sought to build business ties with Cuban manufacturers, establish a direct flight between Cuba and Pittsburgh and carve out study abroad opportunities for students at colleges in and around Pittsburgh.

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