Nino Kokiashvili

Nino Kokiashvili, scientist at Tbilisi State University (TSU)

This fall saw the exciting debut of the San Diego State University-Georgia international program offering students in Tbilisi, Georgia the opportunity to earn a nationally accredited – and internationally-recognized – U.S. bachelor’s degree in engineering, technology, and natural sciences.

Dividends are already being paid as Nino Kokiashvili, scientist at Tbilisi State University (TSU), has been awarded a Fulbright Science Award for 2015-16, accomplished with the support of the SDSU program and a study visit arranged to the SDSU campus. Kokiashvili is a doctor of chemistry and senior researcher at the Institute of Physical and Analytical Chemistry of TSU.

In the summer of 2014, she traveled to SDSU in connection with the launch of “San Diego State University and Georgia 2020,” a program funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation that will issue bachelor’s degrees in Georgia through SDSU in cooperation with Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Georgian Technical University, and Ilia State University. The program also encompasses faculty study visits and rehabilitation of labs and other relevant infrastructure in Georgian partner universities.

On the trip to SDSU, Kokiashvili was directly involved in the development of curricula for chemistry and biochemistry programs in Georgia, review of teaching and evaluation systems in the United States, and alignment of the American accreditation with Georgian standards.

Kokiashvili and her fellow Georgian professors met with peers in the SDSU chemistry department under the guidance of Department Chair William Tong. During this exchange, she was inspired to pursue an International Fulbright Science & Technology Award. The grant provides for doctoral study in STEM fields at a United States institution. While speaking with Professor Christopher Harrison, a member of the SDSU chemistry faculty, Kokiashvili decided to apply for the grant to be able to collaborate on a project.

According to Harrison, their project concerns developing a tool that will be able to identify molecules from cells that have specific biological activity, meaning the molecules interact in specific ways with other compounds. The tool, which is in the developmental stage, could have broad applications which might include the identification of disease biochemical pathways, cancer, and viral infections.

After completing several stages of evaluation by Fulbright, Kokiashvili was granted the award to travel to the United States and continue her high-level scientific research at SDSU. “I am very happy to be among the awardees this year,” she said. “The Fulbright scholarship will be significant support.”

The $30 million SDSU-Georgia project is part of $140 million that the United States government is providing in aid to Georgia through Georgia’s compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The compact is implemented by the Millennium Challenge Account-Georgia (MCA-Georgia) in the fields of general, vocational, and higher education. The compact is the largest investment in Georgia’s education sector to date, and aims to develop Georgia’s human capital capacity for economic growth and reduce the country’s poverty rate. The MCC is an innovative and independent U.S. foreign aid agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty. Georgia’s first compact with the MCC, completed in 2011, rehabilitated a major highway, improved energy and water security, and supported agribusinesses.