Colombia Purdue Initiative — CPI

The Levys: Point of convergence between two hemispheres


Maria Mercedes (Mechas) and Morris (Morry) Levy are pioneers in the Colombia-Purdue relationship. Anyone who knows them must have perceived their passion for Colombia and commitment to increase the student exchange flow from Colombia to Purdue, and vice versa.

Their love-work story emerged as their work paths crossed in Colombia.


Dr. Morris Levy at Purdue University in 1996

Maria Mercedes Levy at Purdue University in 2000


Mechas is a native of Colombia and a microbiologist from Los Andes University in Bogotá. She developed her research expertise in molecular marker-assisted strategies for improvement of beans and cassava at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali from 1991-1998. Morry, a Purdue professor in Biological Sciences traveled to CIAT for the first time in 1990 to collaborate with the CIAT Rice Program on genetic strategies for control of a worldwide pathogen of rice, the blast fungus.  Though Morris anonymously edited Mechas' first publication and sometimes worked in the same CIAT laboratory they were not acquainted until the summer of 1996, when Mechas came to visit Fernando Tenjo and other former CIAT workers that Morry had recruited for graduate study at Purdue. Mechas and Morry were formally introduced during the 30th anniversary celebration of CIAT in 1997 and Mechas joined the Levy lab in 1998 as Research Scientist and Lab Manager. Since then, the Levys have worked tirelessly to strengthen the partnership between both hemispheres.

Mechas and Morry were married in 2000.

Morris and Maria Levy, recipients of the Team Award of the College of Engineering in 2014

Based on the premise that Purdue University educates global citizens and Colombia is an emerging economy in Latin America, Mechas and Morry have actively recruited and mentored more than 20 Colombian students to become Boilermakers. They understand that Colombians with Ph.D.’s from Purdue University are valuable to both countries as well as the research/academic/industrial institution that hires them. “Colombians are hard-working individuals with strong work ethic and willingness to learn” said the Levys, when asked why they like to mentor Colombian individuals. The student recruiting process is time-consuming and usually takes between 18-24 months. “The process is long and tedious, but very rewarding when it works” adds Mechas.

The Levys have supported and implemented numerous projects in Colombia that span several areas: climate change and sustainability in the Páramo, bioprospection of anti-breast cancer therapeutics, conservation of Colombia's extraordinary biodiversity, as well as management of rice blast disease. Moreover, they are organizing two study abroad courses in Colombia that will be offered for Purdue students in Summer 2018. The names of the programs are: “Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity Restoration in Colombia”, and “Marine Biology & Ecology of the Caribbean Coast of Colombia”.

In 2014, the Levys were among those that received the Team Award from the College of Engineering at Purdue for their teamwork and multidisciplinary efforts as key members of the Colombia-Purdue Initiative (CPI-formally known as Colombia Institute for Advanced Scientific Research).

Professor Morris Levy will be retiring from Purdue in July 2017. CPI is deeply grateful to both, Morry and Maria for their decades of hard work and leadership. Their dedication is a core value of the Colombia-Purdue partnership. We sincerely thank you for all you have done and continue to do, and wish you the very best in your upcoming projects.


Morris and Maria Levy at Vijes, Colombia in 1998

Morris and Maria Levy in Cali, Colombia in 2014


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