New policy changes announced by President Obama that would normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba include relaxing visa application requirements and shortening the application process for scientists wishing to travel to attend scientific meetings in the U.S or Cuba.

Mark Rasenick, distinguished university professor of physiology & biophysics and psychology and director of the biomedical neuroscience training program in the University of Illinois College of Medicine has made more than 20 trips to Cuba over the last two decades for scientific exchange meetings. He says the new policy changes will help further foster scientific collaboration with Cuban researchers.

Rasenick has traveled to Cuba at the invitation of the Cuban Neuroscience Center, the Center for Molecular Immunology, a Cuban biotechnological institution, and other scientific organizations in Havana. He has also been the guest of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment – the Cuban institution that leads state and government policy regarding science and technology.

Last April, he visited Cuba as part of a delegation of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences to meet with leaders with the Cuban Academy of Science. The meeting resulted in the signing of a landmark agreement to advance scientific cooperation by Cuban and U.S. scientists, in key areas of mutual interest to both countries.

Rasenick can speak on the effect of the new policy on scientific exchange between the United States and Cuba and the state of biomedical research in Cuba.