MIT-Mexico Program encourages collaboration between partners across borders

Favianna Colón Irizarry spent the previous summer at Tecnológico de Monterrey, collaborating with Mexican biotechnology scientists on creating a biodegradable coating that extends the shelf life of local produce. While working on this and other innovative initiatives at one of Mexico’s premier research institutions was an invaluable opportunity, it was the diverse array of experiences during her MIT-Mexico internship that left a lasting impression on Colón Irizarry.

She states, “From my internship, I learned a crucial lesson: Cultural proficiency is essential.”

A second-year chemical-biological engineering student, Colón Irizarry is part of the nearly 500 participants who have journeyed to Mexico for a season of work and learning since the inception of the MIT-Mexico Program by MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) in 2004. A flagship program housed within the Center of International Studies (CIS), MISTI provides custom global experiential opportunities to over 1,200 students annually.

Over its 20-year trajectory, MIT-Mexico has garnered support from more than 200 partner institutions in Mexico.

“The program began with a single student undertaking an internship in 2004. Now, in summer, there are approximately 30 interns,” points out Griselda Gómez, director of the MIT-Mexico Program. She mentions that since 2012, aside from conducting summer internships, the program has also placed MIT students as temporary STEM educators in Mexican high schools through 170 Global Teaching Labs.

As MIT-Mexico enters its third decade, both Gómez and Faculty Director Paulo Lozano emphasize the significant involvement of students over the years, fostering numerous cross-border collaborative efforts, as the program’s primary accomplishment.

“I believe having numerous students visiting Mexico is a remarkable achievement,” remarks Lozano, who is an alumnus of Tecnológico de Monterrey and currently MIT’s Miguel Alemán Velasco Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

He attributes the program’s success to Gómez, who has been the program director since 2006, and commends her for “ensuring the safety of our students in the locations they are placed.”

On her part, Gómez expresses her commitment to catering to the varied academic interests of students heading to Mexico. “It’s a personal mission of mine to align student interests with suitable projects. If we don’t have a specific project, we actively seek one,” she affirms. “It’s very individualized.”

While MIT-Mexico provides internships in MISTI’s specified “impact areas” such as climate and sustainability, health, artificial intelligence, and social impact, the program has also organized summer internships in diverse sectors like architecture, urban planning, agriculture, and aeronautics over the years.

During the previous summer, MIT-Mexico interns engaged in a spectrum of initiatives, including research on textile value and craft methods, exploring low-carbon affordable housing solutions, and utilizing AI for enhancing financial literacy. The slated internship topics for the upcoming summer encompass ‘Design of 6G Communication Systems for Smart Cities’ in Mexico City and ‘Automatically Assessing Patients for Refractive Surgery’ in Querétaro.

All these endeavors are aimed at fostering cross-cultural interactions, strengthening bonds between Mexican and MIT affiliates, while also promoting education, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Mexico, as well as enhancing MIT’s global outreach.

MIT News.

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