Imperial College London and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched a new student exchange pilot a few weeks ago.
Speaking at the event Professor Maggie Dallman, Vice President (International) at Imperial College London, said: "We’re very keen on supporting the exchange of our young people and this is an incredible opportunity. You are all trailblazers.
"You have the opportunity to solve the problems the world faces, such as climate change, healthcare and societal issues.
“But to do this you will need to understand different cultures and work across borders."
The exchange sees undergraduate students from both MIT and Imperial spend up to a year at the other institution.
We met some of the pioneering students who have crossed the Atlantic to take part in the first exchange:
Julia Pallone, Chemical Engineering (MIT)
Julia, who has travelled from MIT to study at Imperial until December, said: “I wanted to get out of a comfort zone and I knew the only way I could do that was to throw myself into a brand new environment and adapt.
"I knew that Imperial was one of the substantial exchange programmes that MIT has and moving to London greatly appeals to me. I have a large appreciation for the history and the mix of modern and historical sites.
"The diversity of London is also really interesting and it’s a place I want to explore. Being close to museums and galleries such as the V&A is really exciting.
"During my research this summer whenever I mentioned Imperial people in my lab kept recommending people there who I should meet and talk to. My research is looking at collective transport properties of dispersions of paramagnetic nanoparticles in a rotating magnetic field.
"The overall goal is to enhance drug transport through tissues – directing drugs to go to a certain part of the body rather than diffuse everywhere.
"Imperial’s President Alice Gast worked on very similar research with rotating magnetic fields at MIT.
"I’m looking forward to gaining a new perspective on chemical engineering and education –broadening my educational horizons and meeting people from different backgrounds.”
Devansh Agrawal, Aeronautical engineering (Imperial)
Devansh, who joined Imperial after spending time in Singapore and Japan, is now studying at MIT.
Devansh said: “I’m very interested in aerospace and want a career in building rockets so the opportunity to come and study that at MIT was really a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"MIT have a really excellent reputation in aerospace and have great facilities to come and build things.
"Their makerspace, MITERS, is great to get hands on practical experience. I love the Hackspace at Imperial so it’s really interesting to come here and see how they do things differently.
"I have noticed many similarities between MIT and Imperial, particularly the people who are all very passionate about their research and are very focused.”
Lily Bailey, Computer Science (MIT)
Lily, who will join Imperial from MIT in January, said: “I wanted to take part in the exchange because Imperial is one of the top engineering universities in the world and I really enjoy international experiences.
"For computer science, only courses at Imperial or ETH Zurich are accepted by MIT and count towards foundational classes.
"The pedigree of Imperial is really impressive. I knew that Imperial is the best technical university in the UK and it was going to be a similarly inspiring environment to MIT.
"But equally, I want to learn if there are different ways of doing things.
"London is the cultural capital of the English-speaking world in terms of art and museums so I’m really excited to be moving there.
"I’m also a keen photographer so the opportunity to be on a campus surrounded by great galleries, museums and architecture is really exciting. I would like to live there after I graduate.
"I’m looking forward to speaking to the professors at Imperial and getting involved with research.”
Mati Alemayehu, Mathematics (MIT)
Mati, who will be spending time at Imperial to study mathematics, said: "I am very curious to see how the European style of instruction differs from that of the US.
"I've been told it's much more student driven and I wonder how that affects collaboration between students and learning outcomes.
"I would also love to see how the research focuses of Imperial College affect the perspectives through which they teach their content.
"Students and faculty at MIT have described Imperial as the 'European MIT'.
"I want to delve deeper into mathematics as it applies to business and political science research, which are two interests of mine.
"I will be taking classes in statistics, game theory, and numerical analysis to these ends, and I think topology will keep my more theoretical side well occupied as well.
"The most exciting aspect of moving to London by far is the prospect of being surrounded by students with varied international perspectives on science, engineering, and policy.
"As those most privileged with the opportunities to study at world-class institutions, I believe it is also our responsibility to remain aware and receptive to the needs of the all people as the future leaders and innovators who can affect the most change."
Rebecca Jones, Chemistry (Imperial)
Rebecca, who is studying a Masters at Imperial and has joined MIT through the exchange, said: “I always wanted to study abroad and I thought it would set me apart from everyone else.
"MIT is one of the world’s best universities so the chance to study here and spend time in Boston is really exciting.
"The research coming out of MIT is incredible – my lab is opposite the office of a Noble prize winner. All the lecturers are top experts in their field and like Imperial the environment is really stimulating.
"My research project here is looking into the sustainability of phosphorus by investigating its photo-cracking potential.
"Just being a little piece of MIT and being part of the research here is amazing. I never thought I would get an opportunity like this and so to be a part of MIT and its research is amazing.
"I would recommend the exchange programme to other students, it gives me an extra layer of experience that other people don’t have. It’s like gap year travelling but on an intellectual level.”
Luigi Ranno, Materials (Imperial)
Luigi, who is studying a Masters at Imperial and will be at MIT until the end of the year, said: “MIT is a great university and I wanted to get a feel for how the research structure is in the US.
"There are many similarities between Imperial and MIT, which are both excellent institutions.
"I want to learn as much as possible and this exchange has definitely succeeded my expectations.
"I’ve met lots of interesting researchers and professors, who are the best in their field. It’s a great place to learn about other fields of research.
"I work on materials for nano electronics – next generation micro processers. I would recommend the exchange for other students.
"Anyone who has possibility should do it and not focus only on research but take advantage of all of the courses that are here at MIT.”
Photography by Allegra Boverman
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