International students arrive at Imperial for summer research opportunities

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International students attending the International Research Opportunities Programme Welcome Afternoon Tea.

Eighteen students from prestigious US universities will be hosted by Imperial for the International Research Opportunities Programme (IROP).

Undergraduate students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Cornell University were welcomed to the College by Professor Emma McCoy, Vice-Provost (Education and Student Experience), at an afternoon tea event last week.

Participants in IROP will receive a unique opportunity to gain international research experience across eight departments at Imperial, from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Faculty of Engineering, and the chance to live in a foreign country during the summer break.

Twenty undergraduate students from Imperial will also be undertaking 7/8-week research placements over the summer at institutions in the US and Germany – MIT, UCLA, Cornell and Technical University of Munich (TUM).

This is the first time the in-person programme has run since 2019 following a two-year suspension due to reduced travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food on offer at the International Research Opportunities Programme Welcome Afternoon Tea.

At the welcome event on Wednesday at Imperial’s South Kensington campus, Professor McCoy urged the incoming students to immerse themselves in their new city.

She said: “I think it’s fantastic to see so many of you coming into London and I would strongly advocate that you not only immerse yourselves in the academic side of Imperial, but also take advantage of what is a pretty vibrant city.

“I would like to say a massive thank you to all the departmental team and supervisors who will be working to support your experience, but also to the staff in the international office who have done a fantastic job putting together the programme of events this summer.”

We also spoke to some of the international students about what attracted them to Imperial and what they hope to achieve this summer.

Imperial and MIT links 

With 11 participants from MIT heading to Imperial, many students noted that the similarities between the two institutions were part of what convinced them to come to the UK for the programme.

"I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get more research experience and to explore, as I've never been to Europe.” Raima Mahmud Materials student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Raima Mahmud, a Materials student from MIT, said that Imperial’s expertise in STEM was a factor in her decision.

She said: “I wanted to have the experience of studying abroad and when I looked into Imperial, it seemed quite similar to MIT in how it’s focused on STEM.

“I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get more research experience and to explore, as I've never been to Europe.”

International students chat at the IROP Afternoon Tea.Lexi Spinetta, a Mathematics student from MIT, added: “Obviously, Imperial is an amazing institution so that’s why I wanted to come here, and I know it’s similar to MIT in certain ways, with how it’s focused on STEM.

“I also wanted to have an abroad experience before I graduated. This programme seemed like a great way to live abroad and work with other people while doing it.”

Exploring London 

Other students said that the opportunity to live in another country and Imperial’s central London location made IROP particularly appealing.

"The opportunity to work abroad during the summer and do research at another top university is what attracted me to the programme.” Daniel Bilezikian Materials student at Cornell University

Daniel Bilezikian, a Materials student from Cornell, said: “I wanted to come to Imperial for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a top STEM university in the world, that was obviously a draw. And secondly, it’s in the middle of London, so being able to study abroad for a semester was important.

“With a lot of materials coursework, it is incredibly specialised in school departments and it’s very hard to go abroad as a student. The opportunity to work abroad during the summer and do research at another top university is what attracted me to the programme.”

Materials student Calvin Cummings, who is also from MIT, said that he was inspired to join the programme after hearing that a student in his department had previously studied at Imperial.

He added: “When I talked to a bunch of seniors, when I was a first year, and asked them about what they wished they had done, all of them said ‘I wish I’d studied abroad’ or ‘I wish I’d taken more opportunities to study abroad’.

“Obviously, getting some more experience in research is great, but mostly I want to explore London and the UK. I’ve never been to the UK before, so I want to have a chance to experience more of the culture, maybe see some cool sights and get to go back with some broader horizons.”


Conrad Duncan

Conrad Duncan
Communications Division

Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
Communications Division

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