Imperial students spend summer in prestigious labs across the globe


Students at a welcome event

Imperial students are spending part of their summer at top institutes across the globe as part of the International Research Opportunities Programme.

A select group of Imperial students are spending part of their summer holidays studying at top institutes including MIT, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) as part of the International Research Opportunities Programme (IROP).  

"The International Research Opportunity Programme gives our students a unique opportunity to gain valuable research experience at some of the world's leading research institutes." Professor Maggie Dallman OBE Vice President (International)

The global student exchange programme sees students from top universities spend eight weeks in partner institutes’ labs for a unique research experience. IROP offers students the exciting opportunity to develop valuable skills and gain new experiences in a foreign country, and gain research experience under supervision of an academic. 

As part of the exchange, Imperial also welcomed a cohort of 27 students marked by an afternoon tea event on 6 July.  

Speaking at the Welcome Afternoon Tea for incoming students, Professor Maggie Dallman OBE, Vice President (International), said: “The International Research Opportunity Programme gives our students a unique opportunity to gain valuable research experience at some of the world's leading research institutes. We're also glad to open our doors to students from these partner organisations and give them an opportunity to experience and input into Imperial's world-leading research first-hand. If we are to tackle huge global issues like climate change, it is vital we bring together the brightest minds, no matter where they are from. We are proud that this initiative creates globally-minded students and creates networks of bright researchers ready to collaborate to tackle such issues." 

“It gave me global perspective” 

Ethan in an MIT-branded sailing boat
Imperial student Ethan Zheng visited MIT as part of IROP in 2022.

Also speaking at the afternoon tea welcome event, former IROP participant Ethan Zheng reflected on his experience spending a summer at MIT and offered tips for incoming students on how to get the most out of their time at Imperial. 

"For me, the IROP experience was life-changing,” said Ethan. “It was an opportunity for me to step into uncharted territory and explore a totally different environment. Having grown up in Asia and attended college in Europe, doing this placement in the US really complemented my unique identity as a global citizen. It gave me global perspective and really made me reflect on my next step in life.” 

Following his IROP experience, Ethan was offered a PhD at MIT which he will start in September. In his speech, Ethan encouraged incoming students to enjoy their time in London and make amazing memories. IROP this year includes longstanding partners of Imperial – MIT and Cornell University – plus Tokyo Tech, the University of Toronto and Germany’s TUM who are participating for the first time. 

Dr Luke Delmas, Senior Teaching Fellow and Undergraduate Research Opportunities and Exchange Coordinator, also attended the event. “It’s so wonderful to be here today at the IROP welcome tea sharing in the excitement of all these budding researchers from around the world. The IROP programme allows us to exchange knowledge and perspectives across institutions while training the next generation of scientists. It’s always wonderful to watch these students grow over the summer, being ambassadors for their subjects and universities. The students universally describe these exchanges as being unforgettable and life-changing so it’s a really proud moment toasting the start of their IROPs today!”

Strengthening partnerships and collaboration in Tokyo 

Dr Céline Mougenout with Tokyo Tech student Akira outside the Dyson building
Dr Céline Mougenot with Tokyo Tech student Akira Ito outside the Dyson building.

Two students from Tokyo Tech, Akira Ito and Gunhee Cho, are spending their placement in Imperial’s Dyson School of Design Engineering.    

“I was really interested in experiencing the culture at Imperial and I love design engineering so to get to work in such a renowned school with Dyson’s household name is an incredible opportunity. I’m also excited to explore London as a city – it has so much history,” said Akira.   

Akira is being supervised by Dr Céline Mougenot, a Senior Lecturer and leader of the Collaborative Design group. She previously worked at Tokyo Tech and two students on her course have gone there as part of IROP.  

“It’s a true exchange!” Céline explains. “Tokyo Tech holds a special place in my heart and so it brings me great joy to be able to strengthen our existing collaborations with them through this programme. Akira actually works with my colleagues and a student who did their PhD with me during my time at Tokyo Tech so our ties are already strong but through being part of IROP we’re able to exchange ideas and perspectives on a deeper level. It’s mutually beneficial.”

The United States and Canada 

Selfie of Fion
Imperial student Fion Foo is visiting Cornell this summer.

Imperial student in Electrical and Electronic Engineering Fion Foo is visiting Cornell and said: “This is the furthest I've been from home (Malaysia). I am really excited for the adventures and opportunities that lie ahead!” 

Meanwhile MIT students Katie Miner and Lyne-Nicole Odhiambo have joined Imperial’s Departments of Chemistry and Physics respectively for the summer.  

“It’s my first time in London and I really like it already,” said Lyne-Nicole. “There are so many cultures in one place – just walking around the city, you hear multiple languages being spoken. I wanted that international experience and to explore different perspectives and I think I’m going to get that. And who knows, maybe I’ll do a PhD here!” 

Selfie of Carlos in a lab
Carlos Barbero Rodriquez is spending his summer at MIT.

Carlos Barbero Rodriquez, Department of Materials, is spending his summer at MIT. “I am looking forward to experiencing more of what it’s like to participate in research. That way I can know with more certainty where to take my career in the future. I am also really enjoying spending time with the rest of the people on the IROP, they are great to be with and we have so much to talk about.” 

Imperial student Susanna Whitlock, Department of Chemistry, is doing her 8-week placement at the University of Toronto. She said, “I can't just pick one thing I'm most looking forward to, so I'll list a few: visiting Banff at the end of my stay, successfully synthesising some polymers and exploring all the other sites in Toronto that I have yet to see.” 

From London to Munich 

Laurentiu Marchis with friends
Laurentiu Marchis is spending his summer at the Technical University of Munich.

Imperial Mathematics student Laurentiu Marchis is on IROP at TUM working on probabilistic and statistical methods for machine learning. 

“So far I really enjoy the project as it is fairly open ended and gives me the opportunity to come up with new ideas and observe their implications through mathematical and computational means. Also, I get to see other applications of probabilistic and statistical methods to Machine Learning, which I find intriguing. My social and cultural experiences are especially exciting. Every weekend so far we’ve done trips to places in Germany such as Chiemsee, Regensburg or Nuremberg as well as outside Germany like Salzburg, Prague or Venice. There is always something to do outside work as well, whether it is biergarden evenings or sightseeing. I am pleasantly surprised by how dynamic this summer is and how many things we, as a group, are able to accomplish by combining our research with outdoor activities. I can safely say that this summer is one of the best I've had so far because of the people I'm with, my interest in the research I'm doing and the exciting leisure time plans.” 

Joining Imperial for the summer from Germany’s TUM, Niklas Zischka will be working on quantum physics while fellow TUM student Natalie Haft will be working in the Department of Chemistry on proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease. She described IROP as an “amazing opportunity” and said she was “excited to do research and see how it works in another country and to meet new people.” 


Ellie Cawthera

Ellie Cawthera
Communications Division

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