By Alyssa Kosmides, Biomedical Engineering.
Since 1996, Rutgers University has had the opportunity to send undergraduate researchers to Brazil for participation in the University of São Paulo’s (USP) annual undergraduate research symposium - Simpósio Internacional de Iniciação Científica da USP - or simply, SIICUSP.
In exchange, Rutgers supports a delegation of USP students annually in April to present at the Aresty Symposium. This international research exchange program involves students from Rutgers University, Ohio State University, and the University of Porto in Portugal. This year, Rutgers’ undergraduate delegation was very diverse, consisting of three students from SEBS, one from SOE, and one from SAS.
This program aims to expose students to international research communities. It is impressive to see how similar the research goals may be but also how different the specific approaches to the same problem are. The primary event for the international students was to present their posters alongside USP students to share research ideas across borders. However, the opportunities to broaden cross-cultural understanding did not stop at this academic meeting. Each student had the honor to personally meet with a USP professor from their field and share ideas with fellow undergraduate and graduate students. Several students even exchanged contact information with peers and professors enabling future collaboration – a main goal of this research exchange initiative.
The seven days spent abroad consisted of traveling between different USP campuses. From São Paulo to Ribeirão Preto and from São Carlos to Piracicaba, the Rutgers undergraduates received their fair share of scenic tours and city driving. Each campus had a different educational specialty and provided unique opportunities when touring the laboratory facilities, attending poster sessions and talks, and networking with students in faculty. In addition to visiting the individual campuses, this year’s students received an introduction to the state of international health care through a tour of a Brazilian hospital, learned about Brazil’s contributions to biofuel production at a local ethanol production plant, and even visited the TAM Airline Museum to discover the country’s history in aviation.
The learning experience would not have been complete without immersion into Brazilian culture. Several students took advantage of the opportunity to learn common Portuguese phrases while getting a taste of Brazilian food and arts at various restaurants, with a special detour to the unique cultural city of Embu das Artes.
Overall, this program enabled students to share their own knowledge while learning from others of a diverse culture. While some of the students have often traveled abroad, it was others’ first time away from the United States. Regardless, this program benefited everyone by presenting a combined academic and cultural educational experience. This program has fostered life-long contacts and knowledge that will benefit the students’ outlook on research progression as a world-wide, rather than nation-wide, movement.