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2008 News in Brief



MISTI lets CEE students combine summer work with international travel

Written by:

By Debbie Levey
Civil & Environmental Engineering

Internships across the world provided civil and environmental engineering students with a chance to engage in research projects and explore new environments over the summer. As the largest international program on campus, MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives) matches students with relevant projects in universities, research laboratories, corporations and NGOs in nine countries. Along with adjusting to life and work in a different culture, the students enjoy sightseeing and travel as part of the overall experience.

Of the 13 MISTI participants from CEE, four chose the Israeli program. At the Technion University, Naomi Stein, a junior, studied intelligent structures; sophomore Elijah Turner investigated pedestrian safety.

“Israel has an abnormally high number of traffic accidents involving pedestrians, even though jaywalking is extremely uncommon,” said Turner. “I looked over reports regarding safety in other countries to see what measures work and how they could be applied in Israel.” During his leisure time, Turner said he visited historical, religious and cultural sites and improved his Hebrew, with side trips to Jordan and Egypt to work on his Arabic.

Sophomore Meena Viswanath conducted research on nanoseismic technology in the geophysics department of Tel Aviv University. This method uses very low-frequency waves to investigate events at a much smaller scale than traditional seismic research. Rather than studying geophysical applications, Viswanath applied the technology to local zoology.

“The Middle Eastern blind mole rat lives in tunnels underground, and apparently navigates and communicates by hitting its head on the top of its tunnel, creating low-frequency seismic waves,” said Viswanath. “I analyzed these wave-forms, looking for signature patterns unique to each animal. When I finally identified one signature, it was as if I were learning to speak mole rat.”

Outside the lab, Viswanath said she rode a camel in Eilat, climbed Mount Masada at sunrise, saw the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, swam in the Sea of Galilee, and “nearly melted in the desert city of Be’er Sheva.”

India’s contrasts of magnificence and squalor startled senior Farah Khan while she worked for Global Infrasys/Asia Consulting Group in New Delhi. She wrote a power and energy report, and created a database on deregulation in the power and energy sector across the world.

“I saw that for every glamorous high-rise apartment or office building there was an equally impressive slum in the immediate vicinity,” said Khan. “My time in India gave me a profound appreciation for life in the U.S., and I feel that everyone should experience similar reality jolts.”

Cash Fitzpatrick M.Eng. ’08 is in Madrid for a six-month internship, working in the corporate innovation department for Iberdrola, the largest electric utility in Spain and the world’s largest generator of wind power.

“We must constantly balance both technological and economic concerns over a wide gamut of projects including traditional generation, renewables and future technologies such as carbon capture sequestration and electric vehicles,” he said.

Other CEE participants in MISTI programs included juniors Barry Dylan Bannon in China and Dina Poteau in Israel; and seniors Xiumin Zeng in France, Stella Schieffer in Germany, Anna Jaffe in Italy, and Brock Forrest in Mexico. Graduate student Sean Clarke and Bill Garthwaite ’08 are presently involved in MISTI projects in Spain.

On her drive to work in Gurgaon, India, each morning, Farah Khan, a senior majoring in environmental engineering, passed the skyscrapers of Gurgaon (above), before hitting the rundown regions of the city (below), where many of the streets become ponds after heavy rains. PHOTOS / Farah Khan

Cash Fitzpatrick M.Eng. ’08 is currently working for an energy company in Spain on a six-month MISTI internship.