University of Western Ontario: International research internships benefit students, faculty

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More than 50 international students from 10 different countries are at Western this summer, completing research in astrophysics, climate change, artificial intelligence and a wide range of other areas of study.

The students are part of the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship (GRI) program – a competitive initiative for international undergraduates from countries around the world. From May to October of each year, top-ranked applicants participate in a 12-week research internship under the supervision of Canadian university faculty members to develop additional exposure to the Canadian research and innovation landscape, and build research experience in Canada.

Raphaela Kestler is originally from Germany and recently completed her second year at Durham University in the United Kingdom. She is currently part of a Western-led project examining cosmic carbon lifecycle and how a certain family of molecules evolves in its lifetime.

“I’d been debating whether I wanted to pursue my PhD and thought this would be a good opportunity to try research and see if it’s a good fit for me,” she said.

“I hadn’t been to Canada before and it’s been absolutely amazing. I’m learning a lot and getting good insight into what it would be like to go into research. I’m halfway through my time at Western now and I’m pretty sure I’ve decided to do a PhD.”

For Dechante Johnson, who just completed her second year in the College of Medicine and Health at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, taking part in a project on autism was also a way to explore research as a future focus.

“I’m considering going into neuroscience research and want to be sure about my plan. This experience has been very positive so far,” she said. “It’s also been great to meet people from around the world who are all interested in research.”

Mitacs Globalink research interns at a welcome event hosted by Western International on July 20. (Crystal Lamb)Mitacs research internship participants Mitacs Globalink research interns at a welcome event hosted by Western International on July 20. (Crystal Lamb)
Eunjung Riauka, director of international learning, says the number of GRI participants who have come to Western this year is more than double the number in previous years.

“It’s wonderful to see this program continue to expand,” she said. “Students are seeking opportunities to collaborate, make a difference and to grow their global networks. We are thrilled to be hosting these incredibly motivated and bright students at Western and to be providing them the opportunity to work with some of our exceptional faculty members.”

Varun Mishra, a civil engineering student from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, has been working with Ayan Sadhu, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering, to study impacts on structures caused by climate change.

“The professor is extremely knowledgeable, so I’m learning a lot,” Roorkee said. “The experience has already been valuable and enriching for me and for my studies.”

For the past three years, Boyu Wang, a professor in the department of computer science, who is affiliated with the Brain and Mind Institute and the Vector Institute, has accepted GRI students from around the world.

“The quality of the students is very good. They learn things quickly and they actually have a concrete project at the end,” said Wang, who has two students working with him this summer on a project about artificial intelligence.

“The program benefits both the students and the faculty members,” he said. “Their research output benefits my own research and the students who go on to apply to graduate programs in the future have a published paper and a reference to include.”

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