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The MIT Portugal Program offers a unique opportunity for Portuguese graduate students to advance their research and make cross-Atlantic connections.
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Participants at the workshop on MATLAB Programming for Advanced Research and Data Science (l-r): Vanessa Cunha, Luís Coimbra, Marisa Pedro, Duarte Dias, Beatriz Gonçalves, Carlos Teixeira, Dr. Gonçalo Pereira, and Thiago Sobral.
Participants at the workshop on MATLAB Programming for Advanced Research and Data Science (l-r): Vanessa Cunha, Luís Coimbra, Marisa Pedro, Duarte Dias, Beatriz Gonçalves, Carlos Teixeira, Dr. Gonçalo Pereira, and Thiago Sobral.
Image courtesy of the MIT Portugal Program

The MIT Portugal Program (MPP) supports research visits by Portuguese scholars and PhD students at MIT — a unique opportunity that allows them to spend up to one year at the Institute. Thus far, 184 MPP PhD students and 41 scholars have visited MIT to conduct their research.

While at MIT, students work on their doctoral theses and are integrated in the research groups of their MIT thesis co-advisors, a collaboration that often leads to scientific breakthroughs, co-publication of papers and establishing bridges between research groups on both sides of the Atlantic. The students not only learn new methodological approaches, but also improve their scientific knowledge and even develop entrepreneurial ideas. MPP students also benefit from immersion in the MIT ecosystem and typically describe their stays at MIT as extremely positive for their academic careers. 

Márcia Baptista, an MIT Portugal engineering design and advanced manufacturing student who also did an internship at the NASA's Prognostics Center of Excellence, says “having the brand of MIT opens a lot of doors." The chance “to visit MIT, to have classes with MIT teachers, and to interact with MIT colleagues” is the best part of the program, she says.

Her enthusiasm is shared by Diana Silva Leal, a transportation systems student who says the opportunity to visit MIT meant getting to meet and work with several experts in her research area. The value of experiencing different higher education systems is also highlighted by MIT Portugal students like Ivana Kostic, who just completed her PhD in bioengineering.

“I had a chance to see similarities and differences between Europe and [the United States] in lab organization, grant writing, and grant management — how the labs are organized and how the students were delegated,” Kostic says. “This is not solely dependent on supervisors, but rather on the scientific systems adopted by two different continents.” 

In addition to numerous events and seminars generally available to MIT Portugal students at MIT, the MPP office at MIT offers special group events and seminars to stimulate the exchange of experiences and ideas among MPP students and faculty, and to expose them to relevant research, innovation, and entrepreneurship in different areas of interest. 

Recent events included group meetings with students presenting and discussing their research with fellow MPP students and faculty, as well as a seminar series on a variety of topics such as MIT Professor Douglas Hart’s entrepreneurial journey; a presentation titled Inspired Engineering by Christina Chase of the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; and a workshop called MATLAB Programming for Advanced Research and Data Science presented by Gonçalo Pereira, a PhD graduate in Sustainable Energy Systems from Instituto Superior Técnico of the University of Lisbon and a MIT Portugal alumni. Pereira is currently a postdoc at the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) at MIT and is involved in one of the MPP seed projects at MIT. 

The last MPP seminar of 2017 was led by Jake Livengood, the senior assistant director of graduate student career services at MIT Global Education and Career Development. The presentation on the “Design Your Life” approach (DYL), originally created by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans from the Stanford University Design Program, engaged the MPP students in various exercises to familiarize them with the basic concepts of design thinking and how it can be applied to further their career. 

These events and seminars are part of the strategy adopted by the program to enrich the MPP student experience while conducting research at MIT. All events are organized by the MPP administration office in collaboration with MPP faculty and Bruce Tidor, the director of the MIT Portugal Program, and Pedro Arezes, the MPP national director who is currently at MIT for a long-term stay.

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