Inside Rensselaer
* Students Take Part in First Indo-U.S. Research Academy
Studying abroad can expand students’ cultural horizons and offer a new educational and global perspective. In the fall, nine undergraduates took part in the first Indo-U.S. Research Academy in Pune, India, working alongside students from two Indian universities..
Supercomputing: Celebrating the CCNI
Nine undergraduates from Rensselaer spent an intensive week last autumn in Pune, India, as part of the first Indo-U.S. Research Academy.

The new program, launched by the Office of Undergraduate Education, brings together students and faculty experts from three universities for intercultural collaboration around pressing multidisciplinary challenges facing engineers and researchers of every nation.

Students from Rensselaer, the Pune College of Engineering, and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur stayed for seven days in late October at a private resort outside the city of Pune in western India. Nine undergraduates and three experts from each university spent the time presenting, lecturing, and collaborating.

The weeklong academy revolved around three critical multidisciplinary topics: energy and environment, electronics and devices, and modeling and simulation. Another focus was the business and entrepreneurial environments of these three areas.

“This is a great example of intercultural collaboration,” said Prabhat Hajela, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education at Rensselaer. “Our students brought American perspectives to problem solving, the Indian students brought their own way of thinking about solutions — the groups worked together to develop a richer, deeper understanding of not only the important scientific and engineering challenges but also how their counterparts think and act.”

Along with technical discussions and presentation, Rensselaer students were able to spend time traveling in and around Pune with their Indian peers, immersed in Indian culture. A highlight of the trip was attending Pune’s Navratri festival.

“The trip to India was an excellent experience,” said Sarah Petzold ’09. “I learned a lot about the culture and how the school system differs from ours. It was interesting to hear about the Indian students’ experiences, abroad and in India. I would definitely recommend such an experience to anyone.”

“Having the opportunity to present my research to my peers and to discuss the results as well as, alternative approaches was by far the most rewarding experience I have ever had,” said Meghan Lenihan ’10. “Through this experience, cultural barriers were demolished, new friendships were formed, and lives were changed forever… [India] became more than just an outline on a map — it grew to be a part of me.”

The topical experts from Rensselaer who attended the Indo-U.S. Research Academy were Deborah Kaminski and Kurt Anderson, mechanical engineering professors, along with Robert Chernow, vice provost for entrepreneurship.

Hajela said Rensselaer, the Pune College of Engineering, and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur are likely to collaborate for a second Indo-U.S. Research Academy in early 2010, perhaps at a different venue and with additional partners. Discussions are also under way to host an academy in New York’s Capital Region. The partnership may grow to include universities from South Korea.

Costs of Rensselaer’s participation in the academy, as well as Rensselaer students’ travel to and from India, were supported by a grant from entrepreneur MukeshChatter ’82. Rensselaer, Pune College of Engineering, and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur also supported the academy.

“The Indo-U.S. Research Academy is a unique opportunity for Rensselaer students,” Hajela said. “Experiences like this help our students distinguish themselves from their peers at other institutions, conversant not only with technical knowledge but in step with global thinking and global approaches to problem solving.”
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 3, Number 1, January 16, 2009
©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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