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ILP Institute Insider

December 16, 2014
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MISTI: The Global Internship Program

The classroom and workplace are equally necessary components in the development of any student. The former teaches the fundamentals and theories of a specific field. The latter offers the chance to see how those theories play out with actual colleagues, bosses, and clients. Since markets can emerge from anywhere, that practical experience also needs to have a reach that extends beyond time zones and borders.

To address that, there’s the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), a program that matches students with companies, universities and research organizations around the world in summer internships. It’s not merely a positive component for the students, it’s a necessary one. “This is a shrinking world and you either know how to work in multi-cultural teams or you are just not going to be successful,” says Rosabelli Coelho-Keyssar, program manager of MISTI-Brazil.

Growing for 20 Years
MISTI started in 1994 in two countries. Now it’s in 19, established in places like China, Germany, France, India and Israel, and growing in others like Brazil, Chile, Korea, Russia and South Africa. The program has placed over 5,400 students — currently about 550 a year — in fully-funded internships with over 450 corporate partners and research laboratories. The industries range, including automotive, energy, health, electronics, management, and finance, as do the companies, such as BMW, Canon, Covidien, Ferrari, Google, Intel, Motorola, Pfizer, Samsung, Shell, and Siemens.

MIT undergraduate and graduate students start applying in the middle of the fall and can continue into the spring if positions are available, all while meeting certain requirements. They need to carry a minimum 4.0 out of 5.0 GPA. They’ll have already had work experience from previous internships. Because it’s international, for most programs students need to have the equivalent of 2-4 semesters in the local language, but since the program is known, students will start taking the necessary classes before they apply, says April Julich Perez, MISTI’s associate director. Adding to that, MISTI prepares the students on their destination’s current events, politics and culture, along with handling various paperwork needs and the logistics of moving. The intent is for the student to relocate smoothly and be able to be productive from the first day on the job, Coelho-Keyssar says.

For companies, the advantage of the program is that they get access to MIT students and their networks — the ones who will be starting future companies and be the next generation of faculty, says Chappell Lawson, Associate Professor of Political Science and MISTI Faculty Director. But while the program is a boost for a student’s prospects, MISTI is a partnership, not just a résumé builder. “The hosts have to believe in it, want to continue in it, and continue to cover the costs of an internship,” he says. “We expect the students will contribute and we expect them to demonstrate their MIT work ethic, adding real value to their hosts.”

Creating a Match with Covidien
MISTI is not a static program. Students can select from existing internships, but if one doesn’t exist, “We will just go out and try to find something that will fit that student’s interest,” Coelho-Keyssar says. As an example, there is Covidien and Ricardo De Armas, a fourth year mechanical engineering student who applied in late 2013 for a summer 2014 placement.

De Armas had an interest in medical devices. The Venezuelan native wanted to gain work experience in the field, and, while he was fluent in Spanish, he wanted to improve his Portuguese. An internship with those qualities didn’t exist, but the MISTI staff reached out to Covidien and created an opportunity, Coelho-Keyssar says. The MIT-Brazil program was established in November 2009. The Dublin-based global healthcare company was looking to expand its research and development presence in the country, says Cliff Emmons, Vice President of Research and Development, Tailored Products, Emerging Markets at Covidien.

The chance to partner with MIT wasn’t a difficult decision. Emmons says that the university is central to the medical device ecosystem; has established the “standard of an engineer”; and maintains an academic approach that isn’t purely academic. “It has an emphasis on creating businesses versus creating research papers. It’s critical to have that startup mentality,” he says.

But Covidien wasn’t just merely looking for competence or entrepreneurship. Any candidate also had to be able to quickly adapt to the local environment, both socially and in the workplace. The preparation that students receive was another part of what attracted Covidien to MISTI, Emmons says.

The company was setting up one of its Covidien Centers of Innovation, with a research and development lab, in São Paulo, and De Armas was hired to assist the director as a project manager; helping to procure equipment, learning how it operates and training others. The project came with challenges, Emmons says. The deadline was tight — the R&D lab had to be ready to open and enable health care professionals to directly collaborate with R&D staff by the end of De Armas’ internship. Equipment from around the world had to be shipped, coordinated and secured. And all of this was happening as Brazil hosted the World Cup.

Emmons says that entering into the program the company was looking to invest in the development of global leaders. On that front, the partnership was successful. “There was a beautiful synergy between the goal of MISTI-Brazil and Covidien,” he says.

Covidien was also pleased with De Armas. It knew from the outset that an MIT student would be technically smart, but the distinguishing factor that made De Armas exceed expectations was his overall fluency and his ability to immerse himself into the workplace. “I always knew that our Brazil commercial team viewed themselves as a family,” Emmons says, “and it’s fantastic to see this family grow.”

Research News

December 12, 2014

MIT launches “Solve” to galvanize action on solving the world’s great challenges

MIT will convene technologists, philanthropists, business leaders, policymakers, and social-change agents Oct. 5-8, 2015, for the launch of “Solve,” an effort to galvanize these leaders to drive progress on complex, important global challenges that MIT has singled out as urgent and ripe for progress. Curated by distinguished members of the MIT community, this highly collaborative event will take place at Kresge Auditorium and at various labs, classrooms, and facilities across the MIT campus.

Solve will organize challenges into four content pillars, identified by MIT as strategic targets for interdisciplinary research, problem solving, and collaboration.

MIT Sloan
Management Review

December 7, 2014

Seven Steps Toward Data-Orientation

Don’t let all the news in the business press about other companies’ analytics successes scare you — the data race is far from over.

That’s the message behind Sam Ransbotham’s recent blog post “Catching Up with Scantily Clad Analytics Emperors,” at the MIT Sloan Management Review web site.

“I suspect that our impressions of the analytic capabilities of others may not be entirely accurate,” Ransbotham writes. “Reporting bias and social desirability make it likely that reports of analytics capabilities are, at best, overblown.”

Ransbotham, an associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and the MIT SMR guest editor for the Data and Analytics Big Idea Initiative, goes on to provide seven suggestions for moving towards analytical prowess. These suggestions revolve around reducing the barrier to getting started and augmenting individual skills.

“Even the best-intentioned people won’t take an analytical approach if it is too hard,” Ransbotham notes. To get started, he suggests four steps:
  • 1. Provide examples of analytical models built using your organization’s data with your organization’s tools. “It is much easier for people to create valuable models by extending and modifying; starting from scratch is tough,” he notes.
  • 2. Codify analytical knowledge in a collaborative tool like a wiki. “Quickly modifiable repositories not only prevent duplicate efforts, but also allow efforts to build on each other.”
  • 3. Predict the most useful data for your organization and prepare it for your organization’s tools. “You’ll sleep better knowing everyone isn’t looking up how to import the data again and again.”
  • 4. Anticipate organizational concerns with data use. “If there are rules or restrictions associated with some data, spell them out so that people have realistic expectations about what can be done.”
In terms of augmenting individual skills, Ransbotham notes that using data well is, at its core, about applying skills to problems. On the other hand, “without analytical skills to apply, there is not much hope of analytical growth.” To promote building individual skills, he suggests these three additional steps:
  • 5. Curate content to make it easy to access and build on. “Reduce the search space by providing content specific to your organization’s tools, context, and data.”
  • 6. Encourage trial and error. “Misuses of analytics tools are inevitable as people begin to learn. Give people some time to experiment, take risks, and mess up — then use the experience to add to the organizational learning by including it in your collaborative tool.”
  • 7. Exploit differences. “Within your organization, people have a variety of skills and backgrounds. As people figure out cool skills, provide a forum to spread them. For example, a brown-bag series can both showcase tools and build a culture of learning.”
Many companies still rely on managerial intuition or basic spreadsheets for decision making. But like them, if that’s where your company is today, it’s time to get started. “Keep moving forward at the best pace you can,” advises Ransbotham.

This article draws from “Catching Up with Scantily Clad Analytics Emperors,” a blog post by Sam Ransbotham (Boston College). It was posted online on November 20, 2014, at sloanreview.mit.edu.