The Impact of Study Abroad Experience on
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The Impact of Study Abroad Experience on Graduate Engineering Students By Dr. Constantine Anagnostopoulos Dr. Sigrid Berka. NSF PIRE (Partnerships for Research and Education) Scope: …develop a new cadre of globally engaged scientists and engineers ….

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The Impact of Study Abroad Experience on

Graduate Engineering Students


Dr. Constantine Anagnostopoulos

Dr. Sigrid Berka


(Partnerships for Research and Education)


…develop a new cadre of globally engaged scientists

and engineers …

The International Engineering Program (IEP) at URI

  • Undergraduates: 5 years; BS in Engineering and BA in Languages; spend the 4th year abroad, 6 months at the partner University, 6 months internship in industry at the host country

  • Graduates: Dual degree; an MS or PhD from URI and an MS or PhD from TU Braunschweig

  • For the MS degree spend one year at URI and one at TU Braunschweig; must take courses in German

  • For PhD spend 1.5 years at URI and 1.5 years at TU Braunschweig; no language proficiency is required

Total Students Exchanged, 1995-2012: 534

URI to TUBS: 292, TUBS to URI: 242

Review of Engineering Education at the Technical University at Braunschweig, Germany

  • First engineering degree used to be the 5 year Diplom

  • Beginning in 2008, entering students earn a BS degree after 3 years and an MS degree after an additional 2 years of study

  • There is no tuition for either the BS or MS degrees

  • The MS candidates must do a 4 month project work and a 6 month master’s thesis project in addition to courses

  • Each semester is 6 months long and students typically earn 30 ECTS per semester, for a total of 120 in two years, which they need in order to earn their MS degree

  • Winter semester starts in early October and ends in early April. The summer semester starts in early April and ends in early October

  • Each semester is broken up in a lecture period lasting about 4 months followed by an exam period lasting 2 months

  • A PhD degree is earned in about 5 years. PhD candidates are employees of the University. Their primary job is to assist and supervise the MS degree candidates in their Project and Master’s thesis research

Ahmed – Dual PhD degree candidate in Mechanical Engineering

Ahmed begun his research activity at TU BS in Sept 2007

He did not have to attend any classes nor was it required to be proficient in German

Worked with Professor Manfred Krafczyk , head of the institute of computational modeling in Civil Engineering, on the simulation of high efficiency valve-less rectification micro pumps using Prof. Krafczyk’s Lattice Boltzmann code

Afterward he worked with Prof. Büttgenbach at the Institute of Micro Technology at TU BS to fabricate and teste the micro pumps

Graduated with two PhD degrees, one form URI and one from TU Braunschweig in May 2010

Physics undergraduate; Switched to Mechanical Engineering for her Master’s degree. Had to learn German

Multidisciplinary research work on Lab-on-a-chip biosensors for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers via fluoresence

Kelly – Dual MS degree candidate in Mechanical Engineering

“…the world is continually being made smaller through advances in technology and there is an increased need for nations to work together toward common goals, such as global health and the protection of our environment. In order to be a successful contributor to the fields of science and engineering today, one must not only understand what work is being done in their own nation, but also what is being done around the globe…”

“…I feel I am a member of the global workforce…”

Graduated in 2011 with an MS degree from URI and an MS degree from TU Braunschweig

Brad – Dual MS degree candidate in Biotechnology

Lyme Borreliosis, caused by the microorganism Borrelia burgdorferi, is a disease endemic in North America. This microorganism is transmitted most commonly through the vector Ixodes Scapularis, commonly known as the deer tick

The goal of his research was to engineer antibodies that can be used to detect the microorganism Borrelia burgdorferi in the saliva of nymphs captured in the wild

The Institute for Biotechnology of TU Braunschweig has the unique capability to create antibodies for any antigen, via a technology called phage display

Brad’s work involved learning that technology and then using it to produce molecules that could capture and immobilize the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium and to tag the detection molecule with an enzyme or fluorophore so the conjugate can be detected

Brad was an IEP student and is graduating in 2012

Alex – Dual MS degree candidate in Mechanical Engineering

Alex was a URI IEP student majoring in Chemical Engineering and German. He is currently at TU BS for his 2nd year of study for the MS degree

His Master’s thesis research at URI was to developm methods for on-chip separation of blood plasma from whole blood for a Lab-on-a-chip biosensor

He is currently conducting research at TU BS at the Institute for Biotechnology with the goal of using the phage display technology to develop antibodies for the detection of the tau protein, a molecule whose concentration in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) may be an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease long before symptoms of the disease are detectable

“...During my time in Germany, my German improved considerably bringing me almost up to par with native speakers.What I learned, will definitely benefit my career. It’s been a great year abroad…”

Conclusions: Why did they go abroad; What was the added value to their education;

  • Made use of specific equipment, technology or know-how available at the partner University

  • Worked with a world expert in their field who is located at the partner University

  • Makes it easier to work in any foreign country. Made them feel they were now members of the global workforce

  • Learned that there are different value systems, for example, project focus versus research focus


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