Since 1997, the MIT Alumni Association’s Student/Alumni Externship Program has placed thousands of MIT students in short-term alumni-sponsored internships around the globe. This year the program placed more than 400 students—including 45 graduate students—at 278 companies in 16 US states and seven countries.

In 2014, a record 1,028 students applied for the program and more than 200 MIT alumni sponsored externships, including Ned Sahin SM ’03, whose company, Brain Power, hosted 11 externs.

“We’ve worked with MIT students (for the past two years),” Sahin says. “I’ve given each one a task that would be for a professional coder that has five years of industry experience—and they’re doing it.”

Brain Power is one example of the hundreds of externships offered by the Alumni Association each year. For more information on the Alumni Association’s Student/Alumni Externship Program, visit alum.mit.edu/externships.

Part one of a three-part video series. 

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LeslieDewan_nationalgeoSS_crop

Image: National Geographic

Leslie Dewan ’06, PhD ’13 has a plan to solve the nuclear power debate—one that isn’t just safer and more efficient but actually involves eliminating the nearly 300,000 tons of nuclear waste.

After a double major in nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering, Dewan spent her first few years after undergrad at local MIT alum-founded Vecna Technologies then returned to MIT to earn a doctorate in nuclear engineering. “I couldn’t stop thinking about energy issues and environmentalism and better ways to generate carbon-free electricity,” says Dewan. “I knew there had to be a way to make better, cheaper nuclear reactors that would address waste issues head on.”

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Dewan and Massie in the lab

By the second year of her PhD program, Dewan teamed with Mark Massie SM ’10 and laid the groundwork for their company, Transatomic Power Corporation. In 2011, Transatomic established and commercialized a design for an innovative nuclear reactor that safely consumes nuclear waste, delivering vast amounts of affordable, clean energy. “We started this company because we believe it is possible to power the world while helping it thrive,” says Dewan.

There are many debates about nuclear reactors, with safety concerns, waste concerns, and environmental concerns. Dewan points out that almost all nuclear reactors worldwide are based on the same model, one which was widely adopted in the 1960s and has many limitations. Transatomic’s design is a compact, low-cost molten salt reactor that can tap into the immense amounts of energy left behind in spent nuclear fuel and use this waste as a fuel source.

The reactor has the capability to convert the 270,000 tons of nuclear waste found on Earth today into enough energy to power the entire world for 72 years. “Conventional reactors are only able to use about 3–4 percent of the energy that they could potentially get out of uranium,” says Dewan. “To some degree, that’s why the used nuclear fuel right now is so dangerous because there’s so much energy that’s left in it. Our reactor has the ability to extract up to about 96 percent of the energy that’s in the nuclear fuel.”

Today, Transatomic Power Corporation has completed the conceptual design phase and is running materials and component tests under a sponsored research agreement with the Nuclear Engineering Department at MIT. Although nuclear is notoriously slow moving given the regulatory pathway to implementation, they plan to start the production of a prototype facility by 2020.

Their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Dewan was chosen as one of 14 National Geographic 2015 Emerging Explorers, has been named to TIME magazine’s “30 People Under 30 Changing the World” and MIT Technology Review’s “Innovator Under 35.” Dewan and Massie were both named to Forbes “30 Under 30” in Energy.

Dewan was recently elected to the MIT Corporation and will be starting her role in July. An active member of the MIT community since age 17, she is excited to take on a new level of engagement. “MIT has been so instrumental,” says Dewan. “Shaping my life, teaching me to be not just an engineer and an entrepreneur but really helping me grow as a person. Having this opportunity not only to be able to give back to MIT, but also influence and shape it as it moves into the future is something that I’m extremely thrilled about.”

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In Menlo Park, California, the suburban home of Michele Chan ’83 and David Liang ’81 stands out. On top of their garage sits a white domed observatory. Almost every night the alumni couple sit in their observatory to look up at the stars.

The observatory, which they have lovingly nicknamed the Dome, started as a fanciful daydream of Liang’s in the midst of their 2011 home renovation. “He talked to the architect who said, ‘Oh, I think it would be fun!’” recalled Chan.

Neither Liang nor Chan were astronomy majors at MIT; they were both Course 6. Building the Dome, “was really about exploring things that you just want to say, wow, I wonder what’s there,” said Chan.

Rather than build a costly custom dome, the couple ordered a fiberglass, pre-fabricated dome 10 feet in diameter. “It looks like the MIT dome,” said Chan.

Photo: Michele Chan

Photo: Michele Chan

Almost every clear night, the couple climb up a ladder, walk through a door, turn on their high-powered telescope, and open a shutter on the observatory roof for the telescope to go through. Chan likens it to a giant tube peaking through an opening in an oil drum.

Their telescope takes up most of the space in the observatory, but the couple also have two lawn chairs to sit as they star gaze. The observatory is wired for Ethernet, cable TV, and electricity, which allow them to easily rotate the dome to specific areas of the sky. Eventually they hope to control the telescope remotely.

When trick or treaters dress up for Halloween, so does the Dome. Last year, Liang sewed together six orange sheets to transform the Dome into a jack o’ lantern.  Photo: Michele Chan

When trick or treaters dress up for Halloween, so does the Dome. Last year, Liang sewed together six orange sheets to transform the Dome into a jack o’ lantern. Photo: Michele Chan

The couple have observed Saturn’s rings, the Great Orion Nebula, Jupiter, and the moon. Nebulas are not visible to the naked eye, so Chan has enjoyed the experience of witnessing them for the first time. “A nebula looks like a smudge,” said Chan. “It’s kind of bluish, it just looks like a little bit of dust or clouds in the sky.”

Complete construction on the observatory took a matter of weeks, but the city pre-approval process took six months, which included securing approval from the town’s planning commission. When neighbors complained, city councilors pushed the plan through arguing that the observatory would be a colorful addition to the area.

And it has been. The couple live across from a middle school and regularly host students interested in astronomy. During major astronomical events like the Venus Transit and the Blood Moon, Chan and Liang frequently have received queries from neighbors.

“They ask if we’re looking at those events, and we always invite them to observe with us,” said Chan.

 

 

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Carlos Riva on site.

Carlos Riva on site. Photo courtesy of Poseidon Water.

Guest blogger: Elizabeth Thomson, MIT Spectrum

“It’s a very interesting time in the water industry,” says Carlos Riva ’75, CEO of Poseidon Water, a company that is drawing attention as it develops, in Southern California, what will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. The project is expected to deliver water to parched businesses and residents in San Diego County, where there is a drought state of emergency, when it comes online late in 2015.

Poseidon’s involvement is unusual because most of the water agencies in the United States are public utilities managed by government agencies. “There hasn’t been a lot of involvement of the private sector in developing water projects,” Riva says. As a result, “our work has attracted attention, not just from people interested in what’s being done to address [California’s] drought, but also from municipal agencies around the country that see this as a potentially different model for supplying their communities with water.”

While Riva is excited about the many innovations related to water currently being developed at institutions like MIT, he notes the difficulty in getting that technology out of the lab and into the real world. That’s where the private sector could help, he says. Companies like Poseidon “are in a position to push forward the adoption of these technologies to really make a difference in terms of the overall water supply.”

An industrial developer focused on water treatment for industrial or municipal uses, Poseidon, headquartered in Boston, does everything from determining the location of a project to securing the permitting and, ultimately, putting in place contracts to sell the resulting water. The company also manages construction of the necessary infrastructure, and then forms an operational team that may run the project for the life of a plant. Or, at some point, it might turn it over to a municipal entity.

Riva notes that in many parts of the world, traditional sources of water such as lakes and underground reservoirs “have been pretty much tapped out, or spoken for, because they are the most accessible.” That means “there’s an opportunity to develop new strategies and new sources around water,” says Riva, from better conservation to the use of treated wastewater and seawater desalination. “I think the solutions to the problems of water scarcity are going to involve an ‘all of the above’ strategy.”

Learn more about water research by visiting the MIT Water Summit, MIT Water Club, and Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab.

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ReadingtheCommentsIf there are comments on this blog post, Joseph Reagle SM ’96 would encourage you to read them.

Reagle, at times both anthropologist and archaeologist of the web’s comments, has dug deep beneath the layers of the world’s most visited websites. The result of this work is Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web, published this spring by MIT Press.

In this month’s Alumni Books Podcast, Reagle explains why he undertook such an ambitious dig.

“I had written a book about Wikipedia…but I found a couple of comments [that were] 1-star. I found that experience odd and a little bit difficult. As I’ve continued to use the web, I find a lot of things online that are difficult, and some very difficult.”

“I characterize this book as an expedition to the bottom of the web,” says Reagle. “I think there are things that perplex us about the bottom of the web, and I think there’s things we can learn about ourselves and how people are seeking to take advantage of us.”

Listen to the complete interview with Reagle here. Listen to past books podcasts with novelists, professors, and entrepreneurs by visiting MITAA on Soundcloud. Have a good book to recommend, written either by you or a classmate? Tell us about it.

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Reflections (©Irina Medvedev).

Reflections (©Irina Medvedev).

Irina Medvedev is a photographer in Cambridge, MA. View more work on her website. View other alumni photos of the week.

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Photo: National Geographic

Each year, National Geographic chooses a unique group of individuals for their list of Emerging Explorers that represents the future of exploration. Not only did a member of the MIT community make the list, six out of 14 were affiliated with MIT, including researchers, students, and alumni.

The list includes:
LeslieDewan_editLeslie Dewan ’06, PhD ’13, Nuclear Engineer
Building a Better Nuclear Reactor to Combat Climate Change

Dewan founded Transatomic Power Corpoation in 2011 to establish and commercialize a design for a nuclear reactor that safely consumes nuclear waste, delivering vast amounts of affordable, clean energy.

 

CalebHarper_editCaleb Harper MArch ’14, Urban Agriculturalist
Reinventing Our Food Future With Urban Farms

Harper founded CityFarm, an MIT Media Lab initiative which explores the large-scale adoption of both aeroponics and hydroponics as the future of agriculture.

ManuPrakash_cropManu Prakash SM ’05, PhD ’08, Biophysicist
Changing the World With a Paper Microscope

Prakash creates inexpensive lab instruments out of his own lab at Stanford University in the Department of Bioengineering, including a device called the Foldscope: a microscope made of paper.

 

SteveRamirez_editSteve Ramirez, Neuroscientist
Can Memory-Manipulation Research Crack the Code for Alzheimer’s?

Ramirez is a doctoral student in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department who’s research focuses on memory, with implications for Alzheimer’s research.

 

90521_990x594-cb1433350261_editDavid Moinina Sengeh, Biomedical Engineer
Pioneering New Prostheses for Better Lives

Sengeh is a doctoral student at the MIT Media Lab working to improve prosthetic limbs.

 

SkylarTibbits_editSkylar Tibbits SM ’10, Materials Architect
‘Going Radical’ With 4-D Printing

Tibbits launched the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT, where engineers, scientists, designers, and architects create responsive materials that can form structures, all on their own.

Each emerging explorer is awarded $10,000 from National Geographic to help continue their research and exploration and all week they were involved in events and conversations about their discoveries and adventures. As Emerging Explorerers Week concludes (June 8-12), National Geographic is taking a poll to see who people think is most likely to change the world. With such a talented bunch, it’s hard to choose just one! Cast your vote if you want to weigh in.

Photographs by Lynn Johnson, National Geographic Photography Fellow

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Slide background The Bloom Nepal School before the April 2015 earthquake.
Slide background Students from the Bloom Nepal School in December 2014.
Slide background

Bloom Nepal was destroyed by earthquakes in April and May 2015.

Slide background Makeshift homes and classrooms were built following the earthquakes.
Slide background Bloom Nepal students were moved to tents during Nepal's monsoon season.
Slide background A Nepal native, Ram Rijal cofounded Bloom Nepal after graduating from MIT.
Slide background Gabriel Ravel '17 poses with Bloom Nepal students in December 2014.
Slide background Post-earthquake, students tried art therapy like music, dancing, and drawing.
Slide background Bloom Nepal students play near the yard of their old school building.
Slide background "We were affected but we cannot be unhappy. Bloom Nepal spirit!"
Slide background Ram Rijal and his nephew, Kritim Rajal, a ninth grader at the school.
Slide background Founded in 2014, Bloom Nepal grew from 17 students to 150 in three years.
Slide background Bloom Nepal staff survey the school's potential new location.

 

When Ram Rijal ’12 graduated from MIT, he literally couldn’t wait to return to his native Nepal. He left campus on June 5, 2012—three days before his June 8 Commencement.

After all, when your goal is to create a network of MIT-inspired magnet schools and the next academic year has already started, there’s no time to waste.

Ram Rijal '12

Ram Rijal ’12

“Nepal has experienced the worst forms of youth manipulation for years,” Rijal said. “Political forces manipulate young people. There’s no access to quality education for 90 percent of the population—especially girls. It’s the exact opposite of the MIT environment.”

Rijal grew up in rural Rukum, where 90 percent of the village is illiterate and the closest bus stop was a two-day walk. When he was 10, he earned a government scholarship to study in Kathmandu, and later earned scholarships to attend secondary school in the United Kingdom and study at MIT.

“My experience was rare,” Rijal says. “It almost never happens. And the more I studied, I realized a common theme of successful students was what I call ‘practicing passion’: students do what they love—like math or programming—starting at early age. I saw people who were both happy and successful.”

From those experiences, the Bloom Nepal School was born. Rijal worked alongside childhood friends who were also exposed to an early education to found Bloom Nepal in 2013. The STEM-focused K–12 school is privately subsidized and fully residential, and its curriculum includes courses from edX and Khan Academy.

“The school truly is an amazing place,” says Uddhav Sharma ’15, who is from Solukhumbu, Nepal. “The whole idea was inspired by MIT. Two of my nieces are enrolled—they were extremely happy. It’s providing an education to many people who would have never received it otherwise.”

The school’s first-year enrollment was 17 students and ballooned to 60 students in 2014. More than 150 students from nearly all of Nepal’s 75 districts enrolled for the school’s third academic year, which was scheduled to start on April 28, 2015. But, on April 25, disaster struck.

“The Worst Disaster in 80 Years”

Bloom Nepal, MIT, Ram Rijal

The Bloom Nepal School was destroyed by earthquakes in April and May 2015.

At 11:56 a.m. on Saturday, April 25, 2015, nearly all of Nepal was rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and injured more than 23,000. A second major earthquake, measured at 7.3, hit on May 12 and killed more than 100. It was the country’s worst disaster in more than 80 years, and countless aftershocks followed.

Two of the school’s janitors were killed, and all of Bloom Nepal’s buildings and classrooms were destroyed.

“Not all of the students had come to school yet so the building was not full,” Rijal says. “The students who were in the building had a narrow escape. Five second later—they would not have made it.”

The earthquakes’ aftermath left nearly every building around Kathmandu unstable and the country’s annual monsoon season had just begun. Many of Bloom Nepal’s students returned home and the remaining students (about 50) were placed in tents.

“The students were in major shock for a long time,” Rijal says. “And the aftershocks didn’t stop. They’re slowing coming around, but it’s had a huge emotional impact on everyone.”

Classes began a few weeks after the earthquake. The school’s temporary structure is ill-suited for learning, and the school is working to move to a more classroom-friendly location in nearby Lubhu.

“This earthquake will not stop us,” Rijal says. “We’re pushing the recovery forward. We believe in the power of human capital and how important this school can be.”

Rebuilding in Bloom

Bloom Nepal Students with Professor Jeffrey Ravel in December 2014.

Bloom Nepal Students with Professor Jeffrey Ravel in December 2014.

“Since the day he returned to Nepal, Ram’s passion has been that school,” says Professor Jeffrey Ravel, who visited the school in 2014. “He had high-paying offers to remain in the U.S., but he was determined to train a cadre of scientists and engineers who would work toward a better future for Nepal, regardless of their gender, caste, or socio-economic status.”

The country and the school have long recoveries. The earthquakes left Nepal’s already-weak economic infrastructure in even worse shape. And the need for a school like Bloom Nepal, and the future leaders that it trains, is even greater.

“Bloom is much more than a school—it’s a bold vision,” says doctoral student Bigyan Bista, a member of the Nepali Students’ Association at MIT who has helped raise more than $36,000 for immediate earthquake relief. “A STEM-focused school with an MITesque vibe can herald a paradigm shift in Nepal education. But it needs a lifeline now.”

Rijal anticipates that the school need about $120,000 USD to cover the reconstruction of the school, including dormitories, classrooms, labs, and staff rooms. The school has partnered with the Society of Ex-Budhanilkantha Students (SEBS), a 501(c)3 tax exempt charitable organization, and raised more than $29,000 USD as of June 9, 2015.

“We built this school with the idea of making the country ‘bloom’ by providing quality education to children from even the poorest families,” he says. “We realized everyone has a passion. So let’s use that passion to create living experts who have a huge contribution to the development—and recovery—of Nepal.”

Donate to the Bloom Nepal recovery at bloomn.org/donate-now/. For more information, email Ram Rijal at rrijal@alum.mit.edu or visit Bloom Nepal’s website or Facebook page.

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When was the last time you asked for a raise? According to a recent PayScale salary survey published in January, 57 percent of employees have never asked for a raise. And nearly half (49 percent) of employees never negotiate their starting salary, reports a Career Builder/Harris Interactive survey.

At today’s “Develop Your Negotiating Power” Career Lunch and Learn webinar, Jonathan Levene ’97, MEng ’98 shares strategies for communicating value to an employer and asking for fair compensation.

Credit: J. Goldsetein

Credit: J. Goldsetein

Rather than a tense, awkward conversation, negotiations can be collaborative and friendly. Levene will discuss tactics for increasing leverage and legitimacy with leadership while growing inward confidence.

The webinar will be held from 12-1 p.m. EDT today, June 10, 2015. Learn more and register.

Jonathan Levene

Jonathan Levene

About the Speaker: Jonathan Levene is an executive and career coach at Harvard Business School specializing in career development and leadership. He coaches innovation teams on interpersonal issues, effective communication, and negotiation skills. He has more than 15 years of experience working with high-tech startups in product development and also heads up his own high-tech venture. In his free time, he practices mindfulness meditation and martial arts.

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What advice do you have for MIT’s newest alumni? Slice of MIT reached out to several alumni on Twitter for their words of wisdom for the Class of 2015. Advice shared in the week leading up to commencement ranged from a reminder graduates to stay close to their MIT classmates to warning young alumni not to be afraid of failure. To see more advice and get a social media recap of commencement and Tech Reunions, search for the hashtags #MIT2015 and #TechReunions on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Nancy Hua ’07 recommends reaching out to alumni in your class and others. Find alumni near you.

Noramay Cadena ’03, MBA ’11, SM ’11 shares some of her experiences and advice. 

John Hasar ’10 recommends a change of scenery. Connect with international alumni.

You can do anything, says Lilly Kam ’04.

Hold on to MIT, good advice from Jeremy Butler ’98.

Hanna Starobinets ’09 shares her best lesson learned at MIT.

Gregory Moore SM ’88, PhD ’92 advises a humble approach.

Lastly, Dianna Cowern ’11 offers good advice for alumni and students alike: get some sleep!

What advice do you have for the Class of 2015?

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