2011 SLC Retreat to Corning
SLC leads MIRTHE students to Corning for Industry Exposure and Opportunity

By Phillip Braun, MIRTHE Special Projects Manager

This year's Student Leadership Council (SLC) annual retreat, which took place on November 19, 2011, brought a busload of MIRTHE students and post-docs to the Sullivan Park campus of Corning, Inc., a MIRTHE industrial partner.

Students from multiple MIRTHE institutions, including Princeton, UMBC, Texas A&M, and CCNY, gathered in Princeton for an early start to the facility. Upon arrival they were given an introduction to the company, which explained how Corning, over the course of its long history, had expanded and evolved into various areas of high-tech development and commercial production through a culture of innovation and far-sighted investment and research. This was followed by a Q&A session with a diverse panel of Corning employees from various disciplines, with various levels of experience, and with various perspectives on life in industry. Open discussion was continued during an informal networking lunch with the panelists. The visit concluded with a tour of three labs, each representing an area in which Corning has a research interest: semiconductor laser fabrication, optical fibers, and biological analysis.

The retreat was demonstrative of MIRTHE's commitment to not only involve industry in research feedback and technology transfer efforts, but also educate and train marketable emerging engineers, facilitate the transition from academia to industry for those wishing to pursue industrial positions, and provide a pool of highly-skilled potential employees to affiliated companies. Direct interaction between students and industry members enabled each group to become more familiar with the other, not only in terms of current research projects, but also on a more personal level; students were given a candid glimpse into industry life, both inside and outside of the office, and industry members were able to get to know prospective employees and collaborators.

The retreat thus served as a discernment opportunity for MIRTHE students who are deciding whether to pursue industry or academia after they complete their studies. In addition to events like these, MIRTHE encourages and facilitates internships with industrial members to give students exposure to industry, and industry exposure to talent. By bringing students from different disciplines and institutions together, the retreat also strengthened the collaborative, interdisciplinary network which defines MIRTHE, and which many students consider their favorite aspect of MIRTHE.

Though the retreat was relatively short, due to long travel time, students were very appreciative of the opportunity:

"I really enjoyed visiting Corning Inc. I appreciate the time and effort put in…by MIRTHE and Corning so that we [could] see…life in the real world. All the scientists there were very honest about life in industry and provided us with very valuable information about making the tough decision of whether to stay in academia or to pursue a professional life in industry. It was great to see… first-hand what kind of research is being done at Corning…I personally took advantage [of meeting] face to face with our collaborators; they [are] no longer… just names in emails, and I now feel more comfortable… communicating with them. It was also good to know that Corning is a company that is family-oriented, which is a plus for some of us that are currently married and with children." – Federico Lopez, Texas A&M graduate student
"Thanks to [the] MIRTHE SLC and Corning Inc., I was able to have the opportunity to attend this year's MIRTHE retreat…We first received a warm welcome and company introduction from Corning Inc., and then were led to three important Corning research labs—[the] semiconductor Laser Lab, Biology Lab, and Fiber Communications Lab. I was most impressed by their Semiconductor Laser Lab, where they spend a lot of effort on Quantum Cascade Laser research. We were able to listen [to] their vision [of] QC Lasers and discuss possible collaboration with them…It was really a fantastic experience and it benefits my research and career in many ways." – Dingkai Guo, UMBC graduate student
"The retreat was an excellent opportunity for me to learn about a potential career in industry post-graduation. The panelists…Corning scientists across a wide spectrum of departments, were very helpful in answering questions that ranged from scientific independence in industry to life in the sleepy town of Corning. It was also interesting to see how ideas that originate in the lab can become real products useful to so many people." – Loan Le, MIRTHE SLC Co-President and Princeton graduate student
"The SLC's 2011 retreat at Corning was a very valuable trip for not only students but also post-docs….We [saw] state of the art facilities for semiconductor laser[s]…instrumentation of biomedical laboratory products, and characterization of optical fiber for high speed and high capacity network[s]. We also learned how [a] current front running company in technology thinks about innovation." – Maung Lwin, Princeton post-doctoral researcher working at Space Dynamics Laboratory