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Retreat in Boston Hosts Industry Member Forum
This year’s MIRTHE Student Retreat which took place on November 13 - 15 in Boston, MA featured an Industry Member Focus to provide students with insights into MIRTHE member companies and non-profit organizations. A key objective of this event was to promote opportunities for collaborations and to increase awareness of potential careers in industry and national laboratories. The Student Retreat gave MIRTHE students from partnering universities time to network and exchange ideas with each other, as well as a chance to directly interact with MIRTHE industry members and practitioners. Six experienced professionals representing small and large companies, and national laboratories joined the students in Boston for this event.

The Student Retreat/Industry Forum day started Saturday morning with a MIRTHE introduction presented by Tracy Tsai, president of the Student Leadership Council, followed by presentations by
participating MIRTHE industry members, who gave introductions of their companies, presented their involvement with MIRTHE, as well as current and future internships and job opportunities for studentsand post-doctoral fellows at their institutions. Mark Phillips, a Scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) highlighted his experiences working with a MIRTHE intern Richard Cendejas over the last summer. Both PNNL and Richard greatly benefited from this interaction which was made possible by the MIRTHE program. Mark Philips also spoke about opportunities for MIRTHE graduate student internships at PNNL. The morning session concluded with a presentation by MIRTHE Industrial Liaison, Bernadeta Wysocka, who reviewed students-industry interactions and programs facilitated by the MIRTHE Center. Mark Phillips (PNNL) and Richard Cendejas (MIRTHE graduate student) during summer internship at PNNL

Later in the afternoon a panel, consisting of six experienced professionals from industry and national laboratories, was answering student questions – ranging from: How is it to work in small vs. big

Industry panelists: form the left: Boston Electronics, Lasermax, Space Dynamics Laboratory, Agilent Technologies, ExxonMobil, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
companies, or in national laboratories? How to prepare yourself for a job interview? Or, is doing apost-doctoral training beneficial? Then the students had a chance to ask former MIRTHE interns questions about their experiences during internships at MIRTHE member sites. The discussions raised a lot of interesting questions and remarks from both the students and industry. The day concluded with a networking dinner in downtown Boston, where lively discussions continued.

John Szobota from ExxonMobil commented: “I thought that the meeting was very well organized - the Leadership Council did an excellent job. The Student Panel discussion went very well - the
students were very informative regarding their intern experiences and the responses to the questions from the students and Industry Representatives gave the attendees a more complete picture of the internship experience. The Industry Representatives represented a diverse mix of companies varied in size, nature, and industry. I felt it was my responsibility to attend and participate in the Panel because ExxonMobil is distinctly different from the other companies present. Most were related somehow to lasers, detectors and sensing platforms. While ExxonMobil is a potential end-user of QCL Sensing Platforms, it is also a company that utilizes science and engineering expertise. The Leadership Council Meeting allowed me the opportunity to describe the career areas that might be of interest to students”
Darius Morris (MIIRTHE graduate student) and John Szobota (ExonnMobil)

MIRTHE students enjoyed listening to the industry presentations, and engaged in very motivating panel discussions. Students reported that the greatest benefit was their direct conversations with industry representatives throughout the event. Below are few samples of sentiments expressed by MIRTHE students:


David Miller (MIRTHE graduate student)
“I very much enjoyed the MIRTHE Student retreat-Industry forum this year as it provided a unique opportunity to interact and learn from people in industry face to face. As a second year graduate student, I am not yet sure whether I would like to pursue a career in industry or academia. This event was very beneficial to me in that, it demonstrated the opportunities that industry has to offer, many of which I was totally unaware of. I had not thought of doing an internship during graduate school before but now I will seriously consider it as a way to gain industry experience and even for research collaboration with others. I was especially glad that one of the industry members who attended works on environmental applications of MIRTHE technologies, particularly air quality monitoring which is very close to my research area. I had some interesting conversation with him about the field in general and how I would fit in if I did an internship with that company. Although the weather didn't quite cooperate, overall it was a good experience!”
“The Student Retreat was a very worthwhile experience for me. What really stood out as a novelty was the fact that the students to industrial affiliates’ ratio were low; about 20 students and 7 affiliates. This, in my opinion gave students very easy access to the affiliates. Also the overall small number resulted in an intimate environment which made the affiliates very willing to share with us their scientific experiences and even their philosophical outlook on life. All of them in fact stressed the need for a very balanced li fe and were willing to talk about their passions, drives, as well as their careers.  As a graduate student in his final year, the range of the affiliates impressed me very much. Founders of very successful companies, research scientists in national laboratories, scientists in startups and scientists in large corporations all showed up to share their stories. This gave me a much clearer idea of my career path.”

Benjamin Appiah (MIRTHE graduate student)

Yu Yao (MIRTHE graduate student)
“I think it is a great idea to bridge us students with the industry people and the retreat has been very successful in this. The presentations, the panel discussions are informative but not overwhelming. As a panelist, the questions brought me to thinking about some aspects that I had never thought of before. I like the industrial panel discussion very much. All the panelists were willing to give us their insights and suggestions; I was impressed by their frankness (remember almost all of them spent no more than 30s on one resume?). From their experience, I realized that I shouldn't expect my first job to be the perfect one; or it could never be since you probably wouldn't know it before trying a few more unless you are very luck. Their discussion also gave me some clues on how to prepare myself for the job market, apply for jobs (or intern jobs) and plan my future career.”

“As a fresh graduate student, I have not had an opportunity to interact with industry members such as CEOs, Project Managers, and co-founders of companies before. This event gave me a chance to do so. I was exposed to the MIRTHE industry member companies and got the knowledge of what they do, which will surely help me in the future. The event was very well-planned and nicely organized. The part of the event that I found most informative was the interaction of industry members and students, and when the industry members expressed their views during the panel discussion as to what they expect from us students working as interns for their company. I had a chance to ask industry members not only about the internships but also their personal lives and experiences. As a new MIRTHE student, I also had a chance to meet and interact with other MIRTHE students performing research in the same area. It is nice to know that MIRTHE helps students get exposed to industry and also helps to get internship. I appreciate and would like to thank the organizing committee of MIRTHE for setting up such an event and will be looking forward for more events just as informative as this one. I thank my advisor Dr. Joel Morris for giving me the information about this event.”

Sagar Shah (MIRTHE graduate student)


Minghui Diao (MIRTHE graduate student)
“I am a student from Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University and my research is to use laser-based hygrometer to take atmospheric measurements. The student retreat in Boston turned out to be very inspiring and interesting to me. It provides me a very special and rare chance to get know more about the laser industry, especially because my study is more about atmospheric sciences. I really enjoyed listening to the panelists from industry talking about their life stories between academic and industrial areas. I think this is one of the questions that we as a student really want to know about. Also I learnt a lot from senior students who did internship before. Their stories encouraged me to take the chance and do summer internship sometime, which will not only help my own research, but also get more knowledge of laser technology. I am really glad that we are offered this opportunity by MIRTHE which combines many areas altogether and connects students from academia to industry.”

Thank you all for your participation and your hard work to make this event happen!


MIRTHE students with industry members at the networking dinner in Boston

MIRTHE industry/practitioner members made this event rewarding and memorable experience for the students. This will strengthen current relationships among MIRTHE students and industry members, and will be beneficial for the students’ future professional careers. The distinguished industry panel was represented by Susan Houde-Walter, LaserMax; Fred Perry, Boston Electronics; Mark Phillips, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; James Piao, Epitaxial laboratory, Inc; John Szobota, ExxonMobil; Randall Urdahl, Agilent Technologies; Michael Wojcik, Space Dynamics Laboratory.

The meeting was organized by MIRTHE SLC leadership team (Tracy Tsai, Maung Lwin, Candice Tsay, Arjun Vijaykumar), and the MIRTHE team: Roxanne, Educational Outreach Director, Denise Ritzmann, Office Coordinator, and Bernadeta Wysocka, Industrial Liaison). Industry presentations from the retreat have been posted to the MIRTHE website, to access them please log-in to our website www.mirthecenter.org. They can be found under MIRTHE files and videos.

by Bernadeta Wysocka, MIRTHE Industrial Liaison