Ottawa Citizen – Canadian research industry boosted by international interns

OTTAWA — For civil engineering students in India, hands-on experience is hard to come by.

“I assisted my professor in some construction projects which he had, but I didn’t do any research projects as such,” said India native and newly appointed University of Ottawa intern Anupriya, who only goes by one name,

Studying at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, India, third-year student Anupriya learned of a 12-week Canadian research internship called Globalink, offered by not-for-profit organization Mitacs, through senior students who had previously participated in the program. With the university’s encouragement, Anupriya applied for one of 285 research opportunities offered by 30 universities across the country: a structural engineering project proposed by professor Dan Palermo at the University of Ottawa.

Confirmed in December, Anupriya left her home country for the first time at the beginning of May, joining 16 other Globalink students working between the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.

Established in 2009, Globalink is now Indian’s students first choice when it comes to research experience abroad, says Mitacs CEO Arvind Gupta. India was chosen as the program’s pilot country because of its well-funded information technology and life sciences sectors, as well as an ever-expanding number of universities and university students.

Offering international students insight into Canada’s research capabilities, said Gupta, will hopefully allow for successful collaborations in the future.

“We do something like four-and-a-half per cent of the world’s academic research and we’re not anywhere near four per cent of the world’s population, so clearly we have extremely high quality research going on in Canada,” said Gupta. “Part of what we need to do is let the world know the quality of research, one, and two, that we are very open to have others come and do the research here.”

Globalink has since expanded to Brazil, China and Mexico, with more countries to come, said Gupta. Next year, he said, Canadians students will also have the opportunity to go to do research in the program’s partner countries.

Anupriya’s adviser Dan Palermo, associate professor in structural engineering at the University of Ottawa, said Globalink is following a growing trend by investing in international student’s training with the hopes that they might stay in Canada.

“Research is global. It’s international,” said Palermo. “There are a lot of smart people out there. More and more, universities are developing programs to attract students from abroad.”

By participating in what Palermo calls “complementary work” — in Anupriya’s case, researching a new type of nickel-titanium shape metal alloy to be used as a replacement for current reinforcements in concrete structures — international students, he said, are getting a leg up on their peers.

“If she decides to come back, she’s ready to go.”

Wed June 12 2013

Section: Technology
Byline: Laura Armstrong