MIT Interested in More Students from UTEP

By Nadia Macias

UTEP News Service

MIT Professor Edmund Bertschinger met with UTEP physics and engineering students Oct. 26 to encourage them in their fields and discuss research and graduate opportunities.

His goal was to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he wanted UTEP students to be included.
Edmund Bertschinger, head of MIT’s Department of Physics, met with UTEP physics and engineering students Oct. 26 to encourage them in their fields and discuss research and graduate opportunities at MIT. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News ServiceEdmund Bertschinger, head of MIT’s Department of Physics, met with UTEP physics and engineering students Oct. 26 to encourage them in their fields and discuss research and graduate opportunities at MIT. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News Service

“UTEP is a great source of talent,” said Bertschinger, who is the head of the MIT Department of Physics. “There have already been several students from here that attend MIT and I want more to come.”

Recently, students from UTEP have begun attending MIT’s Summer Research Program (MSRP), which seeks to promote the value of graduate education, improve research enterprise through increased diversity, and prepare and recruit the best and brightest for graduate education at MIT.

Ramiro Piñon, featured in this 2012 MSRP video, was the latest UTEP student to attend MIT for nine weeks this past summer and participate in research.

“This is by far the best summer I have ever had in my life,” said Piñon, a senior mechanical engineering major. “I was able to conduct cutting edge research at one of the most prestigious institutions in the world.”

While there, Piñon did research at the BioInstrumentation Laboratory and focused on measurement, instrumentation, control, and automation (M.I.C.A.) cubes, a research and development project aimed at producing a line of sensors and generators linked together wirelessly and controlled from a laptop.

“I encourage others to apply for programs like these because it brings you the opportunity to grow in many levels, including academic and personal,” he said. “I strongly suggest students attend because this is also another way they can prepare for their future in academia, much like how internships help students prepare for their careers.”

Tony Rodriguez, a former physics undergraduate in the College of Science, also participated in MSRP recently.

Rodriguez is now enrolled in MIT’s Physics Bridge Program for underrepresented minority students who have participated in MSRP and have completed a bachelor’s degree. The postbaccalaureate program prepares students for competitive graduate schools such as MIT, and improves the likelihood of a successful graduate school application.

While speaking to students on Friday about these opportunities, Bertschinger explained that he was raised in a barrio in California and never imagined he would end up at MIT.

“People from that community did not go to college,” he said. “It was a wonderful culture, but I had to separate myself in order to make it and pursue a career in science.”

Today, Bertschinger’s goal is to increase the number of minority students in both physics and all STEM disciplines.

“Ed is a very committed advocate for diversity,” said Vivian Incera, Ph.D., chair of UTEP’s Physics Department. “He’s done tremendous things to help underrepresented minorities obtain degrees in STEM, including build collaborations with minority serving institutions.”

According to the National Science Foundation, underrepresented minorities made up only 10 percent of the science and engineering workforce in 2006.

“The U.S. desperately needs to increase the education level of its population in science, technology, engineering and math,” Bertschinger said. “The greatest opportunities for this increase arise with advanced degrees for minority students.”