Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 12, 1994

Student Exchange Program Sends Engineers Packing
By Ken Keatley

You may expect Michael Lopez, who is just two semesters away
from earning two degrees in electrical engineering at
Hopkins, to spend his summer in a laboratory.
    What you may not expect is the location of that lab: the
Integrated Circuits Lab at the University of Ljubljana, in a
small European city of the same name in Slovenia, thousands
of miles from home.
    "I wanted to visit Europe, and I needed some practical
experience in engineering," said Lopez, 20, of Stony Brook,
N.Y. "So this trip covered both needs for me. I would
recommend the program to any engineering student."
    The program is the School of Engineering's 3-year-old
student exchange with Austria and its neighbor, the Republic
of Slovenia. This summer 25 engineering students spent six
weeks working as paid interns in Austrian companies or
Slovenian university laboratories. 
    Last week their counterparts--20 Austrian and Slovenian
students--arrived in Baltimore to spend six weeks of
classroom and lab study at Hopkins. A reception in their
honor is being held at Nichols House Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m.
    Jack Fisher, a professor in the Department of Geography
and Environmental Engineering and organizer of the exchange
program, said the Hopkins students grow personally and
professionally through the summer sojourn.
    "The program is unique in that it takes these graduate
and undergraduate students and has them working as
engineers," Dr. Fisher said. "They're experiencing the
history and culture of the countries, but the main focus is
on the work."
    That's especially important, according to Dean Don
Giddens, because of the ongoing need for engineers who have
the flexibility to work in a global environment.
    "Many positions available to engineers in the future
will be with companies which have a global outlook, and we
want to offer opportunities for our graduates which will help
them be prepared," said Dr. Giddens, who visited the students
in Europe last summer. "The students in our international
program don't just take courses abroad. They get hands-on
experience in a foreign company or research lab."
    It was former Dean David VandeLinde's belief that
engineering students need to be prepared to work in an
increasingly international marketplace. Dr. Giddens, his
successor, is committed to pursuing that effort. Dr. Fisher,
who became involved because of his professional ties to the
Ministry of Science and Technology in Slovenia, shares that
    "Because of the highly theoretical orientation at
Hopkins, many of the students have found this pragmatic
experience to be quite useful," Dr. Fisher explained. "Many
have said that for the first time, they know what it means to
be an engineer."
    The Hopkins students are very much in demand, especially
in Austria where they are put to work in a "real world"
setting. Andy Arluk, 21, of Gaithersburg, Md., a graduate
student in electrical engineering, has worked for the last
two summers at Anton Paar, an Austrian manufacturer of
scientific equipment.
    "I got to see firsthand how a company operates, and was
exposed to their clients--international firms from all over
the world," said Arluk, who wrote and implemented a computer
program linking two of the firm's departments. "I'm seriously
thinking of going to Europe to work for a few years." 
    Added Dr. Fisher, "We're sending them some of our very
best students, and they are contributing. The companies
really do get something out of it."
    Lopez, who is now back at the Image Analysis and
Communications Lab at Hopkins, worked in digital signal
processing for a Slovenian researcher over the summer.
    "Overall, I found the work to be good experience,
something different but in the same general field as my
research at Hop-kins," Lopez said. "I was able to help out in
a real way. It's a good example of Dr. Fisher's theory that
engineers who have a little general preparation can go into
an unfamiliar situation and be of good use."
    Joanna Mroz, 20, a junior from Succasunna, N.J., in the
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was also
happy with her research into methods of repulping paper at
the Institute of Pulp and Paper in Ljubljana. 
    "I've just recently transferred to engineering, so the
practical lab experience was very helpful to me. It gave me
an idea of what I could be doing in the future," Mroz said.
"Plus, on the weekends, we had an incredible time taking
trips all over Europe."
    Lopez said time outside the lab was well spent. On
weekend outings with his Hopkins colleagues, or members of
the International Students Organization in Ljubljana, he
visited Venice, Vienna, Graz, the bucolic countryside in
southeast Slovenia and two mountaintop resorts.
    "Slovenia is not a place I would have gotten to see
otherwise, and I'm glad I had the experience," Lopez said.
"And coming away with the knowledge that I can work in a
different setting is good for me."

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