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Tuesday, September 06, 2016
BEST Summer School with Tokyo Institute of Technology

BEST trainees stretch interdisciplinary skills, cross cultural divides

Three Cornell graduate students participated last week in an international summer school co-organized by the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Cornell's BEST Program. Finding common ground to broaden experiences in scientific training, the two universities joined at the Weill Cornell Medicine campus in NYC to foster cross-cultural communication and teamwork across disciplines. The Tokyo Tech ACLS (Academy of Computational and Life Sciences) is a unique graduate educational program that deeply roots each student in one discipline while fostering cross-training in the other discipline, all while culturing effective global communication and teamwork to provide 'gamma-type' training.

Joining the International Summer School from Cornell, Aaron Joiner is a PhD candidate in Molecular Biology and Genetics, Mohammad Haft-Javaherian is a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering and Oude Gao is a Masters student in the Sloan Program in Health Administration. Additional trainees from UCLA, Purdue, and the University of Strasbourg in France joined Tokyo Tech students to represent 17 different nationalities. They fit right in at the United Nations where they toured exhibits and gained more background from experts on the Global Sustainable Development Goals. See the article.

Participating in the ACLS Summer School in this year specifically, helped me start to understand how a scientist might be involved with global policy making at an organization like the United Nations. Generally, it helped me to connect with students from other countries and to learn about foreign educational systems. My participation also got me to start thinking about a science career outside of the United States. I would not have learned any of these things without the support of the BEST program, who directly organized part of the event, and was the bridge for my connection to the ACLS.-Aaron Joiner

Additional visits to NYU and The Rockefeller University labs, the NY Genome Center, or Rakuten Marketing rounded out touristic visits to a baseball game, broadway show or boat tour where the students continued their cultural exchange. Many eminent speakers shared their research, and each participant gave a flash talk and presented a poster at the week-long event.

In my career and education, I experienced couple of management styles and a few collaborations within diverse international groups. But my experience in ACLS summer was new, unique and eye opening. I'm very grateful that I had a chance to attend this summer school, attend talks from world class researchers and experience new management styles as well as well as collaboration within very diverse team of graduate students. -Mohammad Haft-Javaherian

The recipe to create experts who can attack large global problems using their science backgrounds? Start with a solid foundation in basic research and poster session exchanges; sift in multiple nationalities, perspectives and cultural norms. Add some lofty inspiration from the United Nations, mix it with inspirational and engaging faculty talks from well-known researchers from The Rockefeller University, Columbia, MSKCC, NYU, and the host institutions. Then stir in intense group work and place under time and output pressure to write an article. Sprinkle heavily with entrepreneurship and expose to the Runway Postdoc Program at CornellTech. Release steam periodically with facility tours, good food, and NY entertainment. Constrain throughout to student organizers, facilitators, group leaders and presenters, and add advisors to taste. Cook and stir for a week. Can’t wait to see what they bake up!

Participants were required to publish a paper formatted to the virtual journal 'future' a knockoff of the real journal 'nature' to develop predictions 15-20 years into the future. Incorporating elements of the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals, student posters, talks by eminent researchers, and their own ideas, participants learned about leadership and teamwork while writing their piece. Six teams competed for a first prize that was announced at a festive intercultural exchange dinner at the conclusion of the week's work.

It is a fantastic experience for anyone who wants improvement in 1) international exposure; 2) communication skills; 3) business development experience and 4) opportunity to self-reflect. For me personally, I actually gathered all four aspects above. I am an international student in a well-Americanized program. However, healthcare is absolutely not a local industry and it is vital for me to utilize my international background to obtain a better understanding of it globally. Hence it was certainly a valuable opportunity to speak with professionals in life sciences and healthcare. Additionally, group work on establishing the business proposal explored my mindsets by dedicating our time and energy to perfecting the final product. Instead of competition, we enjoyed learning from each other by effective collaboration and communication. -Oude Gao