Student Profile: Érica Castanheira

Wednesday, 07 April 2010 12:38

Érica Castanheira, a PhD candidate in MIT-Portugal's Sustainable Energy Systems program, recently earned an FCT grant to study the assessment of biofuels. She will present some of her results at the 25th Mini EURO Conference at the University of Coimbra (April 15-17, 2010) as co-author of a paper titled "GHG Emissions Assessment of Palm Oil: Uncertainty and Scenario Analysis for Increased Production." This interview, conducted by the university's Energy for Sustainability (EfS) initiative, first appeared on the group's website.

EfS: What motivated you to apply for the PhD in Sustainable Energy Systems of the MIT-Portugal Program?

Erica_Castanheira2EC: I have learned about the PhD in Sustainable Energy Systems (SES) in 2008 through Professor Fausto Freire, after applying for a research position in the FCT Project “Biofuel systems for transportation in Portugal: An "well-to-wheels" integrated multi-objective assessment” at ADAI- LAETA, University of Coimbra. During the interview we have also discussed that it could be an excellent opportunity for my future career to apply for the SES doctoral program. At that time, I was finishing my master’s on Energy and Environmental Management at the University of Aveiro. My MSc thesis was about environmental life cycle assessment of agricultural products. A PhD on Sustainable Energy Systems permits to extend my previous research experience towards an emergent field integrating engineering, energy, economics and environmental systems analysis. Furthermore, the Energy for Sustainability (EfS) initiative at the University Coimbra brings together faculty from various teaching and research institutions, and offers an interesting and diversified number of courses.


Bioengineering PhD Candidates Get Expert Feedback on Research

Wednesday, 24 March 2010 07:03

MIT-Portugal Bioengineering Systems faculty leads from both Portugal and MIT were in Cambridge on March 4, 2010, and their presence provided the perfect opportunity for seven third-year candidates in that area’s PhD course to present updates on the leading-edge research they are doing at MIT – to the faculty, as well as to reviewers with expertise on the students’ research topics. 

The result was a series of substantive, practical comments about the students’ work – which the students were glad to receive. According to one presenter, David Braga Malta, who is working in the laboratory of MIT Prof. Sangeeta Bhatia, the event was “a unique opportunity to be able to present and discuss our work with an audience full of experts in our area. This is one of the best ways of improving the quality of the work we are developing, given the excellent feedback such an audience provides.”


Student Researching High-Speed Rail in Portugal Heading to World Bank

Monday, 15 March 2010 05:09

Sevara Melibaeva – an MIT student from Uzbekistan who is completing noteworthy research on the construction of a high-speed rail system between Lisbon and Porto, research funded by the MIT-Portugal Program – has been awarded a position in the World Bank’s prestigious Young Professionals Program.

The program – which Melibaeva will begin in September, after she completes her MIT degree – will provide her with an opportunity to enter a career track at the World Bank and to further develop her skills in development policy and economics. This will be her second stint at the bank’s Washington headquarters; after earning an M.B.A. in Tashkent and a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Melibaeva was a member of a World Bank team working on sustainable development in transportation in Europe and Central Asia.

According to MIT-Portugal Transportation Systems faculty member Prof. Joseph Sussman, Melibaeva’s advisor in MIT’s Master of Science in Transportation program, the selectivity of the Young Professionals Program makes this a “singular honor.”


Updates Announced for Critical Challenge Autonomous Vehicle Competition

Friday, 12 March 2010 10:21

Scheduling changes have been announced for the Critical Challenge – a competition for the design and construction of an autonomous electric vehicle that has been organized by Critical Move, S.A. in partnership with the MIT-Portugal Program.

Applications Accepted in July 2010

According to the new schedule, submission of applications to the competition will occur in July 2010. The names of those teams selected to participate, based on their project descriptions, will be announced in October 2010.

The kick-off meeting for Phase I of the competition – during which the teams that have been chosen will design a “virtual” autonomous vehicle – will occur in November 2010. The 11.000 € award for the best design will be made in October 2011. Phase II will occur from November 2011 until March 2013. During this time, the teams will develop prototypes of their designs and demonstrate them in an urban environment. The winning team will receive an award of 40.000 €.

New competition guidelines are available here, and on the Critical Challenge website.


CTIS Students Get Career Insights from Affiliated Companies and MIT Center

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:13

MIT-Portugal Master’s students in Complex Transportation Infrastructure Systems (CTIS), like their colleagues in the Program’s other courses, are always receptive to substantive career advice. So several of them recently took advantage of the opportunity to connect with alumni of the course – and with companies that partner with and help support it – in a workshop led by MIT’s head of career development.

Melanie Parker, Executive Director of the MIT Global Education and Career Development Center, visited Lisbon on February 1–3, 2010, to offer a career development workshop for CTIS students, and also for students who are MIT-Portugal PhD candidates in Transportation Systems. It was the second such workshop given by Parker and her team. Also on hand with their input were several CTIS Education Affiliates, companies that provide annual tuition scholarships for the course – in this case, Alstom, BRISA, Mota-Engil, Odebrecht, and Siemens.

Melanie Parker (center) and several workshop participantsParker also facilitated two career development sessions with just the current CTIS students, aided by a Web-based career self-assessment she distributed prior to the sessions.

Proactivity is Key

Among other things, Parker urged the students to take a more proactive approach to creating career development and networking opportunities, by creating student-led career societies and career fairs, as students commonly do at MIT.

“The senior executives who attended our industry session today clearly ‘get it’ that they need to connect more regularly with students and articulate career opportunities within their industries,” she said. “These students have a lot of creative desire to develop their careers in new ways opened up to them by the CTIS program, and I hope to be back here next year to continue helping them create lasting relationships with the companies that support the program.”

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