Visiting students celebrate experiences, projects

Ten students from Ethiopia have completed a new summer-long exchange program in engineering at the University of Michigan.

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AURA participants with U-M organizers Profs. Valeria Bertacco and Todd Austin

Ten students from Ethiopia with an interest in research celebrated their success after completing a summer-long exchange program at the University of Michigan.

The African Undergraduate Research Adventure (AURA) program is a research exchange program at U-M for undergraduate students at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology (AAiT). Selected students come to Ann Arbor for twelve weeks during the summer to engage in research work with a College of Engineering faculty member. 

In 2019, ten students completed the program, having worked with faculty advisors on projects in software engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. They celebrated their accomplishments at a reception and poster session that was attended by Alec Gallimore, Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; faculty advisors; friends; and other supporters. The event was held in Tishman Hall, in the heart of the Bob and Betty Beyster Building, on August 6.

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Attendees listen to a speaker at the AURA completion celebration.

“The University has had a long-standing commitment to global engagement,” says Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Valeria Bertacco, one of the AURA program’s organizers. “The idea of AURA is to bring students from AAiT in Ethiopia to Ann Arbor for the summer to be embedded in a research experience.”

She adds that the ultimate goal of AURA is “to create collaborations between UM faculty and AAiT students, which could lead to a range of research collaborations, including applications to our doctoral and master’s programs.”

Prof. Todd Austin, also an organizer of the AURA program, adds that “I find that when Michigan faculty engage with colleagues at Ethiopian universities, they find friends and colleagues that become a part of their research pallet.”

The students who participated in AURA described the program as quite positive and even life-changing. “This program has shown me that I don’t really need to sacrifice my passion and try to fit into an industry job,” said Binyam Paulos Chamiso. “But it has shown me that I can do research in areas I am interested in.”

“Coming here has given us a good view of what our lives will be like if we come to graduate school,” said Absalat Dawit Getachew.

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AURA participant Biniyam Paulos Chamiso shares his poster with Profs. Todd Austin and Baris Kasikci.

“You get to meet new people from a different part of the world who have a different perspective,” said Biniyam Mengist Tiruye, “and when you get to see how people think on the other side of the world it’s really fascinating.”

AAiT undergraduates are required to develop a thesis to complete their degree – their entire fifth year is dedicated to it. The AURA program is a key opportunity for them to bootstrap this thesis work.

2019 participants were Yohannes Mulu Admasu, Biruk Berhanu Bekele, Biniyam Paulos Chamiso, Abel Mulugeta Eneyew, Eyoel Wendwosen Feleke, Absalat Dawit Getachew, Hellina Hailu Nigatu, Kaleab Mekonen Nigusie, Wondmgezahu Girma Teshome, and Biniyam Mengist Tiruye. AURA was organized by Profs Austin and Bertacco, along with Fitsum Assamnew Andargie of AAiT.

The AURA Program, in the words of the participants and organizers