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| 5/2/2019 12:01:00 AM

Colombian Pride at MIT

At this US univerisity, the world's number 1 according with QS, some Colombians stands out for its talent. Who are they?

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According to the QS World University Ranking 2019, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is ranked as the top university in the world. If MIT were an independent country, it would the ninth largest economy in the world due to the number of start-ups and successful enterprises that have been founded and developed on its campus. There are approximately 30,200 companies, spanning all economy sectors, which originated at this renowned institution. These companies have created 4.6 million jobs and reported annual incomes totaling more than $1.9 trillion [dollars].

The success of MIT lies in the real-world impact of its academic projects. The university offers students a wide range of resources to foster entrepreneurship, administers research laboratories and institutes, sponsors academic field trips and conferences, and offers fellowships to prepare leaders for public service. MIT’s philosophy is centered on applied knowledge; therefore, it encourages students to design projects and make them a reality.

Each year there is an increasing number of Colombian students that have the opportunity to study abroad and gain admission to top universities around the world. Currently there are 43 Colombians who are studying, teaching or conducting research at MIT, and a number of them have been recognized for their leadership and work.

For each of them, getting to MIT was, for a long time, a distant dream; however, finding a way to MIT was not as complicated as they thought initially. The financial barriers for admission to these top universities is getting lower every day – the main challenge in the admissions process is showcasing one’s knowledge and experience, so the only requirement is to have talent, discipline and enthusiasm. We have contacted 14 of these brilliant Colombians at MIT that proudly represent our country, and we hope serve as an inspiration to all of us.

How to get to MIT?
- Scholarships from private foundations, companies, government agencies, International agencies and even MIT
- Undergraduate: The financial aid is need-based. Once applied and admitted to the undergraduate program, the financial aid is requested and usually granted.
- Post-undergraduate: Though special or exchange programs for students and teachers
- Joining though an internship or as research assistant in one of the many labs at MIT
- The Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning aims to be the first dept. in which students don’t pay tuition. Currently all students have a 50% scholarship, and a large number have full scholarships. The only caveat is that once admitted with 50% funding the student has to find the rest, but once at MIT the students can work doing research to pay for the other half.
- PhD program: There is no need to have external scholarships, students can apply directly and the dept. will guarantee funding in compensation for the research work carried out during the doctoral program.
- Advice: Show interest in joining MIT, communicate with professors, students, and alumni – reach out and ask them questions.

1. Ariel Olivo
He was born and raised in Barranquilla and studied mechanical engineering at Universidad del Norte. After working in the mining industry at Cerrejon Coal Mine, he did a master’s in mechanical engineering at École Nationale Supérieure de Mécanique et des Microtechniques in France. His career has focused on project management for renewable energy and infrastructure projects. At MIT he is now part of the Sloan Fellows MBA program, with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship and Innovation. After his MBA, he would like to work in Business Development for a tech start-up that is considering expanding its operations in Latin America.

2. Lucas Ramírez
Originally from Pereira, he has a bachelor’s in international business from Universidad EAFIT in Medellin, an MBA in finance from New York University (NYU) and is currently affiliated with the Sloan Fellows program at MIT. He has more than 15 years of experience in the financial sector, in both capital markets and corporate finance. During his career he has participated in capital market and M&A (mergers and acquisition) transactions above 5 billion US dollars. At MIT he is complementing his finance background and experience with topics in strategy, operations, entrepreneurship and innovation. He is also interested in the intersection between finance and tech.

3. María Alejandra Castellanos
She was born in Cali and studied chemistry at ICESI. Currently she is a first-year PhD student in the Chemistry Dept. at MIT. She works in theoretical chemistry, aiming to use computational tools to study the properties, dynamics and basic principles of different chemical systems. Her work at MIT is a collaboration with other research groups in the chemistry and biological engineering depts., and they plan to design controlled DNA and chromophore structures using a technique called “DNA Origami”, structures that will be used in quantum computing applications. Before joining the PhD program she carried out research at Universidad ICESI and the University of Rochester.

4. Guillermo Marroquín
Economist and business administrator from Universidad de los Andes, and master in banking and corporate Finance from ESC Toulouse. He is currently a second-year MBA student at MIT. Here, he focuses on new financial technologies for Latin America, leads the entrepreneurial arm for MIT’s FinTech club, and is co-president of the LatAm club. Before starting his MBA at MIT, he worked for 6 years in the financial sector, and recently left his job at UBS Bank in New York to study entrepreneurship, tech and inclusion in finance.

5. Sebastián Bello
He studied chemical engineering at Universidad Nacional and received a master’s in operations engineering at Universidad Javeriana, and a second one in financial administration at Universidad de los Andes. He has 12 years of experience in supply chain management in different industries. He completed an online micro-master’s at MIT, which paved the way for his admission to the Supply Chain Management Master’s Program at MIT, in which he is currently enrolled. He is also working with two US companies on projects to improve the efficiency of their supply chains. His goal is to further his knowledge base, and contribute his expertise so companies operate with higher efficiency.

6. Marcela Ángel
She graduated from Universidad de los Andes with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and recently completed a master’s degree in city planning at MIT. She is an associate researcher at the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative and manages the Climate, Equity and Sustainable Development Program, a collaboration between MIT and Colombian partners to design and implement inclusive development models, leveraging the use of participatory technologies and the co-creation of solutions to environmental and social challenges related to climate change, deforestation and biodiversity conservation in Colombia. Her recent research involves the design of a model for targeted landscape architecture interventions in Bogota, with the goal of creating a more equitable distribution of urban tree canopy as a low-tech strategy to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

7. Juan Cristóbal Constain
He graduated from MIT with a Master’s in Urban Planning, with emphasis in community and economic development, and from Universidad del Rosario with a Bachelor’s in Urban Policy and Development. He is the manager for Regional Innovation in CoLab, focusing on the design and implementation of capacity building and leadership development programs that advance economic democracy and self-determination. His work in recent years has centered in Colombia’s Pacific region, where CoLab has conducted three programs with community leaders in Buenaventura and Quibdo since 2014. His research and applied work focuses around the relationship between innovation, inequality and the conditions that would enable the advancement of economic democracy through innovation and entrepreneurship

8. María Paula Castillo
Civil engineer with a master’s in economics from Universidad de los Andes. At MIT she is doing an MBA in which she is focusing on tech and transportation topics. During this program, she did an internship as a project manager at Tesla. Currently she leads the 2019 MIT Sustainability Summit which this year centers on sustainable transportation, focusing on the impacts and limitations of new technologies in traffic and mobility. Prior to the MBA, her experience was in consulting, first related to the transportation sector and then as a strategy consultant.

9. Julián Ortiz
Born and raised in Cali, he studied economics, industrial engineering and received a master’s in Economics, all at Universidad de los Andes. He is passionate about agriculture thanks to his grandparents, who were farmers in Valle del Cauca. Before joining MIT Sloan for an MBA, he worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Co., and as project manager for a biotechnology company in Latin America. At Sloan, he led the first academic field trip regarding sustainable agriculture in Colombia, was a finalist in the Patagonia Case Competition, and is co-president of the Agriculture Club at MIT. He is currently a co-founder of “AdaViv”, a software for efficient crop management that helps farmers boost their income by up to 30%.

10. Samantha Gutiérrez
Biomedical engineer from Tecnológico de Monterrey and currently a Senior Research Support Associate in the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab. She is working on several projects focused on a novel surgical paradigm developed for limb amputations that preserves the dynamic muscle relationships so that patients can control their prostheses with native neural signals. Prior to joining MIT she worked at Northeastern University exploring the psychological and behavioral effects of interactive media in overweight children where she performed multiple electrophysiology data collection and analysis, and participated in research with Autism Spectrum Disorder at Yale Child Study Center, developing learning tools and research devices.

11. Germán Parada
Chemical engineer from Iowa State University, he studied with a scholarship due to his academic accomplishments. After finishing his bachelor’s he started his doctoral work at MIT, working in the Mechanical Engineering Dept. where he will obtain his PhD in 2019. His research spans the synthesis, fabrication and characterization of “soft materials”, with emphasis in the development of new technologies for medical applications with the goal of improving patient’s wellbeing and reduce clinical complications. During his time at MIT he has been involved in graduate student government, leading programs for the orientation of new students, and aiming to increase the diversity and wellbeing of the graduate student body at MIT.

12. Luz Elena Grisales
She is from Barranquilla, is just 17 years old, and is a first-year undergraduate student at MIT. She participated in Math Olympiad for five years at the international level and decided she wanted to become an academic – that’s why she, in tenth grade, set a goal that she wanted to go to MIT. She first applied for admission and once accepted, she asked for financial aid. As she stated, “The hard part is to get in”, and that’s how she fulfilled her dream. She is interested in studying math and computer science. She currently works as a lab assistant for the Fundamentals of Programming course in EECS. In addition to math and computer science she is interested in teaching.

13. Sebastián Pérez
Architect from Universidad de los Andes. He worked in urban research, corporate architectural design and housing development in Brazil and Colombia. He currently is doing a master’s in real estate development and is a researcher at the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab, where he studies the ecosystem of innovation, urban innovation and private investing as mechanisms to boost universal access to quality housing. He claims that working in a lab is one of the best options to get financial help to study in a graduate program at MIT.

14. Sebastián Palacios
Engineer of biological and electronic tools for healthcare applications. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Dept. at MIT, where he focuses on using engineering and computer science to design biological computing and controls in live cells. He received training from the MIT Neurobiological Engineering Training Program, as well as the Graduate Education in Medical Sciences program, in collaboration with the Harvard Medical School. His leadership has been recognized by MIT, he received an award from the MIT University Center of Exemplary Mentoring for excellence in his graduate work, the National Research Service Award by the National Institutes of Health for his potential to shape the future of neuroscience, among other awards. He is currently the president of the student leadership board of the Synthetic Biology Center at MIT, and is a graduate of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

By: *David Luna, former Minister of Information Technologies and Communications. 

Translation by: German Parada




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