Partnership Builds Critical Mass in ICT

 Portuguese Minister and State Secretary at CMU April 2010 

On a recent visit to Carnegie Mellon, the Portuguese Minister and the State Secretary for Science, Technology, and Higher Education witnessed how the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program is pushing an ambitious agenda in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). 


Mariano Gago and Manuel Heitor, respectively Portuguese Minister and State Secretary for Science, Technology, and Higher Education, visited Carnegie Mellon University in April, 2010. The purpose of the visit was to participate in the XI Annual PAPS Forum, and also to meet with the students, researchers, and program coordinators who are involved in the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program. The goal was to hear about their current achievements and future plans for the partnership.

The following key questions were asked: (i) Is the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program building critical mass in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and (ii) is the engagement between researchers and students authentic, strong and sustainable? The answer given by all the participants in the meetings with the Minister and the State Secretary was an enthusiastic “Yes”. In different ways and levels, students and researchers are working side-by-side to develop their work, and to contribute to the economic development of Portugal. 

Minister with Students at CMU 

During their visit, the Minister and the State Secretary had the opportunity to talk with the 24 dual degree Ph.D. and Professional Master students that are currently at Carnegie Mellon University. The students talked about their experience, research fields, advisor’s role, and goals for the future. They agreed that this is a very demanding, challenging and hard program that prepares them for the academic or industrial world. In February 2010, the program graduated 60 students that are now agents of change in their companies. “I am delighted to know that each one of you is motivated and engaged with researchers and professors from [not only] the Portuguese universities, but also from Carnegie Mellon University,” Gago said, addressing the students.

Heitor also took time to meet with five faculty members from Portuguese universities enrolled in the Faculty Exchange program in the scope of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program, sponsored by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT). These faculty members are spending the spring term 2010 at Carnegie Mellon University, where they are teaching courses, carrying out research projects, and some of them are writing joint papers. All of them agreed that this is an experience very enriching at all levels - both personal and professional. These young faculty members are looking for various practices that can be implemented at their home universities when the exchange is completed. For example, one “easy” change might be to encourage the presence of white boards in public spaces, like corridors or halls. This is a simple step that can enhance student discussions.

Heitor met with groups working in Computer Science (CS), Language Technologies (LTI), Engineering and Public Policy (EPP), and Technological Change and Entrepreneurship (TCE). “Now the goal is to give sustainability, to evolve and to optimize the partnership,” said Heitor.

May 2010