University of Rochester

New Study Abroad Program in Israel Caters to Engineers

December 2, 1997

The University of Rochester has joined the ranks of fewer than a dozen schools nationwide offering programs that allow engineering students to take technical courses abroad. The University will send two pioneering students to a semester at ORT-Braude, an engineering college in Israel, in spring 1998.

Rochester is one of only two American universities -- along with the University of Pittsburgh -- to offer engineering courses through study-abroad programs in Israel. The University hopes to quickly expand the program for its own students, as well as those from other schools.

"Study-abroad programs have traditionally catered to students in the humanities and social sciences, but there are also advantages for engineers in studying abroad," says John Lambropoulos, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "With large companies becoming increasingly multi-national, engineers working for those firms will be working with -- or competing against -- fellow engineers all over the world. Seeing how engineers work in other parts of the world is a major opportunity."

In the past, Rochester engineering students' rigorous course work meant that they -- like their peers at most other universities -- could only study abroad during summers or by taking a semester off from engineering, delaying graduation.

"I really wanted to study abroad when I entered college, and was even thinking of taking a semester outside engineering to do it," says Joe Randi, a mechanical engineering major from Potsdam, N.Y., who plans to head to ORT-Braude in the spring. "But the opportunity to continue studying engineering while away is much more appealing."

Doug Laity, a chemical engineering major from Richland, Wash., who will join Randi, adds, "The classes will be the same at either place, so why not go? Of all the places on the globe, Israel is definitely as interesting to me as any. I'm extremely interested in the Israeli/Palestinian turmoil and the feelings, thoughts, actions, and history behind it."

For the same cost as a semester at Rochester, students attend classes alongside their Israeli counterparts, eat meals in ORT-Braude's cafeteria, and even get a feel for Israeli dormitories, which feature basic maid service.

ORT-Braude also offers an academic opportunity not available at Rochester: courses in biotechnology, a field described by Lambropoulos as a cross between biomedical and environmental engineering. Through this department, Laity will take a course not available at Rochester on wastewater management systems. Both he and Randi will take standard sophomore-level physics, differential equations, and fluids courses; Randi will also take a class in thermodynamics.

The ORT-Braude program is intended for second-semester sophomores majoring in computer science or mechanical, chemical, or electrical engineering, although some students in other stages of undergraduate engineering programs can also take part. Instruction is in English: Most ORT-Braude faculty members are fluent in the language, and many were schooled in the United States.

Randi and Laity were selected from a number of students who expressed interest in the ORT-Braude program. Lambropoulos hopes that soon four to six Rochester students each year and an equal number from other universities will be able to participate.

The exchange between Rochester and ORT-Braude isn't just in one direction. Students from ORT-Braude began spending semesters at Rochester last fall, and an ORT-Braude faculty member is on sabbatical at the University this year. Uri Ben-Hanan, chair of ORT-Braude's mechanical engineering department, is now supervising an undergraduate laboratory at the University, and will teach a course in the spring.