Junior Emily O’Rourke traveled to South Africa to investigate epidemics and returned with a broader outlook on her fundamental disease research.
Growing up in El Paso, Texas near the border of the U.S. and Mexico, Emily O’Rourke could venture across cultures in less time than it takes most people to commute to work. In fact, her dad would make this short trip each day for his job as a mechanical engineer. Watching him cross over so frequently reminded O’Rourke that “ideas and skills don’t stop at the border.” O’Rourke herself would visit Mexico to see relatives, and these experiences seeded aspirations to spearhead international scientific collaborations. Now a junior in Course 7 (Biology), O’Rourke is continuing to add stamps to her passport while exploring the global implications of disease research.
O’Rourke chose MIT because it offered a particularly wide array of study abroad programs, in addition to having top-tier research opportunities. One such study abroad program, MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), operates 25 regional programs, matching undergraduate and graduate students with fully-funded internship, research, and teaching opportunities in over 40 countries. The summer after her first year, O’Rourke participated in MISTI’s MIT-Italy Program in order to gain some research experience in the realm of urban planning. For six weeks, she investigated the urban effects of sea level rise while living in Venice.