When Beth began her internship at a robotics lab in Paris, she expected to be teaching machines to understand the world. In the end, she taught herself to understand the world.
Beth will always remember the words a French colleague wrote to her – “You are very open in spirit and that’s a gauge of great intelligence. You have a brilliant future ahead of you.”

Assistive technologies

As a computer science major, Beth had engaged in a wide variety of software and research projects.  However, her experience at the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Lab of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris sparked her interest in a new domain: assistive technologies. Her work contributed to the on-going research project “Intelligent Glasses: a multimodal assistance for visually impaired mobility” led by Professor Pissaloux of the ISIR lab.

The second day of her internship, Beth learned some difficult news: due to extenuating circumstances beyond the lab’s control, she would never be provided a physical tactile device to work and test with. “Learning that I would not be able to ever test my work on a real device was a surprise, but not a setback. Thanks to my MIT education, I adapted quickly and problem solved.” The following week, she had built a MATLAB simulator that replicated the functionality of the matrix as a black box. With this hurdle behind her, she progressed quickly and ultimately contributed vast and modular code architecture useful to future researchers on the project.

French culture

But Beth’s research experience was just one part of her memorable summer. “I wanted to really live in France, not as a tourist but as a Parisienne” she said. She was inspired to engage in the French culture and language thanks to the French courses she had taken while at MIT, the MISTI Training Sessions, and her participation with the MIT Language Conversation Exchange program. Her immersive experience was grounded in her living community; she lived in a French foyer where she encouraged cultural and language exchange by organizing group dinners and a crepe night. She also engaged in the Paris community in creative ways: she spent 30 hours volunteering at a social center serving low-income families of Paris, and she explored the countryside of France and met new friends. “By meeting so many new people, I learned that every individual has a story, and it is these stories that constitute a community, a region, a country, and ultimately our world.”

French culture at MIT

Upon returning to the states, Beth realized what an incredibly broadening experience her summer had been. “I feel as though I have gained a completely new perspective of who I am, and how I relate to others.” This new perspective is reflected in her research interests – she is now seeking projects to develop assistive technologies. She is also sharing her love for the French language and culture on campus where she leads biweekly French dinner conversation groups in her dorm.

“My rewarding summer experience is merely a reflection of the magnificent MISTI program, which not only enables immersive experiences but also encourages students to engage in their new communities through language and culture understanding.”

  • France
  • Internship
  • EECS