Aaron went to Brazil and returned inspired to make a difference in the world via renewable solar energy


As a sophomore in Materials Science and Engineering, Aaron had seen many exciting and innovative technologies and topics in his field, but lacking experience, didn’t know where he should dedicate himself. Thanks to an earlier opportunity, between his Freshman and Sophomore years, he had to spend two years in Brazil, and back at MIT he found out about the MISTI-Brazil program. He didn't think twice when he realized he could gain insight into what was his true passion in Materials Science in Brazil. He quickly accepted an opportunity at CSEM-Brasil in Belo Horizonte. "I joined the team working on a project to improve the efficiency of organic photovoltaic devices via optimization of the hole transport layer.”


“As soon as I arrived at CSEM-Brasil, I felt right at home.” After a couple of weeks of training and learning Aaron was able to dedicate himself to his project. Organic electronics was a very new area to him, and he had little experience in experimental work, but with the help of the experienced international team at CSEM-Brasil he made quick progress.

Aaron's supervisor confirms: “Aaron was our first MISTI student. He was extremely dedicated and succeeded beyond our expectations. The biggest challenge he faced was to understand the technology CSEM works with. The topic is quite new, so Aaron had to review the basic literature and understand it before he could start working. He managed to overcome this challenge quite quickly, and started the main project with a good timing.

The internship was a real win-win: the student learned a new work, culture and way to work. CSEM Brasil gained a good worker with a new perspective. (Tatiana Augusto, supervisor at CSEM)


Though unable to finish the project in the short summer, Aaron was able to contribute to the company’s understanding of how to improve the hole transport layer, which is sure to aid in their production of flexible, light, and cheap organic solar panels that will certainly become a major player in the energy industry.


But it wasn’t just all work and no play for Aaron while he was in Brazil. Living with a host family improved his cultural experience and helped him to polish his fluency in Portuguese. This great family took him to several nearby locations and cities inside and outside of the Belo Horizonte where he was able to experience the beauty, history, and talent of Brazil and Brazilians. And what a fabulous World Cup! “It felt natural and great to cheer with the locals for Brazil’s success and victory, and also share their sadness during the terrible defeat to Germany.”

Aaron returned to MIT with new drive and purpose. He is now eager to build upon his broadening experience in Brazil by continuing his studies in photovoltaics as well as maintaining and building upon his international connections. He looks forward to opportunities to perform further research with solar cells both at MIT and Oxford University, and is already counting the days to his next visit to Brazil: hopefully the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.


This amazing experience was only possible thanks to the organization and preparation of the MISTI program, which allows students like me to find their passion in engaging internships in addition to broadening their perspective of and connecting them to other cultures, languages, and lifestyles. (Aaron Downward, MISTI-Brazil'14)


  • Brazil
  • Internship
  • Materials