Noubar Afeyan, Moderna co-founder, supports and encourages MIT students to seize opportunities in Armenia

Noubar Afeyan, Moderna co-founder, supports and encourages MIT students to seize opportunities in Armenia

MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) has received a three-year gift from the Afeyan Family Foundation to support student and faculty collaborations between MIT and Armenia.

“There’s a vast range of opportunities in any sector. You will see some interesting centers of excellence [in the country],” said MIT alumnus Noubar Afeyan, Co-founder & Chairman of Moderna and Founder & CEO of Flagship Pioneering, at the launch of the new MISTI program in Armenia.

Afeyan, an ethnic Armenian who has been supporting the social and economic development of Armenia for the past 22 years, encouraged MIT students to consider internship opportunities there. The currently available projects range from banking, environmental issues, urban planning, and architecture to AI, data science, gaming, and virtual reality.

Teaching opportunities are also available through MIT’s Global Teaching Labs Program. In January 2023, 20 students will travel to Armenia to teach STEM subjects at TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, American University of Armenia, Ayb School, and Yerevan State University

A post-Soviet democracy of about 3 million people, Armenia is carefully preserving its ancient history, which is longer than most European countries, while also actively developing its science, education, and high-tech.

Afeyan admitted that MIT students may not think of Armenia when choosing between 40+ other MISTI locations, which include some of the most popular destinations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. However, he encouraged them to think about the impact they could have in a country of this size.

“Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond? Armenia is a small pond. You can decide how big of a fish you can be in it but you certainly not going to get lost in the vast ocean of people and opportunity, not knowing how to get the essence of it. I think you’ll feel close to the country-level action no matter what you do there. It’s a relatively small place, and that’s, in my view, a good learning opportunity.”

In addition, Afeyan, a successful scientist-entrepreneur himself, pointed out the importance of forcing oneself to get out of their comfort zone by participating in international programs. “For most American-born, American-raised, not-much-lived-in-other-places people, I actually think that this experience of going somewhere else, being uncomfortable, becoming comfortable being uncomfortable, and adjusting is a super important life skill,” he said. He encourages the students to develop this skill which will instill a drive to progress and innovation.

MISTI is the hub for global experiences at MIT. For the past 40 years, it has worked across departments, centers, and labs throughout the Institute to enable immersive learning experiences and research opportunities for students and faculty. Programs currently offered in Armenia include summer internships, Global Teaching Labs, and Faculty Seed Funds.

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