When Netia McCray left for Brazil, she didn’t realize how this first small step abroad to work as a physics laboratory intern would lead her to a global career in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship
Political Science and Applied International Studies Major Netia McCray enjoying her first World Cup amongst her Physics laboratory colleagues in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.


Nanotechnology is an exciting new field which involves collaboration between various departments and researchers. It is currently being used to create flexible e-paper, soldier equipment, and scientists are now exploring the possibility of using it to create a space elevator. UFMG (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais) is home to one of Brazil’s top Department of Physics. The Physics Department is Brazil’s leader in carbon nanotube research being home to several world famous Nanotube Researchers including Prof. Marcos Pimenta. At UFMG, researchers are currently exploring various nanotube samples (provided by MIT Nanotube researchers Prof. Dresselhaus & Prof. Strano) in order to identify various properties or characteristics present in the sample (e.g. the purity of the sample, light absorption, etc.).


This was the environment that MIT Senior Netia McCray found herself in June 2010, working with carbon nanotubes in order to assist in the identification of their characteristics for her UFMG and MIT colleagues. The farthest place she had ever dreamed of visiting as a child was NYC. MIT-Brazil allowed for her to realize that there are also opportunities beyond the borders of States. Netia’s ‘world’ kept expanding to include new languages, new people, new places, and countries. She was encountering brilliant young minds with ground-breaking research with real-world applications. In her words, it was a ‘brave new world’ that opened up to her with her MIT-Brazil experience.

At the conclusion of her internship with UFMG, Netia returned to MIT determined to help Brazil foster its innovative and entrepreneurial talent. She founded an organization, Mbadika (which means ‘idea’ in Kimbundu) in order to help aspiring young innovators and entrepreneurs turn their ideas into solutions for the challenges facing themselves and their communities.  


In June 2011, she returned to Belo Horizonte to launch a pilot program for Mbadika in collaboration with MISTI, called Kixibu, in order to foster innovation and entrepreneurship amongst high school students interested in STEM. At the end of the pilot program, 25 Brazilian students successfully pitched their ideas to UFMG faculty and students and the program was relaunched as Diiaki. Diiaki workshops have now taken place through Latin America (e.g. Brazil, Chile, and Mexico) and continues to expand into Sub-Saharan Africa.

Now in her Senior year, Netia has continued to explore this ‘brave new world’ through the various academic and extra-curricular offerings provided by the Institute and MIT-Brazil. She is currently pursuing a degree in Political Science with a Minor in Applied International Studies as well as continuing to expand her organization around the world.  

  • Brazil
  • Internship
  • Humanities & Social Sciences