STEM graduates ready for global job market

Ricardo Peterson in Paris

New college graduates with a STEM degree, fluency in a foreign language and cross-cultural experience are just the people major international companies are looking to recruit.

Undergraduates in the first cohort of NAU’s Global Science and Engineering Program will walk across the stage in the Skydome next week during commencement with two degrees and a yearlong professional experience abroad in their pockets.

“Initially, what motivated me to join the program was the desire to leave this country for a year and travel, and to speak another language fluently,” said Ricardo Peterson, a senior electrical engineering and French major who spent a year abroad in Paris. “It wasn’t until I was in Paris when I realized how the experience was also opening multiple doors to my STEM career and preparing me for a global marketplace.” Peterson participated in a research assistantship at l’Institut Superieur D’Electronique and worked to implement energy efficient transistors into memory storage circuits known as static random access memories or static RAMs.

After three years of foreign language study and courses in their chosen STEM discipline, the program’s scholars spend their fourth year abroad, immersed in the culture of another country. That year begins at the partner university, with courses usually taught in their chosen foreign language that count toward graduation at NAU. Students spend the remainder of the year engaged in hands-on training in their field of study through a six-month research internship in that country.

Lane Fujikado, center, poses with fellow colleagues during his internship at Trymedia in Spain where he was developing software to help the testing department more efficiently run tests on video games.

At the end of the five years, the student earns two bachelor’s degrees, a certificate in International Science and Engineering, fluency in a second language and essential job skills.

“These are exceptional STEM graduates who are prepared to compete for the top jobs in the modern global workplace,” said Eck Doerry, computer science professor and the program’s director.

Peterson along with Lane Fujikado and Yaeren Hernandez will be three of the first students to graduate from the program.

Fujikado, a senior studying computer science and Spanish, spent a year in Spain studying at the University of Alicante and interning for Trymedia, a software company that preps video games from producers all over the world for marketing and distribution.

The main focus of his internship project was developing software to help the testing department more efficiently run tests on games. The software he developed automates some of the testing processes for making sure a game installs properly, the trial version works, the game has the correct licensing, the game is able to be uninstalled and more.

Yaeren Hernandez trained to do RNA isolations from embryonic zebra fish eggs during her internship at the Max-Plank Institute in Tübingen, Germany.

Fujikado said the program taught him how to adapt his work ethic, priorities and schedules to work in a global context. “I think the experience will help me adapt quickly to whatever work environments I am presented with in my career, whether it be working with a language I am not familiar with, using different development software, working in teams and taking into account a different variety of needs and goals.”

Hernandez, a senior majoring in biomedical science and German, spent a year in Tübingen, Germany. She studied at the Eberhard Karls University and researched development biology at the Max-Plank Institute in Tübingen.

“The program offered everything I was interested in, and they offered support to study abroad and get an internship,” Hernandez said. “I really wanted to make my German language more professional and my year abroad helped with that.”

The Global Science and Engineering Program launched in 2011 with 35 participants, and has nearly doubled in size every year. Any full-time STEM major can enroll in the fee-free program.

There are currently more than 150 students enrolled in the program for fall 2015 and that number is expected to grow. Many students have come to NAU from around the nation to participate.