WSU College of Engineering welcomes five TU Graz students to Detroit

Graz Students 2016The Wayne State University College of Engineering welcomed to campus this week five international students participating in the Study Abroad program in conjunction with Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) in Austria. These students, all of whom are visiting Detroit – and some, the United States – for the first time, will spend the next six weeks studying and taking on research projects alongside several top WSU faculty members.

Thomas Bohnstingl, Johanna Ranninger, Peter Schuster, Julia Wasserbacher and Andreas Wurm were greeted Monday on their first official day on campus by faculty and staff from the College of Engineering, including Associate Dean Simon Ng, who initiated this exchange program with TU Graz over three years ago.

Ng sees the potential for the program to enhance the international reach of WSU through research and collaboration.

“One of my goals for this program is to see more of our students and faculty connect with theirs on various research projects,” said Ng, who noted that the exchange with TU Graz is one of several successful exchange programs the College of Engineering offers. Students have participated in programs through partnerships in China, France and Spain, among others.

“I also see this as a great networking opportunity for our students,” added Ng.

Despite being from the same university, the students had not previously met. They arrived on July 8 and spent the weekend getting to know one another and exploring Detroit. The shared experience of being in a foreign land, and both the excitement and trepidation that goes along with it, will likely galvanize friendships between this group, which Ng feels is another positive result of this program.

TU Graz selected the group through a process that allowed the university to evaluate qualified applicants against a list of over 20 potential research projects presented by Ng and other WSU faculty. As a result, the research projects and programs with which they intersect are varied. For instance, while Ranninger will work with Dr. Eranda Nikolla (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) on the development of electrocatalysts for conversion of carbon dioxide and water to hydrocarbon fuels, Wurm is positioned to join Dr. Xuewen Chen (Computer Science) in studying Big Data applications.

Graz, which is the second-largest city in Austria, is located 120 miles southwest of the capital, Vienna – and 4,500 miles east of Detroit. One of eight institutions of higher education in the city, TU Graz combines its research into five fields of expertise: advanced materials science; human and biotechnology; information, communication and computing; mobility and production; and sustainable systems.

Ng believes the similarities in focus areas between Wayne State and TU Graz, particularly the connections to the automotive industry, are part of what makes the relationship between the institutions unique. This connection is not lost on Wasserbacher, who’s focused her studies at TU Graz on vehicle safety and will be working with Dr. King-Hay Yang (Biomedical Engineering) during her six-week visit to Wayne State.

“I feel Wayne State and Detroit are a great match for my interest in automotive engineering,” said Wasserbacher, who noted innovative ideas such as the WSU Tolerance Curve as a reason Wayne State was on her radar as a place to study.

Not only is the synergy in research appealing to these students, but also the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture and brush up on their English-speaking skills.

“I’ve always wanted to visit the United States and see how people are living and working here,” said Bohnstingl, who is working with Dr. Mark Cheng (Electrical and Computer Engineering) on the development of flexible sensors and electronics. Bohnstingl hopes his research will advance treatment options in hospitals and the health care industry.

“It’s great to learn the language and talk to native speakers. We don’t get those opportunities in our country,” said Schuster, who plans to research additive manufacturing with Dr. Guru Dinda (Mechanical Engineering) and hopes to visit Washington, D.C., before returning to Graz. “This is a great opportunity because it opens your mind to new cultures. I think that’s very important for personal development.”

Ng noted that this group is the largest to come from TU Graz so far, and is optimistic that there will be a high level of reciprocation from Wayne State students in the future who see the benefits of an opportunity to visit Austria.

For more information on Wayne State University’s Study Abroad and Global Programs, visit studyabroad.wayne.edu.