ICE—International Basic Science Experience

The International Collaboration and Exchange Program is a unique international student networking and exchange program that is specifically designed for preclinical medical and dental students.

Led by Columbia University, the program is a multi-school collaboration between leading universities on four continents. Students interact, collaborate, and socialize with peers from these universities, and will have the opportunity to travel abroad for summer research internships.

Participating countries are Australia (University of Sydney, Sydney), Austria (Medical University of Vienna, Vienna), Canada (McGill University, Montreal, QC), Denmark (University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen), Finland (University of Helsinki, Helsinki), France (University Paris Descartes, Paris), Germany (1. Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, 2. Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich), Japan (1. Kyoto University, Kyoto, 2. Tokyo Women’s Medical University, Tokyo), Taiwan (National Taiwan University, Taipei), the United Kingdom (1. Cambridge University, Cambridge, 2. King’s College, London), and the United States (Columbia University, New York).

The program is a voluntary program and accessible to all preclinical medical and dental students in the respective partner schools. The program is aimed at students with interest in basic sciences research, students with future professional leadership aspirations, and students with interest in international work. Prospective students will be selected by faculty members in the respective partner countries via internal selection processes.

The program is anchored in the anatomy course, but work and voluntary assignments go beyond the teaching of anatomy and its related topics, and include areas of comparative health care, differences in health care delivery systems, comparison of Public Health challenges, health ethics, and health law.

The format of the program is divided into several parts:

  1. Small-Group Work: Beginning in the fall semester, students meet online for one semester to work in small groups during several structured sessions. Small groups typically consist of 3-5 students from three countries (typically, at least one each from North America, Europe, and Asia/Australia). Topics include comparison of anatomy courses/curricula, differences in international health care education and delivery, global/public health challenges, and differences in health ethics and health law. Students reflect on anatomy related topics, work on a collaborative small group paper, and create a video and slide presentation together. Because they only work with a limited number of students in small groups, they connect and socialize with the larger group via a closed social media site. This early interaction provides opportunities for intercultural awareness and early networking.
  2. Large Conferences: Toward the end of the semester all groups present their collaborative small group work to each other at two large international virtual conferences, with all students and faculty participating. The above includes a country and culture specific presentation by selected national student leaders, and the introduction of upcoming student exchange visit participants. The conferences provide an opportunity for practicing skills in international public speaking (and listening). The online conferences end in early spring.
  3. Student Exchanges: Subsequently, in summer the students travel to the partner countries to perform short-term basic sciences research in reputable research laboratories (duration of 1-3 months), and to socialize with their peers in the host country. Students help each other with travel logistics, accommodations, leisure activities, and help incoming students with immersion into academic life in the host countries.
    Incoming students provide each campus with a rich cultural exchange among students, mingling socially with their international peers during their research time (e.g., museum/concert/opera visits, walking tours of the city, boat rides, private parties, etc.).
    After completion of the exchanges, in the fall semester, students are invited to present their research data at their school’s research symposia. Presenting international research data during this early phase of their careers helps students to familiarize themselves with data presentation and boosts self-confidence.
  4. Networking: Students are expected to remain in contact with their established network of colleagues after completion of this program, in order to facilitate building life-long collegial friendships among future health care leaders.