ciee - council on international educational exchange

Professional Internship Program

BAFF News Blog

Learn more about the organization and past events.

5 posts from May 2017


BAFF intern contributes to Alzheimer's research

Estonian intern, Kelli Somelar, has fulfilled her internship at the Department of Systems Medicine and Bioengineering at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. While immersed in this interdisciplinary research team involved in novel drug discovery for Alzheimer's Disease,  Kelli has been trained on the etiology and biological mechanism of Alzheimer's disease, and has been researching the characterization of drug compounds identified by the neuro-drug discovery team of the Chao Center for BRAIN. Kelli was under the direct supervision of Dr. Stephen Wong, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Systems Medicine and Bioengineering Department.  The new skills that Kelli has gained throughout her internship include characterization of small molecule compounds, animal behavior testing of neurodegeneration, as well as the utilization  of tools and databases for these area of research.

Kelli comments about her internship experience: "I am very grateful and happy for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful program. I gained a lot of professional knowledge, life experience, friends and contacts who work in the medical field. It was definitely useful and very motivating for my future career. The Texas Medical Center, Houston and United States was an enriching environment for growing as a professional and a person."

Upon her return to Estonia, Kelli plans to prepare for the entrance exams for the PhD program at the University of Tartu.  BAFF. Kelli Somelar  farewell lunch BAFF  Kelli Somelar  poster presentation. JPG BAFF. Kelli Somelar


Kristina Gelzinyte at the University of California Santa Barbara

Lithuanian intern, Kristina Gelzinyte, has spent her internship at University of California Santa Barbara. Her role has centered on the designing and growth to characterization, analysis, and result publishing of nitride light emitting diodes (LEDs), and participated in and conducted the growth processes, structural and optical characterization. Kristina said, "This program is perfect. I got so much personal and professional experience. I will continue collaboration with my American colleagues when I come back home."
Kristina Gelzinyte
Kristina Gelzinyte at the Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center conference at University of California Santa Barbara

In the words of Rolands Bogdanovs: a BAFF internship experience

The main project that I was working on for the whole year was ‘Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korean Political Prisons’, which culminated in a day-long hearing at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) on 8 December 2016.  The hearing was open to the public and also live-streamed on the World Wide Web.  Well over 100 people attended the hearing, including representatives of leading NGOs, lawyers, academics, U.S. and non-U.S. government officials, embassy personnel, journalists and students.

Three internationally renowned jurists presided over the hearing: Navanethem Pillay (Chair), Mark B. Harmon, and Thomas Buergenthal (the “Judicial Tribunal”).  Collectively, these jurists have served on the International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  Notably, it was during Ms. Pillay’s tenure as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that the COI conducted its investigation and issued its landmark report.   Evidence of human rights violations by the DPRK was presented by members of the IBA’s War Crimes Committee and other counsel who specialize in international criminal and human rights law: Federica D’Alessandra; Steven Kay, QC; Gregory W. Kehoe; and Kirsty Sutherland (the “Prosecution”).

Ruth Wedgwood, Professor of International Law and Diplomacy at Johns Hopkins, stated in her remarks opening the hearing that this Inquiry was “not an ordinary academic gathering, but a purposive act of bearing witness.”  The hearing first featured live testimony from three North Korean defectors: Defector No. 1, Kang Cheol Hwan, a former prisoner who spent ten years in a prison camp before escaping from North Korea in 1992; Defector No. 2, a former regime official who asked that his name be withheld and to testify behind a screen during the hearing to maintain his anonymity; and Defector No. 3, Choi Hyun Jin, a former official in the State Security Department whose responsibilities included identification of alleged spies against the DPRK.    

The second part of the hearing featured expert testimony from two experts on the DPRK’s political prison camps and its penal system more generally: Kenneth Gause, Director of the International Affairs Group, CAN Analysis & Solutions; and David Hawk, a consultant for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.  Both have written extensively on North Korea and are widely regarded as among the world’s leading experts on the aforementioned topics. 20161208_190951

This picture is taken after the event at a dinner reception for the organizers and participants. I’m standing with a partner at Hogan Lovells, who helped us immensely with the legal analysis part, and also one of the North Korean defectors.


I had the absolute honor to meet one of the most eminent justices in Australia and also globally - Justice Michael Kirby. We sat down to discuss crimes against humanity in North Korea as he is a field expert and led the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


I participated in a week long Enrichment and Development program (I-LEAD), which was organized by CIEE and The United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It was an unforgettable week long experience with 61 people from 27 different countries and throughout the week we got to know each other, made new friends and improved our leadership skills.


Throughout the year I spent in America, I was travelling a lot and visited almost half of the United States (23 states). Travelling across different states, although within a single country, was a mind-bending experience, because the diversity in it is insane. One can find everything from huge skyscrapers and cities to canyons, rivers, oceans, lakes and forests. I can easily say that I managed to experience it all, although there is still a few things left on my checklist, but that’s for another time.


While traveling across the West coast with an amazing group of Baltic guys (Vytautas from Lithuania, Johannes from Estonia and Mareks from Latvia) we saw some of the most scenic places and the most beautiful National Parks. We had an incredible time and it was a prefect way for me to end my fellowship and my stay in the US.


Latvian Intern at University of Minnesota

Latvian intern, Igor Sepelevs, shares a few experiences at his internship with the Food Science and Nutrition team at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Igor's internship has focused on better understanding how to protect and deliver functional food bioactives to the consumer. Igor states, "This program is one of my greatest experiences so far. I learned a lot and got hands-on experience in managing the lab, working on high-end equipment, and another University's tasks that I fulfilled. It is specially valuable as for now I would like to have academic career."
Gary's group 2
Participants of Dinner Evening dedicated to food safety
Igor's science team at University of Minnesota
Igor at the Flavor Technology Lab, tasting juice samples


Intern at Preview of Collective Design Fair

Estonian Ann Mirjam Vaikla, has shared photos of her experience at the VIP preview of New York's Collective Design Fair. Ann assisted in representing Storefront for Art and Architecture, her Host Company since June 2016, in the presentation of three limited and specially commissioned works at the fair: the L-Ruler, Lite-Scapes SF, and Marilyn

Ann states, "The event was vibrant and it was interesting to see how a gallery like Storefront for Art and Architecture entered a design scene by participating in the fair for the first time. When representing the works I was fortunate to talk with many interesting people from around the world. The fair will take place until the end of the week."

Ann Mirjam Vaikla


Image courtesy of Storefront for Art and Architecture
Collective Design Fair entrance: layers of shimmering foil fringe over a plywood rib frame.
Collective Design Fair Premier