In a local farmers market, colorful t-shirts hang from hooks proudly proclaiming, in the words of William Faulkner, “To understand the world, you have to understand a place like Mississippi.” As a More »
My journey to New York University (NYU) to pursue graduate training in dance education started when I was still young. My artistic creativity, performance dexterity and exposure to dance artistry were nurtured More »
As a physicist, I study cosmic rays—high-energy particles that zip around the universe. If scientists are lucky, these cosmic rays land on detectors set up on the ground. For my Fulbright grant, More »
By Jet M. J. Vonk, 2013-2014, The Netherlands
When doing your Ph.D. on a Fulbright grant in New York, prepare for busy times. But, in a way, you probably wouldn’t want it any other way. I am busy with seminars, starting new projects and writing papers on ongoing projects so I can submit them for publication, among other things. And, I am busy meeting rock stars. Well, the scientific versions of them. In other words: my kind of heroes and celebrities.
The scientific community is a different world with its own idols. What are the similarities between scientific rock stars and traditional celebrities? Movie stars and musicians appear in magazines and tabloids researchers do, too, but those are called ‘scientific journals.’ People travel to meet and greet movie stars and musicians—researchers do, too, but those are called ‘conferences.’ And if you want to become someone important, you follow the example of your idol. It is not for nothing that I moved to New York on a Fulbright grant to work with Dr. Loraine Obler. She has been the hero of neurolinguistic research on language and the aging brain for decades. Yes, I am doing my Ph.D. with the scientific version of Madonna.
In a similar vein, scientific conferences are sort of comparable to the Oscars and Grammys. A few big shots are invited to perform as the main acts (read: give a spiel about their research). The rest of the program includes oral or poster presentations, and everybody brings each other up to speed about the latest ins and outs in research land. The venue is filled with major names that jovially greet each other. Every now and then, the minor names, like me, nudge each other while saying, “Look, there goes so-and-so. And hey, there’s that-one-guy.”
By Ernest Chivero, 2010-2013, International Fulbright Science &Technology Fellow from Zimbabwe
I came to the United States on an International Fulbright Science & Technology Award to pursue a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Iowa (Iowa) in 2010. Following a welcome reception hosted by the Iowa Chapter of the Fulbright Association and the University of Iowa International Programs office, an Iowan said, “Welcome to Iowa, we have both culture and agriculture!” My time as a Fulbrighter has indeed been a great cultural and academic experience – including getting to know the famous Iowa cornfields!
My academic experience at Iowa has been exceedingly fruitful and exciting. I have been studying how viruses interact with the immune system at the molecular level, and how findings can be translated into new, improved immune-based therapies. I have always wondered what happens when two pathogens infect the same host at the same time. I imagine it’s a fierce territorial battle! Our body is one such host in cases of HIV, GB virus C, Hepatitis C virus, or Tuberculosis co-infections. Dr. Jack Stapleton’s laboratory at Iowa has given me an opportunity to study why HIV-infected people co-infected with GB virus C survive longer than people who are only HIV-infected. To better understand GBV-C’s protective effects in HIV-infected people, I characterize immune cells targeted by GBV-C for infection and how their activation pathways and functions are affected. Our lab and others have shown that GBV-C infection reduces the activation of immune cells and I believe that understanding the mechanisms of GBV-C modulation of immune cell activation may lead to novel ways to treat HIV-induced immune activation and inflammation.
By Catherine Sheard, 2012-2013, United Kingdom
Once every two weeks, I leave the office early, walk down to the field behind my department, and score-keep a cricket match. Cricket enthusiasts are almost exclusively fit, well-coordinated middle-aged men from the Commonwealth, which I most definitely am not. It turns out that you don’t need to be able to actually play cricket in order to score it. You just need to count accurately, to bellow loudly, and to stay sober until the end of the match; something I, a brash non-drinker with a degree in mathematics, can handle.
After almost a year of living in the United Kingdom—and almost an entire season of cricket—I now know my wickets from my overs and my byes from my leg byes, not to mention my “pants” from my “trousers” and my “chips” from my “crisps.” I came to England on a Fulbright Study/Research grant to begin a Ph.D. in Zoology, based at the University of Oxford’s Grey Institute of Ornithology, and here I have learned much about birds, sports, and life itself.
If you do it properly, earning a Ph.D. is a lot like scoring cricket. There’s a lot of tedium, yes, but then there’s also a lot of excitement. I spend about half of my time programming a computer to simulate avian evolution and the other half measuring the dusty carcasses of birds killed in the 1800’s, but really, what I’m studying is sexual selection, the reproductive success of a creature determined by how melodious its song is or how brightly colored its feathers are. Comparing Cricket to my research, there are always going to be dot ball moments, times where a worthy ball is ‘bowled’ but without a run resulting from it. But there are also the ‘sixes’ (an automatic six run score from hitting the boundary mark) when the batter’s on 29 runs, which can be as exciting as the simulation that finally runs and condenses pages of code and megabytes of data into a simple statistical statement about evolution.