Tag Archives: Stem

Melding Art & Science Draws Fulbrighter into Community of Kindred Spirits

By Janet Rafner, 2015-2016, Denmark

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Janet Rafner, 2015-2016, Denmark (center) with fellow Fulbright U.S. Student Natalie Hoidal (left) and Truman Fellow Jordan Went (right) attending Janet Rafner’s ‘Call Me Quantum’ Exhibition featured during Copenhagen’s Culture Night at the Niels Bohr Institute. Traversing through the exhibit, one experiences a range of phenomena such as the atomic orbitals, tunnel effect, wave particle duality and superconductivity from orthogonal perspectives. Layers of design, graphics, and illustrations unveil the scientific process, revealing the compelling and elegant physics that inspired the work. This exhibit displays contents created by the Physics Reimagined group at the University Paris Sud and The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. Design in collaboration with the students from the design school ENSCI-Les Ateliers and Ecole Estienne. (Photo Credit: Professor Robert Feidenhans’l)

While on my Fulbright grant in Interdisciplinary Studies in Denmark, I have been so fortunate to interact with passionate, dedicated like-minded people and kindred spirits across many disciplines. From creative designers and game developers to physicists, computer programmers, cognitive scientists and public outreach experts, these individuals form a unique community dedicated to enhancing science and mathematics comprehension and research outcomes. As a rule, they are intensely curious, willing to take risks and experiment, and passionate about collaborating, even when the project is only tangentially related to their core research. The result is a continuous flow of inspirational energy and a sense that anything might be possible if the right group of people come together.

In this environment where progress often comes from discovering and following unconventional paths, having great mentors has also been crucial to my Fulbright work. The process has allowed me to excel while contributing to diverse scientific and outreach projects, tapping into my own motivations and talents, and building new collaboration skills. The projects have helped me better understand how to bring the concepts of complex physics into the vernacular as well as make them accessible to a wider range of researchers. Professors Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard and Jacob Sherson, my sponsors and mentors at Aarhus University have made these projects possible – I couldn’t ask for a more supportive faculty. In coming years, I look forward to both being a mentor and having new mentors so I can continue to explore how technical tools and artistic creativity can be used to express complex concepts in science, and to share her findings internationally.

A Year of Knee Research and Social Outreach in the Rainbow Nation

By Mathieu S. Davis, 2013-2014, South Africa

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Mathieu S. Davis, 2013-2014, South Africa (center), with his Grade R class at Ikaya Primary School in the township of Kayamandi, just outside of Stellenbosch. Every Friday, he would meet with these children to teach them English and play games in collaboration with their classroom teacher. In return, they taught Mathieu Xhosa. Whether it was ‘1-2-3 Red Light’, ‘Duck-Duck-Goose’ or a chaotic game of football (soccer), a great time learning and playing together was had by all.

My Fulbright in Stellenbosch, South Africa, was divided into two primary areas: research and community outreach. The research portion of my fellowship focused on knee replacement implants and the different tribological properties of current materials used in these devices. For this project, I had to build a device that functioned as a pin-on-plate wear tester, which would generate particles over the course of time that could be measured using simple distillation techniques to determine the degree of wear particles produced. My research aimed to determine the most effective combination of materials to limit debris and particle accumulation during extensive wear testing. I also performed additional research in gait analysis as a means of biometric identification. For this project, I had to come up with a novel statistical and repeatable method that could determine through statistical principles, the likelihood that two gait profiles are similar or different. This expertise was utilized by the South African Police Department as a potential identification tool of a crime suspect.

From Two to Infinity: What the Second Detection of Gravitational Waves Tells Us About the Future

By Daniel Hoak, 2015-2016, Italy

Daniel Hoak

Daniel Hoak, 2015-2016, Italy, visiting Florence

Last month, scientists in the LIGO and Virgo scientific collaborations announced the second direct detection of gravitational waves, from the orbit and merger of a pair of black holes. The event, named GW151226, arrived in the early morning on the day after Christmas, and has been nicknamed the “Boxing Day event” by the collaborations. With a second event in hand, gravitational wave science has moved beyond the era of sensational first detection, and is evolving into a reliable tool for astronomy and physics.

I recently finished my Fulbright year working at the Virgo gravitational wave observatory outside of Pisa, Italy. The last time Virgo listened for gravitational wave was in 2011, and since then, the instrument has been off-line for a complete upgrade.

At Virgo, I’m part of the team of scientists who are putting the final touches on the upgrade. To borrow a phrase from James Merrill, our job is to make wholeness out of hodgepodge: we’re creating a functional detector from the precision equipment that has been designed and built over the last five years. We plan to have the detector on-line this winter, in time to join the two LIGO observatories in the United States as they listen for gravitational waves.

Dear Potential Fulbright Applicant

By Emily Yedinak, 2013-2014, Chile

emily yedinak

Emily Yedinak, 2013-2014, Chile

If you were anything like me, you may have heard that a Fulbright grant is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but that the application process is rigorous and very competitive. Perhaps you are filled with a lot of questions. You may even, like me, be filled with self-doubt. And for that reason, I want to share a small piece of my story.

Fulbright changed my life and I mean it changed my life in a colossal, momentous, and fantastic way. I didn’t know that when I stepped off the plane in Santiago, Chile, I was embarking on the biggest adventure of my life. I had read books about Chilean culture and history in preparation for my departure, but no book would have told me the depth of kindness I found in my peers as I slowly crawled, stumbled, and fell head-first into my Chilean life. I also would have never realized how difficult it was going to be adjusting to an entirely different world. But the incredible thing that I discovered was there were always people willing to help and guide me. The Chileans I met not only accepted me, but treated me like family – whether it was taking care of me when I was sick, helping me grocery shop and cook dinner after I had dislocated my shoulder, or lending me money when my wallet was stolen. The connections I made transcended cultural boundaries.

Building a Fulbright Partnership: Promoting Diversity in STEM Fields

By Schuyler Allen, Senior Program Officer, Fulbright Student Program Outreach and Dr. Luz Claudio, Chief of the Division of International Health, Department of Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Mt. Sinai Group - 2016

The 2016 cohort of Mount Sinai’s International Exchange Program for Minority Students visiting the Institute of International Education (from left to right, back row): Grant Quiller, Andrew Fisher, Hanna Amanuel, Lanaiar Lett, Waru Gichane, Liz Alvarez, Rayven Plaza, Taylor Jamerson, Mayra Orozco-Llamas; (front row, left to right): Ala Mansour and Natalie Fernandez.

Ten years ago, Athena Fulay, Senior Manager for Institutional Engagement at the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and my longtime outreach colleague from the Fulbright Scholar Program, forwarded a request she’d received to host a pre-departure orientation focusing on Fulbright opportunities for a group of minority graduate students pursuing degrees in the health sciences. Since none of the students held PhDs, and therefore wouldn’t be eligible for Fulbright Scholar opportunities, Athena felt it made more sense for me to handle the request and investigate further. I proceeded to respond to the request and asked the Mount Sinai contact about the composition of the group, the program they represented, and how we could best provide whatever information they needed.

In my subsequent email exchanges, I learned quite a bit: Founded in 2005 by Dr. Luz Claudio, Chief of the Division of International Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the group was called the International Exchange Program for Minority Students. Since its inception, the International Exchange Program for Minority Students has been receiving funding from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and in 2010 and in 2015, it was re-evaluated and deemed to be an “outstanding” program at the highest NIH score level.