Fulbright Student Program Blog

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Fun with Microscopic Living Creatures on Fulbright


Seanghuoy Ho, 2012-2014, Cambodia examining antibacterial compounds’ efficacy against the bacterial community known as “biofilm” in the laboratory at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

In honor of the United Nations’ International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are re-sharing Cambodian Fulbrighter Seanghuoy Ho’s post about her journey towards becoming a microbiologist, the research she conducted during her grant at Rutgers University, and how she plans on sharing her work back home in Cambodia.

When I was a little girl, I once watched a science program on TV in which I saw people wearing long white coats and goggles, holding long, round tubes. The tubes contained cloudy solutions and the people were viewing these solutions under machines called microscopes. I learned from that TV show that those solutions contained bacteria and that they were living creatures. Bacteria come in different shapes and colors, and need food, oxygen and specific temperatures in order to survive. As a kid, I was excited to learn more about these tiny creatures, even though at that time, I had no clue as to why people would want to study them. I dreamed about becoming a scientist one day and conducting research on these wonderful, tiny living things.

Now, thanks to a Fulbright Foreign Student grant, I am a master’s degree student in microbiology at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Since my childhood, I’ve learned a great deal about microbes, specifically bacteria. I realize that I mostly saw bacteria on TV when they caused an outbreak. The majority of bacteria, however, are harmless and even beneficial to human beings. Antibiotics, chemical compounds produced by particular bacteria and used to treat many diseases, are one typical example of their benefits.

Faces of Southern Tech Women

Fulbright-MTP Participant from Cambodia, Pichleap Sok (left), interviews Sia Karamalegos, an instructor at Tech Talent South in New Orleans.

Fulbright-MTP Participant from Cambodia, Pichleap Sok (left), interviews Sia Karamalegos, an instructor at Tech Talent South in New Orleans.

“It’s been a great ride so far, but rest assured, the best is yet to come,” said Patrick Dowd, founder and CEO of the Millennial Train Project (MTP). I couldn’t agree more. Even though the train journey came to an end, our individual journey had just begun.

It feels so good to be home again. It feels so good to take a long shower in a non-moving bathroom. It feels so good to be back in my own bed. But, why do I feel so nostalgic for strangers I spent just 10 days with, places I spent less than 24 hours in — and the uncomfortable top bunk, where I continuously hit my head on the ceiling?

It all began with an email offering me a spot on the Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project 2015 journey. One of my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions happened to be traveling to at least 10 cities across America, but being so busy with school barely afforded the time for it. Knowing that I got to travel to six cities across the United States on a train made me jump for joy.

Discovering the Power of Storytelling and More in New Orleans

Pichleap with Mitch Landrieu

Fulbright Foreign Student from Cambodia Pichleap Sok meeting New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, after the MTP visit to the New Orleans Mission, to discuss community innovation and how New Orleans has rebuilt itself after Hurricane Katrina.

The Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project has been one of the best traveling experiences I have ever had. It’s not just about sharing your ideas, experiences and time with 24 millennial participants, but also about discovering different parts of the United States. When the train stops in each city, we have about five hours to visit. Exploring a city in just five hours is definitely a challenge, but the idea of getting to know each city from the perspective of the other 24 MTP participants has been and is – absolutely amazing. Each and every millennial on the train has an individual project they are working on, and when the train stops in a different city, we go to different places to do our projects. When we return to the train and share our experiences, it is great to compare notes on each city’s unique culture, accent, identity, people and food.

The Power of Networking

Fulbright-MTP Participant Pichleap Sok from Cambodia with LA mentor, Rebecca McLauchlan, co-founder and CCO of rhubarb studies that builds tech companies in downtown LA.

Fulbright-MTP Participant Pichleap Sok from Cambodia with Los Angeles mentor, Rebecca McLauchlan, co-founder and CCO of Rhubarb Studios that builds tech companies in downtown Los Angeles

I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity than the Fulbright-Millennial Train Project, which combines my love of traveling and what I am really passionate about: women in technology. I am very fortunate and honored to be one of the six Fulbrighters on this year’s Millennial Trains Project, joining other Millennial world-changers on board. I was so excited and couldn’t wait for this day to come.

To kick off my Fulbright-MTP project, I needed to arrange interviews with local women in technology. Therefore, I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone to make it happen. I started contacting women in tech organizations in Los Angeles, Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington DC. At first, I was so nervous and overwhelmed since I didn’t receive any replies.

Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project Participants

The U.S. Department of State selected the following six Fulbright Foreign Students to participate in the third Millennial Trains Project (MTP) voyage across the United States — leaving from Los Angeles, California on May 21 and ending in Washington, DC on May 31— as an enrichment component of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. The six Fulbrighters will join 19 American riders on the MTP journey to gain an in-depth understanding of life in the United States and to strengthen their skills in leadership, social entrepreneurship, and communication.

Meet the six Fulbright participants:

Saja AlQuzweeni is a Fulbright Forieng Student from Iraq completing a Master's in Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Saja Al Quzweeni is a Fulbright Foreign Student from Iraq

Saja Al Quzweeni is a Fulbright Foreign Student from Baghdad, Iraq, currently pursuing a master’s in environmental science and policy at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Saja’s MTP project is an extension of research she completed last year at Growing Power, a nonprofit organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that works in urban agriculture as an approach to increase food security in lower income and food desert communities. Small plots of land are used for intensive growing to offer healthy, affordable food to inner city communities, while merging agriculture and wise environmental practices to revitalize urban areas.