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U.S. Fulbright

Plasma Fused Cultures in South Korea

August 17, 2015
Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor, 2013-2014, South Korea (third from right), with his lab coworkers, visiting scholars from Germany in Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, South Korea

Prior to my experience as a Fulbright Student, I had almost no connection to South Korea. Before my Fulbright grant, I had been working on my Ph.D. at Drexel University in Philadelphia for the last five years and had never lived outside of my home state of Pennsylvania for any appreciable amount of time. The only tie that I had to South Korea was my research interests and a passion for learning about different cultures. I was introduced the Plasma Bioscience Research Center (PBRC) at Kwangwoon University by my research adviser at Drexel, so I advise any potential applicants to reach out to their advisors for connections as well. After receiving the fellowship, I spent 10 months living and working in Seoul, South Korea.

The people I met in South Korea were some of the most hospitable people that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. From my very first day, I was treated better than I could have imagined. The day that I landed, I was taken from the airport to my house and minutes later (after a 23 hour trip without a shower), went to a dinner with all of the lab members I would be working with and a visiting lab team from Japan. It was quite jarring, but they wanted to make sure that I was introduced as soon as possible and included in the event that was happening.

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U.S. Fulbright

Don Quixote’s Fast Lane!

July 14, 2015
Radhameris - 1

Radhameris A. Gómez Gabriel, 2013-2014, Spain, attending the Fulbright España Mid-Year Meeting in Valencia (Photo credit: Fulbright España)

During the 2013-2014 academic year, I had the opportunity to travel with a Fulbright U.S. Student Fellowship to the medieval city of Toledo, Spain to experience nine months of excitement and discovery. As a transportation engineer, my passion is road safety—that is, the safe movement of people on our roadways. In Toledo, I was hosted at the Universidad de Castilla La Mancha (UCLM), where I researched the various methods of facilitating the safe movement of vulnerable road users at highway-rail crossings.

Alongside my Spanish advisors and colleagues, I researched the various engineering, educational and policy practices that have been implemented in parts of the FEVE Rail system in the Northern Region of Cantabria in Spain and how this information can benefit U.S. rail safety. I spent time with engineers and railroad staff in the cities of Torrelavega and Santander, performing field visits as well as exchanging knowledge on common issues of the rail sector on both sides of the pond.

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U.S. Fulbright

Building a Boy a Bionic Arm: The Spirit of Shared, Open Sourced Technology

March 13, 2015

I am convinced we live in an ever shrinking world. Following my bachelor’s degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at the University of Central Florida (UCF), my research professor, Dr. Seetha Raghavan, gave me an incredible opportunity to participate in my first international experience. Just a few weeks later I landed in Köln, Germany, for a 10-week exchange with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). As my first experience immersed in a new culture, my entire view of the world was changed. Our collaboration developed to produce cutting edge research for jet engine blade protective coatings, using X-Rays to look inside the materials while replicating the extreme environments inside the fiery engine.

After earning my master’s degree  in Engineering in Aerospace (MSAE), Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering in 2014, I found myself facing a similar opportunity. Just eight weeks after my graduation and wedding, my wife and I arrived in Frankfurt for our yearlong adventure. The challenge was clear: the Fulbright Program was designed to encourage global innovation and mutual understanding. Learning these skills has proved immensely valuable for my research, but also for my personal life.

Alex Pring first tries his new bionic arm. Photo Credit: KT Crabb Photography

Alex Pring first tries his new bionic arm. Photo Credit: KT Crabb Photography

What I learned in the process is that global innovation and collaboration should continue outside normal business hours. Just days before arriving in Germany, my summer project of building a 3D printed bionic arm was completed and donated to a six-year-old boy. Before knowing the magnitude of the dream we set out on, our story went global and was featured in news media in every corner of the globe (and, more recently Robert Downey Jr. met that same six-year-old boy, Alex Pring, generating a viral video). Then, the requests began to pour in from families in the United States, Brazil, England, India, Australia….and more. As a team, we uploaded our design on the Internet so that people around the world could build their own bionic arm for less than $350 USD. Together, we have shared a very powerful dream: of engineering hope. The spirit of shared, open source technology is beginning to empower children all over the world.

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Foreign Fulbright

Generating Electricity from Windows: A Sunny Fulbright Experience

December 4, 2013
Anastasiia Iefanova, Ukraine

Anastasiia Iefanova, 2011-2013, Ukraine, conducting experimental procedures on the fabrication of semitransparent dye-sensitized solar cells at South Dakota State University

My Fulbright experience started with a Pre-academic Language Program at the University of Arkansas. There, I had an unforgettable experience interacting with students from different countries who became my friends while studying English with me. Meeting people from different parts of the world was one of the highlights of my Fulbright experience as it broadened my world view and helped me to better understand people from different cultural backgrounds. Living with a host family also improved my understanding of American culture as well as my English skills. My host family was very kind and helped me with everything. At the end of my Pre-academic Language Program, my English skills had improved exponentially. These experiences helped me to successfully begin my academic program at South Dakota State University and become more independent while living in the United States.

My master’s program in electrical engineering at South Dakota State University was initially very challenging. Everything was different from my previous school: the academics, how things were organized, and the teaching style. After a couple of months, things became more familiar, and I started to focus more on my research by working with Dr. Mahdi Farrokh Baroughi and his group.

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U.S. Fulbright

Building Bridges of Understanding from Long Island to Sicily

July 17, 2013
Jared Finkelstein

Jared Finkelstein, 2010-2011, looking up at the Oculus at the Pantheon in Rome

I had never heard of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program until three months before I applied. In the summer of 2009, I knew I would graduate from college in just a few short months, and was still considering options for the future. Then, I received a letter in the mail from my university about an opportunity to travel to a different country and learn about its culture while conducting research.

I contacted my school’s Fulbright Program Adviser and discovered a grant in Italy specifically for engineering graduate study at the Politecnico di Torino. I had always had an interest in Italian culture, and had studied the language in high school. While putting my application together, with the help of my Fulbright Program Adviser and some other members of the faculty, I contacted the Politecnico di Torino describing my desire to study with them. Politecnico then gave me details on the coursework they offered and how to apply. The application took a lot of time – it’s not something you can do in one sitting. I spent a great deal of time researching the school and Turin, Italy, before writing and meticulously tweaking my essays.

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U.S. Fulbright

The Very Best Part of Conducting Biomedical Engineering Research in Portugal, By Kara Spiller, 2010-2011, Portugal

August 22, 2012












As a Fulbrighter to Portugal, I conducted biomedical engineering research in the 3B’s (Biomaterials, Biodegradables and Biomimetics) Research Group at the University of Minho’s Department of Polymer Engineering. I developed “smart” materials that can control the body’s cell behavior; a technology that might be useful for promoting new blood vessel growth in heart tissue after a heart attack, or for producing functioning tissues like cartilage and bone from stem cells. The Department’s lab is also the headquarters of the European Institute of Excellence on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, which places special emphasis on international collaboration. The 3B’s Research Group attracts students and postdocs from all over the world, and collaborates with partner laboratories in 14 countries. The coolest part of my research experience was working on a team comprised of members from diverse backgrounds conducting experiments in Portugal and abroad. The next coolest part was the food!

During the week, I worked in the lab, which had a distinctly Portuguese flair. Everyone ate lunch together and we often dined together in the evenings as well. We also organized lab trips to other European cities. Every weekend, I traveled to a different town in Portugal, a small country with varied landscapes and lots of festivals. The people I met were very friendly and appeared to love Portuguese spoken with an extremely thick American accent. (My first Portuguese lesson was a sign on the doors: PUXE, pronounced “push,” which means “pull.”)

Having conducted some of my doctoral research in China and my postdoctoral research as a Fulbrighter in Portugal, I believe that international experience should be a requirement for all students, especially those in science and engineering. I loved living in and traveling around Portugal, but what was even more interesting was discovering how one’s science can benefit from learning another language and way of thinking in a different culture. For example, I learned that working on research at a slower, more relaxed pace fosters new ideas, more efficient experiments and an overall more pleasant work experience. In my labs in the United States, I ate lunch while staring at my computer, rushing to finish my work so that I could leave and enjoy the rest of my day elsewhere. In Portugal, I socialized with my colleagues during regular coffee breaks and long lunches. We discussed the bioethics of embryonic stem cell technologies, the philosophy of growing tissues in the lab, the politics of global academic research, the nuances of football (both soccer and American football) and the differences between wines from Northern and Southern Portugal. We often spent 10-12 hours per day at work, but they were fun hours. And, when it was time to leave Portugal, I realized that my ideas and experiments had achieved a level of creativity that I had deemed impossible before I left. My colleagues and I submitted an international patent publication and we continue to collaborate on the same project. These kinds of perspective-broadening experiences can only come from studying overseas and are exactly what the Fulbright Program promotes.

My advice for prospective Fulbright candidates preparing research/study applications is to take time to learn about your selected country. Consult the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website’s country summaries, but also read about your country’s history and culture, and talk to people who have lived or visited there. The more I learned about Portugal, the more I wanted to study there and I conveyed this in my application.

As far as obtaining an affiliation, I met my research adviser at an academic conference (where he was giving a lecture about the importance of international education for scientists), so that part of the application process was easier for me than anticipated. If you don’t have similar opportunities to identify your host affiliation, then try emailing the organization or person with whom you might work. Explain what you’re interested in, why you’d like to do a Fulbright with that person or organization and what your plans are during and after your grant.  Your potential affiliation will not only appreciate that you want to work together, but that you also want to learn more about your host country. Then, once you’ve arrived, make sure to work hard and take advantage of every opportunity to learn something new.  Lastly, keep a journal, because the details of your Fulbright experience (that you might forget) are the very best part.

Top Photo: Kara Spiller, 2010-2011, Portugal, visiting the Douro River Valley

Middle Photo: Kara Spiller, 2010-2011, Portugal (center), with members of the University of Minho’s 3B Research Group