Browsing Tag

Study/Research grant


There’s No Place Like Brussels

August 3, 2018

Presenting a poster for Ph.D. Day at the de Duve Institute.

I had no idea what to expect from Brussels as I prepared to make the de Duve Institute my new lab home for the year. As a black woman and first-generation Nigerian-American, I did not know if I would see myself represented in professional or social settings in Europe. What I did know was that I would be in a supportive lab environment working with the best microbiologists in the world to combat the global threat of antibiotic resistance.

In hindsight, Belgium was the perfect fit for me academically, professionally, and socially. I established relationships with European research institutions, further prepared myself for my Ph.D. Program in the Biomedical Sciences at the University of Michigan through my research project, and made friends across the world.

One of the most rewarding experiences I had as a scientist was at our lab retreat in Cadiz, Spain, where several labs across Europe met to present our research. During a career panel discussion, I looked around the room and saw 40+ scientists but no people of color. I raised my hand and asked, “Where are the women and people of color in leadership positions? The majority of people at this retreat are women, yet all of the people in charge of these labs are white men.

Although extremely nervous, I felt obligated to be a voice for underrepresented (UR) minorities. As the only black voice, the only American voice, I could not allow the fear of asking a controversial question overshadow the opportunity to spark cross-cultural dialogue about the need for diversity in the sciences.

Spending the day at Grand Place with friends visiting from the U.S.

There was a pause followed by empathetic sighs and laughter. It was clear that they understood the gravity of my question and the paradox of discussing the need for diversity with a non-diverse panel. One of the panelists, the head of a major research institute in France, stated that they were deeply committed to diversifying STEM fields and had created task forces to increase the number of women in leadership positions. The other panelists echoed similar sentiments which prompted a passionate discussion about gender discrimination and implicit biases in STEM. Some made the point that increasing paternity leave would discourage employers from assuming that women would need more time off from their jobs than men. Others shared feelings of discouragement from seeing a room filled with female scientists only to see leadership roles filled by men. After the panel discussion, a few women expressed their gratitude for my question and I felt extremely proud for having the courage to embody the heart of the Fulbright Program.

Although my question was well-received, as the panelists and audience focused on gender, my point about race was lost. I was not surprised that this happened. Being the only person of color in the room, I recognized that people tend to focus on issues that they identify with. This further highlights the need for representation in these spaces so that UR groups will be supported and their needs addressed. Regardless, I am happy that I brought the issue to people’s attention. I hope that they will be sensitive to the challenges with representation of people of color in STEM moving forward.

Day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland with Fulbright grantees.

Related to my passion for advocating for UR groups, I created the @fulbrightnoir Instagram account to share the stories of black Fulbrighters. After meeting the first black Fulbrighters that I knew through Instagram, I wanted to encourage prospective UR applicants and UR groups within Fulbright by showcasing the diversity that exists within the program.

In addition to the @fulbrightnoir community, I connected with a Belgian woman through Instagram who introduced me to Matonge, an area central to the Congolese community in Belgium. This was the first time I was surrounded by people that looked like me and I felt right at home.

My advice to future Fulbrighters is to be open to meeting people through various platforms. Be creative, committed, and unyielding while creating your new home abroad. Social media was instrumental in building my social networks and finding social scenes that I missed direly in the U.S. Instagram connected me with a new side of Brussels that transformed my experience from great to perfect.


Fulbright Applications Are Due on October 15! Here’s What You Should Do Before You Hit ‘Submit.’

October 9, 2013

The deadline for the 2014-15 Fulbright U.S. Student Program competition is Tuesday, October 15, 2013 (5:00 p.m., Eastern Time)!

If you’re in the final stretches of completing your online application, make sure you’ve fully reviewed the application checklists since components vary somewhat depending upon the type of Fulbright U.S. Student grant you’re applying for.

Have last minute questions that need answering? Feel free to contact Fulbright U.S. Student Program staff or Embark Support.

What happens next? Click here to read about the selection process.

Good luck!

U.S. Fulbright

Adjusting Expectations and Finding My Project

August 28, 2013
Barbara Grossman-Thompson

Photo: Barbara Grossman-Thompson, 2012-2013, Nepal (left), and her guide and research assistant Bhagwaati Pun, reach Thorong Pass in Nepal during a 30-day trek in the Annapurna Conservation Area.

When I boarded a plane bound for Kathmandu, Nepal in August 2012, I was cautiously optimistic about the trajectory of my proposed Fulbright U.S. Student Program Study/Research grant on tourism economies in the Annapurna Conservation Area. Two months after my arrival, it was increasingly clear that, like many researchers, I would have to adjust my expectations. I spent a month trekking in the Nepali Himalayas accompanied by my guide, research assistant, translator, and friend Bhagwaati Pun, when I realized that my original research plan would need to change fast. Proper paperwork was held up, the research had already been done, and more importantly, the Nepali people I spoke with were both kind and frank in conveying their disinterest in my intended project! I felt lost and anxious about how to proceed. As a graduate student conducting her dissertation fieldwork, I felt my academic future was on the line.

I decided to take some time off from the academic side of things and put all my attention toward further developing my relationships with the wonderful community I was living in. My affiliate organization, Empowering Women Nepal (EWN), bi-annually organizes a free, month-long training for women interested in working as trekking guides. In Nepal, guiding has traditionally been done by men. EWN’s guide training gives women the opportunity to continue their education, learn new skills, see other parts of the country, and earn their own salary. During my participation in the training, I drew on my own background as an outdoor educator to teach classes on wilderness first aid, professionalism, and managing client-guide relationships.

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U.S. Fulbright

A Recipe for a Life-Changing Experience

July 16, 2013
Mike Stanton

Mike Stanton, 2005-2006, Senegal (left), playing the Tama drum at a traditional town music celebration in Dakar with members of the Diouck family

I decided to apply for a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant as an At-Large candidate (not enrolled at the time of application) because after I received my bachelor’s degree, I was interested in possibly attending graduate school in psychology and was not certain which type of degree suited my needs best. Working with a professor I had known since my undergraduate study abroad experience in Senegal, I was able to find my Fulbright affiliation and mentor, Dr. Myayang Niang – a professor, NGO director, medical doctor, and scientist.

During my Fulbright year in Senegal, I found that volunteering and engaging in community work were as important to my professional development as my psychological research. I worked with volunteers to build a cyber-café for medical students at Dakar University, mentored homeless children at a shelter, provided care to villagers in a remote health clinic, and taught American History and English classes to high school students at U.S. Department of State-sponsored events in Dakar.

For my Fulbright research, I used World Health Organization questionnaires to examine how stress may be associated with psychological/physical distress and how it can vary depending upon rural and urban settings in Senegal. Once back in the United States, this research ended up providing me with the impetus to apply to Ph.D. programs focusing on multicultural psychology and medicine. Currently, I am in my last year of a clinical psychology and behavioral medicine Ph.D. program at Duke University, and am a behavioral medicine intern within the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

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U.S. Fulbright

The Three Rs: Research, Relationships and Reciprocity

June 18, 2013

Marisa Rinkus, 2010-2011, Brazil (left), and her research assistant inspect a sea turtle on the Brazilian coast

In February 2011, I left a snowy Michigan winter and headed south into the warm Brazilian summer to study community engagement and sea turtle conservation on my Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant. While excited by the prospect of living near the beach, I knew that conducting research in another country would require hard work with the assistance and collaboration of others.

In reality, relationship building on a Fulbright grant begins before you leave the United States–often via email and Skype. Having already made a few contacts in Brazil by email, and even visiting a few months before my Fulbright application was due, I assumed securing an in-country affiliation would be easy. However, my request for a formal letter was denied at the last minute. With little time to spare, I turned to the Internet and stumbled upon the graduate program in Society and Environment at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas which mirrored my research interests—community participation in coastal conservation. With a little bit of convincing, a translated copy of my proposal, and a draft letter of affiliation outlining the terms of our collaboration (which included a joint publication), I soon had my Fulbright affiliation. Once I arrived in Brazil, my host-country adviser provided feedback on my research and helped me navigate the paperwork required to conduct research as a foreign researcher in Brazil, including securing research ethics approval for conducting research with human subjects (similar to Institutional Review Board approval in the United States).

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