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Fulbright Program Reaches Out to Scientists

3 July 2013 5:58 pm
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Carol Scovotti of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

New friend. Andrew Nieuwkoop in Göttingen with a statue of physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is reaching out to U.S. scientists, especially those early in their careers, who want to conduct research in another country.

The program, begun in 1946 to promote "mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world," is best known for supporting scholars in the humanities and social sciences. Only about a quarter of last year's cohort of 727 scholars worked in engineering, public health, clinical medicine, or core scientific fields; another 10% or so worked in economics and the various social sciences.

But U.S. officials are eager to tap scientists' expertise. "Given the increasingly global nature of so many of today's most pressing scientific research problems, we see Fulbright as a natural fit for the scientists seeking to tackle them," says Meghann Curtis of the U.S. State Department, which oversees the program.

Under the changes for the 2014-15 academic year, scientists within 5 years of their terminal doctoral degree will have a better chance of winning a Fulbright, and some slots will be reserved for early-career scholars. For example, the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health will support up to five postdocs who want to join ongoing public health research projects in "resource-limited settings" in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Peru, or Bangladesh. Belgium will offer one early-career grant to support work in cancer or translational research. Five postdoc-only grants will be available for work in India, one for Canada, two for Egypt, up to three for Hong Kong, and eight for Israel—all open to scholars in any field, including scientific fields.

Physical chemist Andrew Nieuwkoop, who received a junior research fellowship in 2012 to work as a postdoc at Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie in Berlin, says science was not well-represented in his Germany-bound cohort—and that turned out to be a good thing. "There were very few STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] people of any type in our group," he tells ScienceInsider, "so I got to meet many people from a wide variety of fields." Nieuwkoop, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has received an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship to extend his postdoc.

If you're interested in applying for a Fulbright Scholar award, you'll need to act fast: The deadline for the 2014-15 competition is midnight, 1 August. The Council for the International Exchange of Scholars administers the program for the State Department.