Fulbright Awards

Four recent graduates have received Fulbright awards to pursue research and to teach English abroad.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” Winners are selected based on a number of factors, including their proposal, called a “Statement of Grant Purpose,” academic record and personal qualifications.

Siddharth Annaldasula, Open Study/Research Award, Germany

After nearly a year-long application process, Siddharth Annaldasula received the good news — he will spend the next year conducting research in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar.

Annaldasula will be studying transcriptional regulation in cell differentiation models using computational methods with Andreas Mayer at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics in Berlin as part of his Fulbright Study/Research Grant.

“I will be looking at mechanisms behind the pausing of transcription in cell developmental models,” Annaldasula said. “These results could provide insight into the pausing epigenetic mechanisms that occur in many diseases, including cancer and other disorders.”

Annaldasula, who graduated in May with a bachelor of science in computational biology and a minor in neuroscience, chose Germany for his Fulbright proposal because it is a frontrunner for cutting-edge research in fields he is interested in — computational biology, genomics and neuroscience.

“I hope to develop myself as a computational biologist in terms of learning newer techniques and making connections for future collaborations,” said Annaldasula, who hopes to pursue his Ph.D. in a combination of those fields.

At Carnegie Mellon University, Annaldasula studied vocal learning behavior — the ability to produce and learn sounds — in Assistant Professor of Computational Biology Andreas Pfenning’s lab. He also worked on side projects with Pfenning’s collaborators in Germany who were applying computational biology to genomics research.

When Annaldasula expressed that he wanted to apply for a Fulbright to further his research experience in this area, Pfenning helped connect Annaldasula to Mayer; Pfenning and Mayer were postdoctoral fellows together at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Broad Institute and Harvard University’s joint biomedical and genomic research center.

While abroad, Annaldasula hopes to pursue some of his other interests outside of the lab. In particular, he would like to continue doing outreach work. In his first-year, Annaldasula joined the Neuroscience Student Advisory Council (NeuroSAC), which promotes awareness of neuroscience-based careers and health issues. As part of NeuroSAC, Annaldasula gave demonstrations at elementary and middle schools throughout the Pittsburgh region.

“I love seeing people have fun on subjects they don’t encounter in school or day-to-day life and start thinking about neuroscience and how much we still don’t know about the brain and how we need more concentrated efforts to understand such a complex organ,” he said.

He is also excited to immerse himself in the culture and customs of his host country. “I love the culture and food, and I’m a fan of the Bundesliga soccer league — Borussia Dortmund are one of my favorite teams!” he said.

While applying for a Fulbright is an arduous process, Annaldasula was grateful to have the support of Carnegie Mellon’s Fellowships and Scholarships Office. Richelle Bernazzoli, assistant director of undergraduate research and national fellowships, works closely with students who are interested in applying for nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships like the Fulbright.

“I want to thank Richelle for all her help and advice along the way. She helped me tremendously,” said Annaldasula.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

Jessica Jue, English Teaching Assistant, Taiwan

Biological sciences graduate Jessica Jue was selected as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Taiwan. Jue left in June to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship program in Changchun, China. From there, she settled in Kinmen, Taiwan, in August to begin her teaching duties.

Being selected as a Fulbright Scholar was a “dream come true,” said Jue, after originally being chosen as an alternate. She wanted to pursue the Fulbright program to make an impact on her host community while also broadening her own world view. While she is nervous to be away from friends and family for a year, Jue knows that the experience will be full of opportunities.

Jue is particularly excited to spend the next year abroad immersed in Chinese, which she has studied since childhood and as an additional major at Carnegie Mellon University.

“For me, participating in the Fulbright program in Taiwan will not only be a cultural exchange, but a linguistic one as well,” she said.

Following her Fulbright, Jue plans to apply for medical school and appreciates being able to pursue these two unrelated academic interests as an undergraduate.

“I feel like the interdisciplinary environment of the school allowed me to be pre-med yet also pursue interests like teaching and learning Chinese. If I were confined to ‘traditional’ pre-med activities, I don’t think I would have found the Fulbright program,” she said.

At Carnegie Mellon, Jue was a teaching assistant’s assistant for Physics I and a teaching assistant for Carnegie Mellon’s Summer Academy of Math and Science; she was a sister of Kappa Delta Phi, president of the Multicultural Greek Council and a volunteer for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Hospital Elder Life Program in Shadyside.

She looks forward to bringing her background in teaching and working with students to Taiwan, but she is also excited to gain experiences and build skills that can aid her as a medical professional.

“(Studying abroad) helps you understand the lives and culture of people unlike yourself. It makes you more understanding of differences and compassionate toward others,” she said.

Jue is thankful to both Richelle Bernazzoli, assistant director of undergraduate research and national fellowships, and Tim Gao, a 2017 Carnegie Mellon alumnus, for helping her through the Fulbright process. Gao, who was her former biochemistry EXCEL leader, taught English in Taiwan through the Fulbright ETA program from 2017-2018.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

Apeksha Atal, English Teaching Assistant, Thailand

Recent biological sciences and English graduate Apeksha Atal has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA). In just a few weeks, Atal will begin her year of service teaching English in the Thailand province of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

After graduation Atal returned home to India, where she’s lived since she was 10 years old. She settled in to her first post-graduate job, working as a marketing and communications associate for the financial tech startup NiYO in Bangalore, India. The company is helping to digitize payroll and employee benefits for India’s salaried employees.

During her senior year, Atal had applied to the Fulbright ETA program and was selected as an alternate. Exactly one month and one day after starting at NiYO, Atal received an email she never thought would come.

“Being selected as a Fulbright Scholar is absolutely surreal,” said Atal. “To think that everything I worked towards is actually happening is beyond amazing. I’m mostly proud to make the people in my life proud. So many people believed in me when I doubted myself, and I’m so glad to have proved them right.”

Atal is most looking forward to learning from and connecting with Thai people and her students. “My dad grew up in Thailand, and I’ve been traveling there my entire life,” Atal said. “Thai culture is so warm and rich, and I’ve never had a chance to immerse myself in another culture the way this program allows one to.”

She also plans to learn more about educational policy and reform. In addition to her teaching duties, Atal will undertake an internship during the program, and has her sights set on working with education-centric NGO’s or other programs that help improve schools in Thailand.

Atal is ready to bring her own experiences — both academically and personally — to her students. At Carnegie Mellon, Atal was a dedicated leader and mentor across campus as an Andrew Carnegie Society Scholar, an editor for the Tartan, a Head Orientation Counselor, an EXCEL leader and Student Supervisor, and a Teaching Assistant for Eureka! and biological sciences’ lab classes.

“My education at Carnegie Mellon, although a little unconventional, helped me develop key skills that I will be carrying with me to Thailand,” Atal said. “My biology major has given me the ability to think critically, objectively and to be able to break down complex concepts into their molecular components. My English major has given me the ability to read beyond the surface and present ideas in more concise, clear and relatable ways.”

This will come in handy, Atal says, in figuring out how to make English more accessible and interesting to her students. “In Thailand, they use a lot of rote memorization techniques, and I feel that, as a native speaker, bringing in conversation to break that monotony will be incredibly helpful to students.”

Throughout the process, Atal worked closely with Carnegie Mellon University’s Fellowships and Scholarships Office, which provides support to students who are interested in applying for nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships.

“Apeksha is a person who has taken full advantage of every opportunity at Carnegie Mellon, participating in the Undergraduate Research Office’s SURG (Small Undergraduate Research Grant) program and serving as a leader in Academic Development, Student Senate and the Tartan. She is well poised to go to Thailand and make important contributions through the Fulbright ETA. It is an exciting next step for Apeksha, and she will be an excellent representative of Carnegie Mellon,” said Stephanie Wallach, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

Erin Kavanagh, Open Study/Research Award, Germany

This September, Erin Kavanagh will leave on a 10-month journey to conduct research on artificial lung devices in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar.

“I chose Germany because it is a pioneer in creating medical devices,” said Kavanagh, who will be working at RWTH Aachen University’s Institute of Applied Medical Engineering in the lab of Jutta Arens.

This work will build off her experience at Carnegie Mellon University with Professor of Biomedical Engineering Keith Cook, a collaborator of Arens’. Kavanagh began working in Cook’s lab during her sophomore year, where she was involved in various aspects of artificial lung development, including building devices, rolling fiber bundles, potting and leak-testing finished devices and running in vivo test circuits.

Using her strengths in biochemistry, Kavanagh later moved on to helping to develop a system for delivering antibiotics to the lower respiratory tract via perfluorocarbon emulsions.

“A lot of the students in the lab are engineers, but they don’t have knowledge on cytotoxicity and mechanisms of action for drugs and chemicals in general. In dealing with perfluorocarbons, which are an emulsion with other molecules, I had to look at the molecules themselves, the compounds, and think how could this break off in the body and be dangerous? That’s where my knowledge of biochemistry comes in,” Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh’s interest in Germany began in the summer of 2017 when she was selected as a visiting scholar to do research in Aachen, Germany. The following summer, she attended the Goethe Institute for an intensive German language experience.

When she began thinking about applying for a Fulbright, she was interested in returning to Germany to gain a deeper understanding of the country’s different research methods.

For instance, Germany does not support in vivo testing, which occurs in a living organism. As a result, the country is much more specialized in in vitro testing methods, which seek to isolate tissues, organs or cells to conduct testing outside a living organism.

The focus has made Germany an expert at bringing devices to market almost exclusively through in vitro testing; Kavanagh is excited to see how they accomplish this, but she is also curious to learn more about the stigma against in vivo testing.

“I hope to bring knowledge from in vivo testing from my lab at CMU to the lab in Germany and learn valuable skills from them about perfecting in vitro testing of medical devices,” she added.

Outside of the lab, Kavanagh plans to join the Aachen University’s rowing team. At Carnegie Mellon, Kavanagh was the rowing team’s varsity coxswain, the person in charge of navigating the boat for the rowers.

“Some of the most important lessons I learned during college were not in the walls of a classroom but rather in a racing shell at sunrise on the Allegheny River,” she said. “I found an amazing team and group of people that pushed me outside my comfort zone and helped me discover a love of being a coxswain and an adaptive athlete.”

She is thankful for the support and guidance of her research advisor, Keith Cook, her undergraduate advisor, Karen Stump, as well as Richelle Bernazzoli, assistant director of undergraduate research and national fellowships, throughout the application process.

After completing her Fulbright, Kavanagh plans to pursue an advanced degree related to the medical field.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

Goldwater Scholars

Second-year chemistry student William Fahy and third-year mathematical sciences student Jung Joo Suh have been named 2019 Goldwater Scholars by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

They were two of 496 recipients of the scholarship, which recognizes second- and third-year college students intending to pursue research careers in mathematics, engineering and the natural sciences. A total of 1,223 students were nominated by 443 academic institutions for the award, which provides up to $7,500 per undergraduate year for tuition, mandatory fees, books, room and board.

Jung Joo Suh

Jung Joo Suh, a native of South Korea who came to Carnegie Mellon from New Jersey, plans to enter a Ph.D. program in mathematics after graduation, with a focus on research in descriptive set theory and analysis.

“I’ve been interested in math for a long time,” Suh noted, especially set theory, which studies well-behaved subsets of certain topological spaces.

Under Associate Professor Clinton Conley, Suh has been focusing on clopen sets — a set that is both open and closed­­ — in a specific topological space.

Suh said research’s challenges make discovering new ideas rewarding. “When you’re stuck on a problem, you can’t ask for help,” Suh noted.

Besides research, Suh has also spent time working as a peer tutor, grader and teaching assistant.

William Fahy

William Fahy, a native of Maine, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry after his graduation.

“I’m working on a really active subfield of atmospheric chemistry,” Fahy said of his research.

Under Associate Professor of Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering Ryan Sullivan, Fahy has been researching how particles, specifically volcanic ash, can be changed in the upper atmosphere, and how this could change the particles’ effects on the formation of ice.

“The implications are enormous,” Fahy said. “We don’t really have a good understanding of this yet.”

Outside of his research, Fahy plays eight different kinds of flute and is a member of Carnegie Mellon’s All-University Orchestra and flute choir.