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Pomona Award Winners

Gabi Heller, Churchill Scholarship and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

  1. Why did you choose to apply for the Churchill Scholarship and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship?
    Both offered great opportunities. The Churchill Scholarship funds a year of research at the University of Cambridge, giving me the opportunity to not only to learn about how research is conducted outside of the US, but also giving me the opportunity to explore research topics that are very different than those I was exposed to at Pomona. In addition, I was very interested in working with one particular Cambridge professor, and this scholarship is enabling me to do just that. The NSF Fellowship funds three years of graduate school, which gives me greater flexibility and financial independence in joining a lab.
  2. What graduate program will you enroll in at Cambridge, and what will be your focus in that program?
    I will be in a one-year Chemistry MPhil program. The focus of that program will most likely be studying protein dynamics by integrating Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Computational Techniques.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for these awards?
    Pomona’s SURP program, Independent Study coursework, and fantastic professors gave me the opportunity to engage in meaningful research, and the Dean’s office funded me to present my research at several conferences. I think taking advantage of these opportunities enable Pomona students to stand out. Also, from day one of the application process (which is so much earlier than I thought), the CDO helped me navigate the very complicated application processes.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    During my four years I’ve learned to not take any idea, viewpoint or societal system at face value. I’ve learned to constantly challenge others’ ideas (even those of authority figures) as well as my own and understand the sources of my own biases. This has allowed me to understand myself better, as well as the world. For a lot of us it seems as though there is only one path in life—school for almost two decades, holding “stable” jobs (even if we hate them) primarily in order to sustain the current economic system, finding a partner, having kids etc. Although some people are content with this model, in the simplest of terms, I’ve learned that it’s not an absolute but merely the current paradigm that mostly benefits those at the top of the food chain. I now know that I don’t really want to follow the current model and I saw the possibility of going on a Watson year as a first step to going off track and creating my own model—one that’s tailor made for me.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the Churchill and NSF application processes?
    Take advantage of the fantastic SURP, conference, and CDO opportunities at Pomona!

Emily Yang, Fulbright Study/Research Grant to Germany

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright research grant? What made you choose Germany as your host country?
    I applied for a Fulbright research grant for a few different reasons. A Fulbright research grant seemed like a great way to figure out my interests, and to see if grad school (and which grad school program) would be the right place for me. A year-long research project, studying a topic that I hadn't had the opportunity to research before, seemed to be an ideal way to explore my interests and learn about the world outside of the Claremont bubble at the same time. Additionally, I hadn't gotten to study abroad during my four years at Pomona, and the Fulbright was a perfect way to get that experience. I chose Germany as my host country because I had already been interested in doing research there, having applied for a research program for the previous summer (the DAAD's RISE program). Once my interest in Germany was piqued, I was drawn in by the country's emphasis on sustainability, and its openness to international collaboration in research.
  2. Briefly describe your research project and how you plan to get involved in the local community.
    My research project involves studying the interplay between climate change and greenhouse gas emissions from small rivers and streams. Specifically, I will be calculating the emissions of carbon dioxide and methane from small and anthropogenically influenced inland waters by measuring the gas exchange velocity within the streams in question. The overall goal is to more accurately understand the role of greenhouse gas emissions from these inland waters in regional and global carbon budgets.
    When I'm not doing research, I am planning on getting involved with the local community by volunteering at Landau's Zoo School, where I would like to work with young children and teach them about sustainability, multiculturalism, and social justice. I also would like to help them learn English.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    It's pretty hard to choose just one thing that I am most looking forward to. The research should be a great experience, as should getting involved in the community, but I am also really excited about meeting new people, exploring Germany, and learning more about myself throughout the whole process. Since I can't choose just one of those, can I say I'm most excited about the bread and pastries? (Yum!)
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Pomona's amazing resources helped make it possible for me to apply for this fellowship. The academics at Pomona, with small class sizes, easily accessible professors, and a great spirit of collaboration that permeates throughout, have really been instrumental in fostering my creativity, curiosity, and drive throughout college. Moreover, I found a lot of support from the community on campus that helped shape my interests and framed my successes. Along with the academic communities I found in the Physics and Environmental Analysis departments, I also learned a lot and got a lot of support from the community surrounding the Asian American Resource Center. And, of course, I owe much of my success to my friends and mentors at Pomona who taught me about myself and the world around me.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Start early, and get as much done during the summer as possible. Try to make contacts in your host country as soon as possible; a great way to get contacts is to ask professors. Get a lot of different people to read your essays, since people of varying levels of expertise will be reading your application. Try and incorporate into your essays things that might click well with your host country, or that demonstrate your cultural competence and your ability to work in your host country. Show the readers that you fit well with the specific project you are proposing (as opposed to just trying to prove you are the best at something).

Gina Bock, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Greece

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Greece as your host country?
    Instead of heading straight into grad school, I wanted to take some time away from schooling and from the US in general. I love to travel, and I love to teach--I've worked for the past three years in preschools--so I figured that teaching abroad would be a great way to marry these two loves. I chose Greece particularly because I studied abroad there the fall of my junior year. Its history and culture stole my heart, and a semester was not nearly enough time to spend there. On the plane home I vowed to go back as soon as I could.
  2. Briefly describe the work you will be doing in Greece, including how you plan to get involved in the local community.
    I will be teaching at Athens College, a K-through-12 school with classes taught in both English and Greek. Beyond teaching English in the classroom, I will help to lead the Forensics Club, and plan on involving myself in any other events and activities hosted by the school.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I'm most looking forward to my students; getting to know the children and watching them grow is the most rewarding part of teaching, and my students can also offer me a unique and valuable perspective on Greek life. I am also looking forward to being immersed once again in a country that is so rich in history, art, and culture.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    I went to every write-in that the CDO/Writing Center hosted--and went prepared. They were incredibly helpful throughout the process, and I don't have any advice to give that the CDO and Writing Center didn't provide!

Alexandra Gutowski, Fulbright Study/Research Grant to UK (Durham University)

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright study grant? What made you choose the Durham University as your host institution?
    As I work towards a career in public service, I still have many questions about the role that the United States and its allies play in the world, especially in violent conflict. Post-Vietnam, American institutions rarely teach war studies, so I began to look at programs in the United Kingdom. Durham offers the only Master’s program in the world that focuses on the nexus of defense, development, and diplomacy. Further, the United Kingdom provides an excellent example for the United States in a period of waning military and economic resources. Even as the United Kingdom slipped from economic and military dominance, it continues to be a major stakeholder in global security.
  2. Briefly describe your Master’s program and how you plan to get involved in the local community.
    In the fall, I will pursue an MSc Defense, Development, and Diplomacy in Durham’s Global Security Institute. The program moves through the three stages of conflict—conflict prevention, intervention, and post-conflict resolution—to consider how militaries, diplomats, and aid workers interact. It then culminates with a dissertation and simulation. The program also includes shared classes and partnerships with practitioners from the British armed forces, diplomatic corps, and development community. Each of the available courses—which include terrorism, the law of war, negotiation, conflict mediation, and development in conflict—directly addresses challenges faced by both the United States and the United Kingdom.
    I’m eager to get involved with the local community and university life at Durham. The university is divided into 16 distinct colleges that cater to student’s social and athletics needs. I was accepted to University College, affectionately “Castle,” Durham’s oldest college. I’m excited to row for my college and participate in various talks and events around the Castle. Although its name isn’t quite as good as On the Loose, I also intend to join the popular Hill Walking Society.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    Some of my favorite memories of Pomona are early mornings in Frary, finishing up reading over coffee and hearing about my friends’ research, labs, and essays. I’m excited to return to an academic environment to learn from peers who are passionately pursuing their intellectual interests. My college is housed in Durham Castle—a UNESCO World Heritage site and film location for Harry Potter—and I intend to spend a lot time there between our semiweekly gowned formals, rowing practice, studying in the Middle Common Room, and trips to the Undercroft, the world’s oldest student pub.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona and beyond prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Pomona taught me how to ask better questions and to be aware of frameworks that might be limiting my understanding. Although I only had a limited background in war studies, my education in Claremont prepared me to ask meaningful questions in my research proposal and articulate my plan to investigate them. Further, through my experiences living in Muscat, Amman, and Doha, I’ve learned how to engage and participate in cultures very different than my own. Although the United Kingdom is more similar to the United States, I will not lose the sense of urgency to understand the nuances of other cultures that I have developed in the Arab world.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Don’t forget that Fulbright is a cultural exchange program. Articulate how you are prepared to represent the United States abroad and why you are interested in doing so. Next, develop a strong connection with your affiliation well before the application is due. His or her letter should read like an additional letter of recommendation and explain why he or she is excited to work with you.

Rodrigo Ranero, Downing Scholarship

  1. Why did you choose to apply for the Downing Scholarship?
    I wanted to go to grad school in the UK and given my current interests in linguistics, the mixture of theoretical and applied approaches in the Cambridge MPhil program was the perfect fit. Additionally, I was eager to experience a new social and academic environment, so I became convinced on applying for the Downing Scholarship after hearing excellent comments about life at Cambridge from people studying abroad.
  2. What graduate program will you enroll in at Cambridge, and what will be your focus in that program?
    I will pursue an MPhil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, which encompasses lectures during the Michaelmas term and intensive research the rest of the year. I want to expand on my current line of research on certain aspects of the syntax of understudied languages, as well as keep learning on the most effective method of approaching linguistic revitalization.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time in Cambridge?
    I’m excited about starting anew academically and socially in an unfamiliar environment at a large research university like Cambridge. I am also curious about punting.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona and with other fellowships prepared you to apply for the Downing Scholarship?
    Previous successes and failures have taught me that the most successful grant applications are those that answer specifically how you fulfill the qualities reviewers are looking for. Be very careful in targeting each and every one of the aspects that are most desirable for the Downing scholar.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants?
    My GPA was not the highest in the applicant pool for the Downing, so don’t think that having the best grades will automatically make you the top candidate for the scholarship. Emphasize on the qualities that make you different from others who have chosen to focus on academics while at Pomona… In particular, practice for the interview! It could be the part of the application process that makes you stand out the most.

Dillon Dong, Goldwater Scholarship

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Goldwater Scholarship?
    The Goldwater Scholarship is a bit different from other scholarships, since at Pomona it's the faculty rather than students who initiate the nomination process.  I was very lucky to be nominated from what I'm sure is an outstanding field of future scientists at Pomona.  Of course I accepted the nomination as soon as I found out!
  2. Briefly describe the research you plan to do during your senior year.
    I plan on finishing as much as I can of the three projects I'm working on.  They are: 
    a) A survey to calibrate star formation rate measures in >100 star forming regions and galactic nuclei in nearby galaxies using 33GHz radio data from the Very Large Array
    b) Creating a radio spectral index, curvature and aging map of the massive molecular outflow in NGC 1266 (a galaxy which likely harbors a low level active galactic nucleus).  This is the project I wrote about in my Goldwater application.
    c) Working on the Herschel Edge-on Galaxy Survey, which attempts to characterize the spectral energy distribution and physical properties of dust in galactic halos using the Herschel Space Telescope.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this scholarship?
    I owe this scholarship in large part to the work of the close-knit physics department here at Pomona.  Professor Phil Choi got me the research job with Eric Murphy who I've worked with for three years.  This gave me the research background that made it possible for me to win the Goldwater.  The physics faculty in general (including my adviser Professor David Tanenbaum) also played a key role in getting me nominated by Pomona to apply.  Starting as early as freshman year and continuing through my time at Pomona, the physics department has gone above and beyond in getting to know me and providing me with all the opportunities to succeed as a scientist that I could ever want.  For that, I'm very thankful.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    If you are interested in applying, by all means, talk to your professors about it and make sure they know about the research that you have done.  Pomona can only nominate up to 4 students to apply each year, so work hard on your research and to maintain a high (roughly A average) GPA.
    If you have been nominated, congratulations!  It's a big honor to get this far in the first place.  At this point, the main thing you can do to influence your chance of winning or getting an honorable mention is to carefully write and edit your application.  The main part of the application is a research proposal/description of a project.  This part is similar to writing the scientific justification for a grant proposal (or a proposal for telescope time if you're an astronomer).  Ask your research mentor to see the grant that funded your project, and ask them to read over and help edit your proposal.  This type of scientific writing is like learning a new language, so be willing to edit your proposal heavily and often.  The other part of the application is a bunch of personal essays somewhat like a college application, so you should have some experience with that.  Good luck!

Jennifer Schmidt, Fulbright Study/Research Grant to Germany

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright research grant? What made you choose Germany as your host country?
    A Fulbright research grant in Germany really seemed like the ideal next step for me after Pomona. Having majored in Environmental Analysis and German, I was interested in continuing to pursue both of those interests after college, and a positive experience with a study abroad semester in Germany made me excited to return. I'm hoping to attend graduate school in sustainable agriculture and go into agricultural research eventually, but wanted to take some time off first, and this seems like a time in my life when I'll be most able to spend a year living abroad. Germany was an attractive host country for many reasons, including my prior experience there and the favorable environment for scientific research.
  2. Briefly describe your research project and how you plan to get involved in the local community.
    I'll be working at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture on a project that seeks to expand the cultivation of domestic organic soybean in Germany. I'll be working with rhizobia, a type of soil bacteria, and attempting to isolate strains of that bacteria that help soybean mature faster. This project will ideally help meet the growing demand for organic, non-GMO soy for human consumption in Germany as well as helping reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. To get involved in the local community, I'll be enrolling in classes in the Agricultural Sciences Master's program at the local university, participating in the university's International Club, and playing on a local Ultimate Frisbee team.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I'm excited to see how the experience of doing research abroad compares to my study abroad semester, and how the research environment is different in Germany. The project itself is very much in line with what I'm hoping to do in the future, so this will be a great chance to explore my interests in a more focused way than I have done at Pomona. And of course, I'm looking forward to really honing my German language skills!
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of many great opportunities at Pomona that led up to this fellowship, from research with the Biology and German departments to coursework in soil science and sustainable agriculture to a travel/research grant from the German department. My professors were wonderfully encouraging throughout the process, too!
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Start identifying potential host institutions early, and don't hesitate to contact multiple researchers. I reached out to a number of scientists, but only a few responded, and Skype interviews with those researchers helped me narrow down my focus and define my project more clearly by the time I had to write the application. Some good advice I received from Professor Rindisbacher was to frame my proposal as the logical culmination of everything I'd done until that point, and to show that I was the most qualified person to do that particular project. Running drafts of my proposal by professors and previous Fulbright students was extremely helpful.

Sarai Jimenez, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Mexico

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Mexico as your host country?
    I have always identified strongly with my Mexican roots. Last summer I had the opportunity to conduct my historical thesis research in Mexico City and I fell in love with the people, our  history, and my family. It was my first time ever in Mexico and I was absolutely amazed by the richness of cultures, tastes, and traditions. I choose to apply for a Fulbright because I wanted to go back to Mexico and a teaching assistantship  was a unique opportunity to connect with people in a learning environment.
  2. Briefly describe the work you will be doing in Mexico, including how you plan to get involved in the local community.
    I will work as an English Language Teaching Assistant. The details of the placement are still in the works. I would love to work with transnational families and migrants.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I am very excited to be among Mexican people and Mexican culture. I am looking forward to developing relationships with students and school staff. I am excited to engage with community members through local community activities and also discuss migration issues, Mexico-US relationships, and  the experiences of transnational families.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Previous funding, grants, and job applications have prepared me to apply for the Fulbright. I learned how to talk about myself, the experiences that have fundamentally shaped who I am, and also what  I wish to get out of different opportunities. I would encourage students to take advantage of opportunities such as travel, research,  internships, to get a sense of what types of experiences you wish to continue engaging in.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Apply if you are committed to seeing it through until the end, because there are only so many fellowships and jobs you can apply for.  You want to use your energy and focus wisely on what you are actually passionate about.  I would say apply if you want to take this opportunity and use it to  open up your possibilities, personal and/or professional. Have several people read your essays, from people who know you very well, to acquaintances, to writing fellows. Give yourself plenty of time to write the essays and revise them. Practice for your interviews.

Mae Coyiuto, Davis Projects for Peace Grant

  1. Why did you choose to apply for the Davis Projects for Peace grant? Could you briefly describe the project you’ll be funding?
    The project that I'll be funding, "Right to Write" is a weekly creative writing workshop for underprivileged students in the Philippines. Aside from having an experienced writing teacher handle the sessions, each student will be paired with a mentor from one of the colleges in the Philippines. At the end of the workshop, the works of the students will be compiled and published into books that will be distributed to libraries across the country. I've always dreamed of helping a young writer get his/her work published. When I saw an e-mail about the different grants the Draper Center offered, I thought that I would get the chance to make this dream happen. Maria Tucker from the Draper Center told me about the Davis Projects for Peace and she guided me throughout the application process.
  2. Do you have any post-graduation plans yet? How (if at all) are they connected to your Davis grant?
    I still have no concrete plans on what I'll be doing after my time in Pomona. These past two years, I've jumped from wanting to be a writer, screenwriter, physical therapist, psychologist, professor (even thought about working as a mascot in Disneyland). However, my ultimate goal is to use whatever I had learned and gained during my time here and give it back to my home, the Philippines. Regardless of my career in the future, I would still want to be active in promoting literacy, advancing education and helping dreams come true back home. I just declared as a Psychology major this year and I'm currently hoping to get into graduate school after college.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    The people here in Pomona are so incredibly supportive. I couldn't have drafted my final proposal without the help of Maria or my advisor, Sharon Goto. Even when I was abroad back home during Winter break, they still read my drafts and gave their insights. Being around so many students so passionate about what they're doing pushed me to pursue what I'm passionate about. I don't think I would have had the ambition to apply for this fellowship two years ago.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    I think the biggest advice I can give is to be passionate about your project. It's also important to think of a project that will have a sustainable continued impact. My original idea was to hold a nationwide writing contest and the winners will get their stories published. I then realized that these young writers will get so much more out of a workshop than a contest. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help and others' feedback on your ideas. Every project idea is worth pursuing and who knows- you might get the chance of making your idea a reality!

Hannah Wayment-Steele, Goldwater Scholarship

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Goldwater Scholarship?
    In applying for the Goldwater, I was hoping that it would provide recognition for my efforts in conducting research.  I had also heard from previous Pomona Goldwater winners that winning the Goldwater had opened doors for them in applying for graduate school and other postgraduate fellowships.
  2. Briefly describe the research you plan to do during your senior year.
    I am currently studying the effects of Aluminum ions on lipid membranes.  Aluminum ions are a known neurotoxin, but their effect on lipid membranes at the molecular level is not well understood quantitatively.  I am using both experimental surface techniques and Molecular Dynamics simulations to better understand the mechanism of membrane damage.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this scholarship?
    In Professor Johal's laboratory, I was able to get my feet wet with research in my first year at Pomona.  Being around this outstanding peer group of student researchers helped me understand the process of formulating a research question, designing experiments, and presenting research to others.  I have since been able to present my research at both regional and national conferences, thanks to support from Pomona College and the Chemistry Department.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    This is more about long-term preparation than the application itself, but anyhow: be proactive in creating research experiences for yourself.  Ask professors early about research that you want to be involved in.  Once you're in a lab, don't be afraid to set your own pace, read about the field of research on your own, and ask new questions on the topic.  The Pomona science departments are small enough that if a student wants to pursue a topic in depth, there are all sorts of resources available to help them pursue it.

Rebekah Cramerus, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Kyrgyzstan

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright ETA? What made you choose Kyrgyzstan as your host country?
    I love traveling, and am always interested in exploring new countries and cultures, so applying for a Fulbright seemed like a no-brainer. I chose to apply for an ETA because I have experience teaching English abroad, and I've really enjoyed it -- both teaching in general, and English teaching in particular, as it is nicely compatible with my studies as a linguistics major. Narrowing down the country was surprisingly easy. I knew I wanted to go to a country where it would be hard to get to on my own. I had been interested in Central Asia for a while, because of the fascinating intersection between its history as a country of nomadic peoples where the Silk Road once ran and its more recent status as a former Soviet satellite. Kyrgyzstan would allow me to practice a language I already know well -- Russian -- and learn a new one -- Kyrgyz. The fact that the country has incredible natural beauty only sealed the deal!
  2. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    One of the things that excites me most about Fulbright is the cultural exchange aspect of the program. On the one hand, I will be giving English conversation classes and sharing the culture that I know with my students. On the other, I will be soaking up just as much of their culture just through the experience of living there. Both sides of this exchange are important to ensure that the program works -- and by now I am sufficiently addicted to the challenge of setting up one's life in a foreign land that I can't wait to get started again!
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Pomona gave me many opportunities to go abroad before I even got around to thinking about Fulbright; I spent a full year studying in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the summer before that, I received a grant from Pomona's Summer Internship Funding to work at an NGO in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Both departments that I was involved with -- the Linguistics & Cognitive Science department and the German & Russian department -- gave me the skills and knowledge I needed to be well qualified for the opportunity. The CDO was also very useful in preparing for the Fulbright application even before application season started.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Start early. Finish early. And then put it out of your mind until you get notified.

Nathalie Folkerts, Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship

  1. Why did you choose to apply for the Strauss Public Service Award? Could you briefly describe the project you’ll be funding?
    The Strauss Grant provides a very unique opportunity to underclassmen to receive substantial funds to design and implement a project about an issue they are passionate about. Over the past two years, I have gotten the opportunity to familiarize myself with the Pomona campus and some of the surrounding community. This allowed me the opportunity to begin to see and experience some of the community’s issues, explore the programs currently addressing it, and dream of my own solutions. The issue that I chose to address is food justice and developing healthy mindsets around food throughout the community. Large food deserts are readily apparent in the surrounding community, and the issue’s intersection with economic inequality is stark. For this project, I will be working with Vista del Valle Elementary School in Claremont to improve the school garden and create a joint gardening and cooking club to cultivate basic knowledge and skills around gardening and cooking healthy, affordable food throughout the community. This club will pull volunteers from the Claremont Colleges and local high schools to work with students cooking on a weekly basis in addition to larger community cooking nights, field trips to local farms, and a culminating Iron Chef competition and celebration.
  2. Do you have any post-graduation plans yet? How (if at all) are they connected to your Strauss grant?
    After graduation, I hope to take some form of a gap year. My dream is to complete a research fellowship around the intersection between international development and sustainable agriculture. Afterwards, I hope to return to graduate school to earn a degree in teaching and/or sustainable agriculture and public policy. I hope to continue a career based in public service, either through public policy, education, or an intersection of the two.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Pomona has shaped me in many ways, and the combination of classes, extracurriculars, work, and discussions and relationships with peers have drastically affected the trajectory of this project and my ability to complete it. My volunteer work in the community and my Teaching Assistant position at Vista del Valle Elementary School first exposed me to some of the issues surrounding economic inequality and food access within the surrounding area. Classes such as Professor Ochoa’s Chicanas/os and Latinas/os in Contemporary Society helped me further engage in the community and begin to critically analyze some of the ways  oppression is systematically enforced and perpetuated throughout society. My Anthropology Research Methods class gave me the opportunity to conduct a rigorous study of the Claremont and Pomona farmers’  market communities in relation to food access and social justice. My friends and classmates have challenged by opinions and and encouraged me to confront my own assumptions. All of these skills and more have been critical to developing me as an individual and this project as a whole. In addition, exposure to the CDO, the Writing Center, the Draper Center, and other on-campus resources have helped me technically prepare for this application and for similar applications.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    My first piece of advice would be to engage in the surrounding community to determine what type of project you are interested in doing. This will be a significant time commitment for at least one year, so it is important that you choose a project you are passionate about. Building off of that, be sure to base your project in your interests and experiences. I am particularly interested in urban agriculture, food justice, and economic inequality; I love being outside and working with kids, and I’m considering a career in education. Therefore, creating an after school program for children at local underfunded schools was a perfect way to combine many interests: spend the time to figure out how you can combine your strengths and interests into a cohesive project. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and be sure to start thinking about creating a draft of your application early!

Kara Freedman, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Peru

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright research grant? What made you choose Peru as your host country?
    I wanted to apply for a Fulbright because my previous experiences living and traveling abroad have been really meaningful to me and I want to continue to participate in cultural exchanges long after college. The Fulbright ETA is one of the best ways to do this. I chose to apply to Peru because I enjoyed my time in South America when I studied abroad in Argentina but wanted to see more of the continent; I have been to some of Peru's most famous sites but did not have the chance to get to know the people and culture the way that I hope to do when I am there in 2015.
  2. Briefly describe your research project and how you plan to get involved in the local community.
    When I am in Peru I will be a teaching assistant in a local university. I hope to get involved in the community through sports, ideally with an organization such as Grassroots Soccer, which combines health education with soccer for young men and women across the world. I am most looking forward to the people I will meet and the relationships that I will develop during my nine months in the country.

Emily Darby, Goldwater Scholarship

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Goldwater Scholarship?
    I had heard about the Goldwater scholarship from Gabi Heller, who won it last year.  I knew it was an excellent door opener for other opportunities later in life.
  2. Briefly describe the research you plan to do during your senior year.
    I will be studying the kinetics of the hydroperoxy reactions with acetonylperoxy and acetylperoxy radicals.  These reactions have atmospheric importance in the troposphere due to their impact on the HOx inventory, ultimately influencing the production of ozone in the troposphere.  I will be working with Professor Grieman on this project and will begin working on the project this summer at JPL.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this scholarship?
    Pomona has provided me many opportunities that I probably would not have received elsewhere.  For example, I have gotten the opportunity to do research with professor Grieman since my sophomore year.  I have also gotten the opportunity to be a lab TA for both general chemistry and organic chemistry and mentor for HAP.  Because of these opportunities I believe I was a competitive applicant.  Also, because of my lab and research experiences at Pomona, I believe I was prepared to write an original research proposal (required for the application).

2013 Pomona Fellowship Award Winners

Nick Murphy, Gates Cambridge Scholarship

  1. Why did you choose to apply to this scholarship in particular?
    I chose to apply to the Gates Cambridge scholarship because of its emphasis on a commitment to improving the lives of others through the development of driven and intelligent leaders.  I look forward to meeting others in my cohort of scholars and learn about not only their scholarly pursuits, but also how they intend to apply these towards positive change in communities around the world.
  2. What graduate program will you enroll in at Cambridge, and what will be your focus in that program?
    I am enrolling in a research-based MPhil degree through the Department of Pathology. More specifically, I will be researching the Trypanosome which causes African Sleeping Sickness with Professor Mark Field in the Department of Parasitology. We aim to study the communicative pathways within the Trypanosoma brucei which control vital life processes such as the beating of its flagellum. Studying the interfaces in these biochemical pathways can aid us in the directed development of novel drugs. This is of particular importance for African Sleeping Sickness because there has been no novel drug development for treatment since the 1970's. In addition, while the disease does not have the breadth of malaria or dengue fever, it is devastating to the communities to which it is endemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time in Cambridge?
    I am very excited for a few things in Cambridge. First, I am excited to have the chance to apply my experience as a Molecular Biology major to the treatment of an important disease.  At this point, I plan to pursue the study of infectious diseases and their treatments. I am also excited to live in Cambridge, I have never been to the city but have heard much about the beauty of its campus. My future residential college, Darwin College, is also right on the water where people go punting. Going from Pomona, California to Cambridge, UK is going to be very interesting.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Pomona prepared me for this scholarship in many ways. The strength of our Biology and Chemistry departments coupled with the small class sizes and direct access to professors has created an awesome Molecular Biology department. While there were downsides to taking 2-3 laboratory courses every semester, with extra days in lab researching for thesis, the professors made these hours more enjoyable and we ended up with excellent training and experience. In addition, the Draper Center for Community Partnerships has fostered my passion for social justice by not only supporting the development of the Food Recovery Network, but also providing indispensable guidance in my understanding of how one should aim to enact positive change in communities around the world.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    My advice to future applicants would be to get in contact with the researchers with whom they might like to work EARLY.  I stupidly did not contact any professors until October and was very lucky to receive a quick response from Professor Field.  Setting up this contact and learning more in depth about the work and what you will actually be doing is also critical to the application.  For the Gates Cambridge, first you must find someone who wants you to work in their lab, then you will generally have an interview of some sort with them and other members of the department.  So always be very professional in these correspondences.  Once you get departmental approval, you move on to the Gates committee who can then give you an interview (in February, you can either Skype or go to DC).

Efe Kabba, Watson Fellowship

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Watson fellowship?
    I was interested in finding a gap year option because I wasn’t sure I wanted to immediately dive into graduate school or the job market. I have so many different interests which, often times, don’t seem to fit together, so I longed for the opportunity to explore my interests outside an academic setting. The Watson “invests in people not projects”, which means that the year is primarily about fellows discovering new things about themselves. It also means that the focus is on the process and the experience rather than a specific end result. My overall mindset aligns with their Mission Statement. I could have applied for a Fulbright or another fellowship, but the Watson spirit matches my personality and my desires perfectl
  2. Briefly describe your project and your travel plans.
    My project is titled "Musical Swings and Other Digital Landscapes and Experiences”. I'm exploring how interactive digital technologies are moving away from the traditional model of screened objects (ie. computers, mobile devices) and towards a model where these technologies are effortlessly integrated into the rest of our physical world. I’m primarily concerned with how interactive digital technologies are transforming the physical spaces we live in—blurring the line between the virtual and actual (physical)—and how that transformation is changing how we perceive ourselves, our relationship to the world and other human beings. I plan to travel to Denmark (Copenhagen), Canada (Montreal), Japan (Tokyo), and Germany (Berlin). All these places have rich, diverse design histories and are currently on the cutting edge for interaction design. I hope to get an insight into the mechanics of these unique environments by working with artist collectives, design studios and/or research institutions that create these kinds of environments and experiences. I’m also going to visit and experience temporary and permanent sites for myself and hopefully talk to people around me who are experiencing the same site.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your Watson year?
    I’m looking forward to challenging myself in a way that I haven’t before. I’m excited to just be in the world, meet all kinds of new people and not really know exactly what will come next in my journey. I’m also looking forward to learning how to trust myself. My Watson interviewer, who was a former fellow, said something that really stuck with me. He is a musician and on his year he learned to trust himself as an artist. He wrote more music during his Watson year than he had ever prior to it. I want to learn to trust myself as a traveler, an artist and as a person.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    During my four years I’ve learned to not take any idea, viewpoint or societal system at face value. I’ve learned to constantly challenge others’ ideas (even those of authority figures) as well as my own and understand the sources of my own biases. This has allowed me to understand myself better, as well as the world. For a lot of us it seems as though there is only one path in life—school for almost two decades, holding “stable” jobs (even if we hate them) primarily in order to sustain the current economic system, finding a partner, having kids etc. Although some people are content with this model, in the simplest of terms, I’ve learned that it’s not an absolute but merely the current paradigm that mostly benefits those at the top of the food chain. I now know that I don’t really want to follow the current model and I saw the possibility of going on a Watson year as a first step to going off track and creating my own model—one that’s tailor made for me.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Figure out early a project that will sustain your interest for a year. It doesn’t have to be related to what you’re studying in school but it has to be something that you’re passionate about. Also, write multiple drafts of both your personal statement and project proposal. Show it to people you trust—your favorite professor, your roommate, your mom. My first draft of my personal statement was nothing like what I actually turned in. Both written statements are important but my personal advice is to really focus on your personal statement. The Watson Foundation stresses that they “invest in people, not projects”, so they really want to see that you are a passionate person who is ready to go out in the world and embark on a journey with many unknowns.

Jennifer Schmidt, Udall Scholarship

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Udall?
    I was encouraged to apply for a Udall scholarship during my sophomore year, when I had been working on introducing post-consumer composting to the dining halls at Pomona. Bowen Close and Samantha Meyer, both of whom I’d been working with on the project, had spoken to Char; without their recommendation, I wouldn’t have known about it! After finding out more about the scholarship, I chose to apply in hopes of taking advantage of the incredible opportunities for networking there. The scholarship is more than a financial stipend: it also includes a week-long Scholars Orientation, which provides opportunities to learn from environmental leaders and connect with other students with similar interests.
  2. Do you have any post-graduation plans? How (if at all) are they connected to your Udall Scholarship?
    I’m not entirely sure of my post-graduation plans, but at this point I’m planning on going to graduate school to study sustainable agriculture. I’m particularly interested in soil science and hope to help improve our collective understanding of how agriculture impacts the soil. That may end up being a Master’s degree and hands-on work at a nonprofit, or a Ph.D and a career in research: I’m not quite sure where I’ll end up! My interest in making agriculture more environmentally friendly was certainly the basis for the activities I’ve been involved with at Pomona (composting, Farm Club, Pomona for Environmental Activism and Responsibility, and more) that contributed to receiving the Udall scholarship.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this scholarship?
    Pomona’s incredible resources, human as well as financial and institutional, were instrumental in applying for this scholarship. First, there’s the Farm, perhaps the most under-valued resource at Pomona. Not many colleges of Pomona’s size have a working farm as well-developed and accessible as ours, and being able to be involved with the Farm in various capacities has been a huge part of my college experience. Second, there is the wonderful environmental community at Pomona, from the Environmental Analysis program to current and former sustainability personnel. Their support, from the nomination to the application process, was invaluable, and Pomona’s lucky to have (and have had) such dedicated environmentalists!
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Apply (there’s nothing to lose), frame your experiences, don’t be afraid to apply multiple times, and take advantage of the resources you have at Pomona! By the time you’ve gotten to your sophomore or junior year, you’ve had all kinds of experiences at college, and hopefully had a chance to try out lots of different things. Only some of them are relevant to the story you’re telling with your application, though, about what your passions are and how those have led you to create change. As for reapplying, I actually applied twice: after receiving an Honorable Mention my sophomore year, Char Miller encouraged me to apply again this past year. Various mentors in the sustainability community at Pomona also helped give me feedback on my application, which was very helpful. I’d suggest talking to professors, former Udall scholars, and sustainability personnel about your application.

Josh Propp, Fulbright Study/Research Grant to Germany

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Germany as your host country?
    I think many students at the Claremont Colleges feel compelled to apply for a Fulbright, and that's certainly a part of why I applied.  But my education has always been fairly international in its focus; my high school program focused on international studies, and studying abroad as a junior at Pomona reinforced my belief in the power of cross-cultural communication.  I chose Germany for a few reasons.  I have moderate proficiency in the language, but hope to strengthen my speaking abilities through extended cultural and linguistic immersion.  In terms of the focus of my research, Germany is also a wonderful case study as a beacon of renewable energy leadership, analogous in many ways to California within the United States.  Lastly, the nostalgia I felt from leaving Freiburg after my study abroad experience beckoned me back to the gem of a city, one with a vibrant culture set amidst astounding nature.
  2. Briefly describe your research project.
    The focus of my research is the different policies that encourage greater deployment of renewable energy procurement, especially small-scale solar (like on residential roofs, stores, and warehouses).  Germany has led the European Union in this effort, as has California in the United States.  I hope to uncover the differences in political culture that account for a persistent gap between European and American reliance on renewables and glean practicable insights to be implemented Stateside.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    My experience as an abroad student in Freiburg was in many ways better than I ever could have hoped for, but the social aspect of my interactions were inherently very American-centric.  Therefore, I am looking forward to embedding myself more deeply with German colleagues, acquaintances, and friends for an extended period of time.  The international perspective I gained from spending a semester outside of the United States was tremendous, and I can only imagine how much more I can develop this perspective over a full academic year.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    By far the most important aspect of my Pomona education that I feel prepares me to do independent research in Germany has been my Senior Thesis.  My research in Environmental Analysis allowed me to explore personal academic interests in greater depth under the guidance of my advisors, and the topic of solar energy in California has become a bridge to my proposed studies under the Fulbright grant.  The Fulbright advisors, especially Hans Rindisbacher, and application process through Pomona were also extremely helpful, as my application changed drastically based on feedback from faculty both familiar and unfamiliar.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Before applying for a Fulbright--or any graduate grant for that matter--students should ensure that the program they are applying for is one in which they feel a genuine urge to participate.  The Fulbright Program, of course, has a very prestigious reputation; I applied not for this reason, but rather because I desire to spend more time outside of the US and to further my understanding of renewable energy policy.  If you are truly passionate about the research project you propose (or the ETA), it will come across in your application.

Miriam Shiffman, Fulbright Study/Research Grant to Australia

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Australia as your host country?
    After a fulfilling and transformative experience studying abroad and traveling alone in Europe, I knew I wanted to travel after graduation if possible. I chose to apply for a Fulbright in order to combine my wanderlust to experience new cultures with my desire to pursue microbial ecology research. Australia is home to the unique Centre for Ecogenomics, which is devoted to the sequence-based study of microbial communities - tools I am keen to add to my repertoire.
  2. Briefly describe your research project.
    While traditional microbiology is based on the study of a single species in artificial isolation, this is opposed to how microbes actually live in nature: in complex, interactional communities. Sequence-based metagenomic methods are revolutionizing our understanding of microbial communities. Working with scientists at the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, I will use these tools to study the gut microbiomes of native Australian marsupials. My research will help fill in large gaps in our understanding of the Tree of Life, and could lead to the discovery of microbes with novel, useful properties.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I am looking forward to pursuing research exactly in line with my interests, to interacting with researchers at the cutting-edge of the field, to learning new tools from their inventors, to exploring the culture, foods, and animals of Australia, to immersing myself in the Brisbane community, and to learning the quirks of Australian culture that make it unique.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Opportunities and encouragement to do research as early as freshman year prepared me for this fellowship.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Future applicants should spend time researching and contacting potential affiliates abroad as early as possible! This part of the application is really important, is not entirely in your control, and will probably take longer than you think. Also, I went to my first-ever CDO event on writing a personal statement, and it was helpful in getting started.

Rodrigo Ranero, Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship and Davis Projects for Peace Grant

  1. Why did you choose to apply for the Strauss and Davis grants? Could you briefly describe the project(s) you’ll be funding? I initially heard about both these scholarships through a friend from Scripps College who won both in 2012. The funding will be used to continue expanding the coverage of a language reclamation project for the extinct xinka language of Guatemala. More specifically, I will use the funding from Davis to collaborate with the Council of the Xinka People of Guatemala (COPXIG) to co-write, publish and distribute an array of pedagogical materials designed specifically to teach the xinka language from scratch in schools across the state of Santa Rosa. The Strauss funding will be used to expand our coverage to the community itself - we will carry out workshops with older xinka people who wish to learn the language, in order to expand from the school setting directly into the community itself.
    After launching the project with the xinka community last year, I realized that the ideology behind both these scholarships fit my project perfectly. First, the Davis grant is focused on peace building, so in my application I related the project to the fulfillment of the 1996 Peace Accords following the civil war in Guatemala - accords in which the government committed to the preservation of minority languages (a promise that has not been successfully kept in all cases, as with xinka). As such, reclaiming xinka will be a political statement for the xinka. On the other hand, the Strauss' focus on community building tackled another major issue in any language revitalization project - it is of utter importance that the entire community become active participant in recovering a language, since leaving it to be taught solely in a school setting rarely works in the long term. As such, both these grants focused on two different and equally important aspects of our reclamation vision - an empowerment for the xinka people and a recovery of an otherwise lost heritage.
  2. Do you have any post-graduation plans? How (if at all) are they connected to your Strauss and Davis grants?
    My plan at the moment is to attend grad school to pursue a PhD in linguistics. I wish to describe and analyze the syntax of under documented and endangered languages, but I also want to carry out revitalization work directly with communities who wish to strengthen their language. I believe it should be any linguist's responsibility to work against the disappearance of languages worldwide - in my opinion, focusing solely on theoretical matters should not be the sole goal for linguists, since they possess the tools necessary to advise communities on viable revitalization techniques.
  3. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for these fellowships?
    The linguistics department at Pomona is excellent, and I have received full support from all faculty on pursuing my interests. It was through the mentoring of my professors that I learned the value of linguistics as a discipline, so I was prepared to frame a project such as mine around the goals and vision of the Davis and Strauss foundations. Furthermore, I have engaged in hands on research alongside faculty for two years now at Pomona, so I was confident as well in my ability to carry out the projects successfully.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    I would advise them to start early. I began to work on the applications three months before the deadline. I consulted with the organization I work with in Guatemala for several weeks during the winter regarding the purpose of the projects and how they would benefit the community, since I did not want to receive funds for something they were not in complete agreement with. Thinking about every aspect of your project proposal in detail takes time, and your application will show your passion and commitment only if you've been careful in considering every single aspect. If you wrote a project proposal a night before the deadline, you will be at a great disadvantage. Another advice I'd give is to contact previous winners of the awards. They will provide you with insight into the aspects of their application they believe gave them the advantage over all others, so take their advice to heart.

Daniel Moerner, Downing Scholarship

  1. Why did you choose to apply to this fellowship in particular?
    I applied for the Downing Fellowship for a few reasons. Most important was the invaluable encouragement of Professor McKirahan and Professor Thielke. Professore McKirahan, in particular, has been encouraging me to study in the United Kingdom since I was a sophomore, and was the first person to suggest that I apply for the Downing. I also found the one-year length of the program attractive. I plan to return to the United States to pursue a PhD in philosophy, and spending two years in the UK felt like too long of a delay.
  2. Briefly, what graduate program will you enroll in at Cambridge, and what will be your focus in that program?
    I will be enrolling in an MPhil in Classics, specializing in ancient philosophy. In addition to attending lectures and participating in reading groups and graduate seminars, I expect to write one major paper on Plato, one major paper and my thesis on Aristotle, and pursue further study in Greek, likely culminating in a comprehensive examination.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time in Cambridge?
    I'm most looking forward to being surrounded by students who love classics and ancient philosophy as much as I do! Because classics is a small major with many sub-disciplines, Pomona doesn't have many other students interested in ancient philosophy. Graduate study at Cambridge will be quite different, and luckily Downing College even has a reputation for attracting more than its fair share of classicists, so I'll also be able to live in close proximity to my academic peers.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    I have had tremendously supportive faculty advisors, who have guided me through more Independent Studies than they ever needed to supervise. We are lucky that this sort of close student-faculty relationship is not uncommon at Pomona.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    Start over the summer! I didn't, and it produced a very stressful November. I'd also encourage students to be sure to relax and be themselves in the interview process.

Erin Toothaker, Fulbright Study/Research Grant to Peru

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? How did you choose Peru as your host country?
    I chose to apply for a Fulbright because in the year(s) immediately following college, we are more free and have more resources available to us to facilitate our exploration of both our own interests and the world through opportunities such as Fulbright. I wanted to make sure that I took advantage of the opportunity to travel to a part of the world I have not yet had the chance to explore, in a way that would allow me to participate and to learn outside of the structured environment of school. Once I had decided to apply for a Fulbright, I chose Peru as my host country because I found a project there that would allow me to apply some of the skills I have learned during my time in school to a more practical, impactful purpose. 
  2. Briefly describe the research project you will undertake in Peru.
    During my time in Peru, I will be working to develop a business plan for a ceramic water filter factory in Pucará, Peru. Once I have completed the report, I will be presenting a model of factory costs and benefits to potential funders of a production facility. Drinking water in the area is extremely polluted, and a filter factory in the area would greatly lower the costs of providing in-home sources of clean water to the surrounding communities, as well as developing an exportable commodity to support local economic growth based on locally sourced inputs from the extensive ceramic traditions of the region.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I am most looking forward to meeting the students, potters, and environmental groups that I will be working with during my time in Peru, as they have already been very welcoming.
  4. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    My only advice would be to start early, because finding an organization with which to affiliate yourself during your time in the host country takes time. I was very fortunate to have been able to find an organization within the time that I left myself to complete the application process.

Joshua Rodriguez, Fulbright Binational Business Internship in Mexico

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Mexico as your host country?
    I chose to apply for a Fulbright because I wanted the opportunity to continue my studies, immerse myself in a new culture and be a cultural ambassador. I was strongly encouraged by my friends and advisor Professor Lozano to apply for this outstanding fellowship. I selected Mexico as my host country because it has a unique program called the Binational Business Internship that provides me a business internship with a great company and the opportunity to continue my studies with an affiliated graduate school. To me, it was the perfect opportunity to continue my studies while pursuing my goal of a business career that connects with Latin America.
  2. Briefly describe the work you will be doing in Mexico.
    I do not know yet what company I will be placed with but I expect to be using my economics background in finance or strategic planning.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I am looking forward to being around great people and great food! My parents are from El Salvador so having the opportunity to be in any part of Latin America is dream come true. Additionally, I am excited to meet other Fulbright Scholars and the great things they have done.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    My four years at Pomona have been great. I have been able to participate in two summer research programs through SURP. The professors and Fulbright advisors at Pomona have been completely supportive of my Fulbright application. They gave me great advice along the process. Additionally, I feel my Economics, Spanish, and Latin American History courses have really prepared for this particular business related Fulbright. Lastly, the CDO has been great as they have helped with my two summer internships (and a PCIP internship) that allowed me to standout during my Fulbright application.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    As cliche as it sounds, start early! It really does help in thinking about the program that you would like to apply for and the steps needed to attain this goal. Again, be yourself. Fulbright readers can tell when you are sincerely passionate about the work you are proposing. Make sure that your application says why you need this particular Fulbright in order to accomplish your future goals. Since most of the Fulbrights require language skills, I was interviewed in Spanish, it would be wise to develop your language skills.

Lorelei Curtin, Fulbright Study/Research Grant to New Zealand

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose New Zealand as your host country?
    One of my main motivations for applying for Fulbright in New Zealand was because I went abroad there during the spring of my junior year. That experience was life-changing; not only did I meet an exciting and inspiring group of people, both on my study abroad program and locally, but I gained a new perspective on life and my role in the world. I found so many opportunities for growth and learning there that I knew I wanted to go back.
  2. Briefly describe your research project.
    My project is titled "Geochemistry of South Island Lake Sediments: Recording the Impact of the Westerly Winds." I'll be studying sediment cores from lakes in the   Fjordlands region of the South Island, using stable isotope geochemical techniques to assess the effect of the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds on the hydrology of New Zealand. This project is important because the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds are very sensitive to climate change, and they control how much rain New Zealand receives. I'm hoping that by looking at the record of these winds from the last 20,000 years, I can help to predict what kind of changes that part of New Zealand will see in the future. I'll be working with a professor at the University of Otago in Dunedin.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I'm looking forward to working on my project, which I think is one that is unbelievably important, not only for New Zealand but for understanding how climate change will effect communities around the world. I am excited for the opportunity to completely immerse myself in research, without having to worry about classes, homework, or tests. Also, New Zealand is an amazing place to live--I can't wait to move to a new city, meet new people, and get involved in an international research program. As Fulbright applicants, we are encouraged to include a service aspect to our project. I hope to spend time volunteering with the Department of Conservation, maintaining trails, huts, and penguin beach habitats.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    Pomona prepared me extremely well for Fulbright. One of the biggest factors in my successful application (I think, at least) is that I have had many opportunities to do research in the Geology Department with Bob Gaines. I've been working on my own projects with Bob since the summer after my freshmen year, and have had the opportunity to attend many professional conferences, even presenting at one of them. These experiences all culminated in a senior thesis that I am very proud of. One of the important parts of the application is the recommendations--because of the nature of Pomona professors, I had no problem finding three that I felt confident knew my strengths and weaknesses as a student, in addition to knowing me personally. My non-science experience with writing and thinking also had a huge impact on my ability to craft a successful personal statement.  Additionally, the help and guidance of the Fulbright counselors was essential.
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    I would tell a potential applicant, first, to do it! The application period is at the beginning of the year, before senior year gets too stressful, so it is definitely worth putting in a modest amount of effort for potentially great results. If you're struggling to find somewhere to go or what to do, I would suggest figuring out something you are most passionate about, and following that dream. Go to a place you've always wanted to go, and work on something you've always wanted to work on.

Rohith Nayak, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia

  1. Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright? What made you choose Indonesia as your host country?
    During my four years at Pomona, I worked with a lot of youth in the surrounding area in tutoring and mentoring capacities. Going into my senior year, I felt that applying to teach English abroad would be a great way to continue this work and travel the world before starting graduate school. I became interested in the Fulbright program because ETAs have the opportunity to conduct an independent research project in addition to teaching English. I chose Indonesia as my host country because I was fascinated by its ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity.
  2. Briefly describe the work you will be doing in Indonesia, including how you plan to get involved in the local community.
    In addition to teaching English, I plan to examine the state of rural healthcare in Indonesia. By volunteering at local clinics, I will observe how various diseases are treated and how the healthcare system is structured and financed. I hope that these experiences will give me a unique perspective on global healthcare by the time I return to the US to attend medical school.
  3. What are you most looking forward to about your time as a Fulbright fellow?
    I am looking forward to immersing myself into the local culture and learning as much as I can about the nuances of daily life in Indonesia. I believe my interactions with students will be particularly valuable for becoming familiar with important traditions and beliefs.
  4. How have your experiences at Pomona prepared you to apply for this fellowship?
    The CDO and the Fellowships Office at Pomona were instrumental in sparking my interest in the Fulbright Program. Moreover, these offices, along with my professors, gave great advice during the application process and were very helpful when I was writing my personal statement and grant proposal. 
  5. What advice would you give to future applicants about the application process?
    I would advise future applicants to start their applications early. Beginning personal statements the summer before senior year will reduce stress and make for a more complete application.

Drew Quinn, Downing Scholarship

  1. In what graduate program are you enrolled, and what has been your focus in that program?
    I am an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) student in the Department of Genetics.  My focus is determining the role of cis-regulatory adaptations in the evolution of the immune system using next-generation RNA sequencing.  Hopefully, my work will shed some light onto the question of whether structural or regulatory changes are the dominate mode of evolution.
  2. What has your experience at Cambridge been like?
    Do you have a favorite story or anecdote? Cambridge is a fantastic place to live.  Like at Pomona, what makes this place special is the people.  I think the closeness of the departmental groups coupled with the tight-knit college system and the large volume of international students lends a unique sociability to the student body.  It has never been easier to make friends—and they are certainly what I will miss most when I leave.  Of course you do have to put up with separate hot and cold water taps, but if you are willing to overlook this flaw than you really can't do much better.
  3. What are your plans for after you graduate? How will being a Downing Scholar help you with these plans?
    After I graduate I will be working at a tech start-up based in Palo Alto.  I'd like to think that the skills I have developed via the Downing scholarship will not only be useful there, but also will be ones that I carry with me for the rest of my career.
  4. How did Pomona’s programs, faculty members, or staff help prepare you for the application process and your work at Cambridge?
    For graduate study in the sciences, coming from a place like Pomona, where you have been doing hands-on lab work since first semester freshmen year (unfortunately you're dredging up suppressed memories of general chemistry lab now), gives you a big leg-up.  Many of the students straight out of Cambridge undergrad, for example, have far less experience managing an independent project in the laboratory.  Even this aside, I have come to value more and more the liberal arts education I received at Pomona—especially for the presentation and writing ability that was fostered during my time there.  These are invaluable skills in any field.
  5. What advice would you have for future applicants hoping for a Downing Scholarship?
    Contact potential supervisors at Cambridge early and work with them to develop an idea for a project that you are truly interested in.  Don't hesitate!—in my experience, the faculty here are extremely friendly.  The more concrete your proposal for study, the more you will be able to take advantage of the opportunities here, and the more likely you are to be awarded the scholarship.

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