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News & Events for the Smith College Community
News of Note June 15, 2021

Seven Smithies Receive Fulbright Fellowships

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Smith consistently ranks among colleges with the highest number of Fulbright awards in the United States. This year, seven alums and students have been awarded the prestigious scholarships that support research and teaching opportunities around the globe.

Securing a Fulbright Award is a remarkable feat during an ordinary year, but the pandemic posed even more obstacles for candidates in 2020. The year saw a record number of applicants—nearly a 12% increase over the previous application cycle—and spots were especially limited as some of last year’s awards were deferred because of COVID-19.

Margaret Lamb, director of Fellowships and Postgraduate Scholarships, is proud of the outcome for Smithies this year. “To me, their applications were wonderful expressions of hope,” says Lamb. “Applicants showed great resilience in their ability to engage with yet another learning process online.”

While some Fulbright recipients are still waiting to learn whether their travels can take place as scheduled due to COVID-19 outbreaks around the world, they all remain optimistic and excited about diving into the work ahead of them.

Here’s more information about Smith’s seven Fulbright recipients.

Sakina Ali ’21

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Hometown: Queens, New York
Majors: Computer science; biochemistry
Fulbright Location: India
Project: Studying the mechanics of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing tool at the Indian Institute of Technology

How has the pandemic impacted your interest in this specific research?

My interest in this research has definitely been amplified by the pandemic, because CRISPR-Cas9/gene editing has the power to fight diseases such as COVID-19. During the pandemic, scientists have looked to CRISPR as a potential therapeutic, utilizing its targeted enzymatic activity to destroy SARS-CoV-2 RNA and prevent viral replication. The technology developed in the face of COVID-19 can be applicable for many other infectious diseases, and the advances in CRISPR technology developed today will likely be beneficial for decades to come. As an aspiring physician-researcher, this experience will prepare me for the tough questions the medical field is trying to solve.

Halle Duckworth ’21J

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Hometowns: Vermont, Illinois; Charlotte, North Carolina
Major: Government
Minor: Economics
Fulbright location: Taiwan
Project: English teaching assistant

Apart from language skills, what else are you hoping to help your students gain?

Educational settings are really important opportunities to help children build confidence and self-identity. Looking back, some of the most formative parts of my young life were related to my education and the teachers and mentors I had. I want to be able to help the students I work with feel the self-fulfillment, confidence, motivation and general happiness and satisfaction I felt during some of the highest points of my time in school.

Erin Hanley ’19

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Hometown: San Francisco, California
Majors: Government; American studies
Fulbright location: Thailand
Project: English teaching assistant

Your Fulbright application mentioned athletics. How do you plan to incorporate sports into your lesson plans?

I’ll be teaching my students English through memorization, which makes me think of the overlap between rote learning and muscle memory in sports—the more you practice a given move, a given skill, the more intuitive it becomes. Aside from planning to incorporate various songs, dances and movements into my lessons, another huge component of Fulbright is your ability to be a “cultural ambassador”; sports are a very “American” thing, and I am excited to share my love of basketball as a piece of my own culture and identity with my students.

Camryn McCarthy ’20

""Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Major: Biological sciences
Certificate: Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences
Fulbright location: Namibia
Project: Mitigating marine wildlife entanglement with the Namibian Dolphin Project

How important is community involvement in conservation, and how do you plan to reach out to the local community during your project?

Community involvement is vital to conservation efforts. The Namibian Dolphin Project recognizes this and has done an amazing job cultivating relationships with the local community in an attempt to translate scientific research into appreciation for the local marine environment. One of my main roles during my time in Namibia will be to act as an educator based out of the education center, working to develop awareness of the issue of marine wildlife entanglement. I also plan to participate in other forms of regular education outreach initiatives, such as visits to local schools, social media postings and community beach cleanups.
Photograph by Rosalie Toupin ’20

Lydia Quevedo ’21

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Hometown: Middletown, Rhode Island
Majors: Linguistics; Spanish
Fulbright location: Spain
Project: English teaching assistant

What impact can bilingualism have on an individual or, more broadly, on a society?

There is powerful evidence that speaking two or more languages has many cognitive benefits. A larger population of bilinguals results in a greater degree of open mindedness, empathy and appreciation for other cultures. I strongly believe that public bilingual education is key to transforming students into compassionate global citizens. I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in linguistics with the goal of using that expertise to serve indigenous and Hispanic communities through education, technology and language. My experience as an English teaching assistant in Spain will prepare me with insight into bilingual education programs, minority language policies and international thinking that will prove indispensable in this field.

Giovanna Sabini-Leite ’21

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Hometowns: Franklin, Massachusetts; Brasília, Brazil
Majors: Biological sciences; Latin American & Latino/a studies
Certificate: Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences
Fulbright location: Brazil
Project: Analyzing coral cover and species diversity in the reef system of Tamandaré, Brazil

How important is it to the field of marine biology to conduct research in other areas of the world?

Learning and researching coral reefs in other areas of the world can provide insight into conserving reefs in vulnerable reef systems around the globe, mitigating climate change-associated threats to reefs and restoring degraded reefs. The reefs in Brazil differ from the “traditional” reefs you see, for example, in the Great Barrier Reef. I hope that my findings will provide updated and invaluable data concerning coral cover and species diversity, aiding in future comparisons of coral reef biodiversity and conditions within Tamandaré, Brazil, and worldwide.

Iver Sadie Warburton ’21

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Hometowns: Tokyo, Japan; Singapore, Singapore; Bow, New Hampshire
Majors: Physics; astronomy
Fulbright location: France
Project: Multiwavelength analysis of radial distribution of gas structure in active galactic nuclei at L’Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris

What are your main goals for this project? Are you hoping for any specific scientific breakthroughs or milestones?

My goal of mapping the structure of ionised gas outflows from active galactic nuclei is an imperative step toward finally understanding how these powerful supermassive black holes influence the formation, evolution and star formation processes of their host galaxies. I hope to determine common patterns across AGN feedback spatial distributions and to expand upon my predictions of how AGN may be closely tied to galactic stellar formation. I enjoy taking on challenging coding projects and the fact that my own code and astronomy experience can help to unravel the greatest mysteries of the universe is something I can’t refuse.