University of Rochester

Fulbright Award Season Begins with Two Rochester Students, One Alumnus Selected

March 29, 2011

At the University of Rochester, April and May mean more than the beginning of spring. It's also national fellowship selection season, and again this year, some of Rochester's brightest are learning that they've been selected as Fulbright Scholars. This highly selective program provides college graduates the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research abroad. As of today, with more announcements likely in the weeks ahead, two Rochester seniors, Nathaniel Lindsey and Hannah Watkins, and one alumnus, David Liebers, have been named 2011-12 Fulbright Scholars.

All three were selected to receive grants to the United Kingdom, which is among the most prestigious and competitive of the Fulbright student programs. Lindsey, Watkins, and Liebers are the first candidates endorsed by Rochester to succeed in the UK Fulbright competition and are among only 35 scholars selected from a national pool of more than 700 applicants.

The Fulbright program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, offers opportunities for career-launching study, teaching, and research abroad and are designed to promote education and cultural exchange between the United States and other nations. Scholars pursuing study or research design their own programs and arrange institutional affiliations in the host countries. The grants cover expenses such as travel and health insurance, and also provide a monthly stipend.

Nathaniel Lindsey '11, a native of Skaneateles, N.Y., will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in alternative energy and sustainable engineering, a self-developed major that combines his interests in optics, anthropology, and engineering with his passion for social responsibility. While at Rochester, he also completed dual minors in optics and environmental geology. Lindsey will spend his Fulbright year at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, enrolled in a one-year master's program through the School of Geosciences. He was the only applicant to receive the Fulbright/Edinburgh partnership award this year.

Lindsey will use his undergraduate experience researching geophysics, seismic exploration, and geothermal energy to develop a thesis that explores a new method of surveying for geothermal energy called magnetotellurics (MT). Lindsey will work under Professor Kathy Whaler of Edinburgh, who is a leading expert in this technique.

"I'm excited to be studying in Scotland because they are a model for how countries should approach sustainability," Lindsey explains. "They have an aggressive approach to developing alternative energy sources, despite their endowment of fossil fuel resources—some of the best in Europe. That is the mentality I hope to bring back to the United States."

Throughout his undergraduate career, Lindsey has participated in research experiences that provided him with a multidisciplinary approach to the field of energy development. Through Rochester's Department of Chemical Engineering, Lindsey worked on a research project where he designed a small-scale alternative energy system for a primary school in Kampala, Uganda. After studying the history, politics, and culture of Uganda, Lindsey spent 10 days assessing the school's energy needs and developing a design that included solar panels, energy-efficient cook stoves, and lighting. For his efforts, the Bill Clinton Global Initiative University awarded Lindsey its Outstanding Commitment to Action Award, a $9,000 grant that was used to install the panels at the Ugandan school.

Lindsey also spent two summers working as a research assistant in the Earth Sciences Division of the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Through these internships, Lindsey developed a working knowledge of using seismic methods to determine a region's geothermal energy potential. In his last year at Rochester, Lindsey worked under Cynthia Ebinger, professor of geophysics, advancing his interest in East Africa by studying seismic data from Ethiopia, which will help inform his Fulbright project.

During her time at Rochester, Hannah Watkins '11 has all but set up a bed and slept in a research laboratory. While majoring in biomedical engineering, with minors in biology and chemical engineering, she has spent the last year working side-by-side with Danielle Benoit, assistant professor in the biomedical engineering department, researching ways to increase the solubility of chemotherapy drugs.

It was her time in Benoit's lab that led Watkins to the Fulbright. As a Xerox Undergraduate Research Fellow through the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, Watkins spent summer 2010 working in Benoit's lab to develop a system that could deliver a drug to treat acute myeloid leukemia.

Benoit connected Watkins with Molly Stevens, professor of biomedical materials and regenerative medicine and the research director for biomedical material sciences in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London. Benoit was instrumental in helping Watkins develop her Fulbright research project. While at Imperial College, Watkins will continue to focus on chemotherapy, but will research a novel type of drug delivery system for the treatment of cancer.

In another first for a Rochester student, Watkins also was selected as a Whitaker International Fellow. Created by the Whitaker Foundation in 2006 and now administered by the Institute of International Education, the fellowship supports the professional development of outstanding biomedical engineering students by funding one-year, self-designed international educational experiences for emerging leaders in the field. Approximately 40 fellows are chosen from a national applicant pool of about 100 eligible candidates.

Watkins, who plans on pursing a doctoral degree after completing her Fulbright, says she is committed to research because of its possible end results. "This research is about improving cancer care," she explains. "Even though I'm focused on one, small subset of the problem, the results of the research can really help people."

Watkins, a native of Kenai, Alaska, is a recipient of Rochester's Renaissance Scholarship, a highly selective award given to only the top 1 percent of incoming freshmen. Also active on campus, she is president of the Society of Women Engineers, a member of the Meridian Society, and a member of both the Ballet Performance Group and the University Wind Symphony.

Alumnus David Liebers '09 has spent the last few months in Warsaw, Poland, interning with the Freedom and Democracy Foundation, and teaching English to a classroom of six-year-olds. The environment is appropriate, as Liebers himself seems to explore life with the same zeal and energy as the young children he teaches. Since graduating from Rochester, Liebers has traveled extensively throughout Eastern and Western Europe. He first went to Warsaw in 2010 as a Humanity in Action (HIA) Foundation Fellow where he studied international human rights and minority populations within majority societies. Additionally, Liebers has won a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw and HIA to begin an oral history project on recognized minority groups in Poland.

As a Fulbright Scholar, Liebers would complete a master of arts at the University of Leeds' Centre for History and Philosophy of Science. He was selected to receive the sole Fulbright/Leeds partnership award in this year's UK competition. This February, he also was awarded the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the scholarship provides one to three years of graduate study at the University of Cambridge, England. Liebers is one of the 30 U.S. students, and is the first University of Rochester student or alumnus to receive this award since the program began in 2001. At Cambridge, he would pursue a master's degree in history and philosophy of science. Currently, he is still choosing between the Leeds and Cambridge programs.

At either university, he will continue a similar line of inquiry that he explored while at Rochester. Liebers, who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in history and a bachelor of science degree in ecology and evolutionary biology, looked at the political and social debates surrounding evolutionary biology. As an undergraduate, he studied behavioral isolation and speciation genetics in H. Allen Orr's lab in the biology department; after graduating, he was a fellow in the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

"The study of evolutionary biology, the history of science, and work in genomics sparks what I see as among the most pressing questions about scientific progress," Liebers says of his research study project. "How do we, as a society, most responsibly use the data that will come from human genomics?"

Liebers, who is a native of Niskayuna, N.Y., plans to attend law school after the completion of his master's degree, with the intention of pursuing a career as a legal academic.

UPDATE: David Liebers accepts Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Interested in learning more about Rochester's newest scholars? Visit for updates and profiles of each student.