Three Swansea University professors win prestigious Fulbright Awards to the US

Three Swansea University academics have been given the opportunity to further their pioneering research with Fulbright Scholarship awards.

RIAH thin image bar

Tudur Hallam - Fulbright award 16‌As participants, Biochemist and Molecular Biologist Professor David Lamb (pictured centre); Professor Tudur Hallam, Professor of Welsh, (right) and Cyberterrorism expert Professor Stuart Macdonald (left) have been selected to work with and share their research with prestigious institutions in the US.

Professor Lamb, who is based at the University’s Medical School and member of the Centre for Cytochrome P450 Biodiversity, received the award to study research for 12 months entitled: “Exploiting zebra fish genetics to understand neurological diseases in humans." The research will be undertaken at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), in Massachusetts, US.  WHOI is an exceptional higher education facility dedicated to the study of all aspects of marine science and engineering closely affiliated with the world renowned Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) also located at Woods Hole.

Professor Stuart Macdonald from the College of Law and Criminology received a three-month scholarship for pursuing research entitled: “Violent extremism online: Examining the narratives, their influence and our responses”. Professor Macdonald will spend three months (Feb – April 2017) at the Orfalea Centre at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to conduct the research.

Professor Tudur Hallam won a seven-month scholarship for his research entitled: “Recovering literary futures: comparative readings between Welsh in the UK and the US Hispanic heritage” to be carried out at the University of Houston, linking with academics from several departments there and other strategic partners in Texas.

Professor Lamb; Professor Hallam and Professor Macdonald and the other 44 British grantees of the 2016-17 Fulbright cohort celebrated their success as they met US Ambassador Matthew Barzun at his official London residence, Winfield House during a reception to celebrate US-UK exchange programmes on Wednesday, 15 June.

Commenting on receiving the award, Professor Lamb said: “Seventy per cent of protein-coding human genes are related to genes found in the zebrafish and eight four per cent of genes known to be associated with human disease have a zebrafish counterpart. A particular cytochrome P450 gene found primarily in the brain and implicated in neurological disorders has been found to be present in nearly all animals suggesting key biological function(s).  The Fulbright award will allow research to be carried out to interrogate the function of this gene in development and neurobiology using novel gene knockout techniques. Being able to exploit zebrafish to identify function(s) for P450 enzymes may have major implications for understanding human disease processes.”

Professor Hallam said: “Currently, questions of immigration and cultural identity dominate the run up to the US presidential election, and also the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.  “This project aims to compare the critical history of recovering the Welsh literary tradition in Wales (UK), and the more recent work undertaken to recover the US Hispanic literary heritage, and will ask why such recoveries are needed.

“Providing a new comparative model from the US will secure a better understanding of these important issues of language and identity which are so prevalent in both Texas and Wales.”

Professor Macdonald said: “Extremist content is easily accessible online. Terrorist groups seek to engage in psychological warfare. Members of the public may be concerned about such content, and parents in particular may be concerned about their children engaging with such material. And the perpetrators of recent attacks in Western Europe have used the Internet to communicate and plan attacks. 

“This Fulbright Scholarship will specifically consider the question of response to terrorist propaganda online.   I will compare and evaluate “hard” forms of response (such as blocking content and taking down websites) and “soft” responses (such as developing counter narratives), and also consider the interplay between these different types of response.”

Penny Egan, Executive Director, US-UK Fulbright Commission said: “I know our 2016 cohort will do us great credit during their time in the US and beyond. Only exceptional scholars and students win Fulbright awards: one of the world’s most competitive merit-based international scholarships. In the 70th year of the Special Relationship, we are proud to send the best of British academia to the US.”

Amy Moore, Director of the Fulbright Awards Programme, added: “It's very rewarding seeing a group of talented, inspirational and very deserving individuals, embark on a life changing trip to the US. This year's cohort are no exception, and have been carefully selected for their impressive accomplishments, academic excellence, and a genuine desire to delve into US culture and collaborate with new people and experience new ideas.”

Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and External Recognition) at Swansea University said: “Swansea University is fast developing a reputation as a Welsh university with global ambition. The award of these international Fulbright scholarships highlights the quality of the research taking place at Swansea which led to us being placed in the top 30 of research universities in the results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, and celebrates the excellence of our researchers across the range of academic disciplines to.”

The US-UK Fulbright Commission is the only bi-lateral, transatlantic scholarship programme, offering awards for study or research in any field, at any accredited US or UK university. The Commission is part of the Fulbright programme conceived by Senator J William Fulbright in the aftermath of World War II to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations through educational exchange. Award recipients and summer programme participants will be the future leaders for tomorrow and support the “special relationship” between the US and UK.

The Commission selects scholars through a rigorous application and interview process. In making these awards the Commission looks not only for academic excellence but a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, a desire to further the Fulbright Programme and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning.

Typical grants include a maintenance allowance and a contribution towards tuition fees where applicable. In addition, Fulbright scholars receive a distinctive support and cultural education programme including: visa processing, a comprehensive pre-departure orientation, enrichment opportunities in country, a re-entry session and opportunity to join our alumni networks.