So what is a Fulbright Scholar?

These days a “Fulbright” can mean many things. Most are examples of “people-to-people” diplomacy, that is, the programs enable US citizens to spend time in foreign countries and for foreigners to spend time in the US. The object is for citizens of each country to get personal experience in a foreign country, let foreigners get to know them individually, and then return to their home country and share their experiences with their countrymen. Think of it as the academic counterpart to the Peace Corps. As elements of US foreign policy, the various Fulbright programs are the responsibility of the US State Department.

The grant that I received is part of the “traditional” Fulbright Scholars program and is administered by the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars, a private organization, and has been since 1947. You can read more about the Fulbright programs (including how you can apply) at the CIES website or at the US State Department website.

Basically, I proposed to teach half time and do research half time at the University of Peradeniya (UP), in Kandy, Sri Lanka. As unlikely as it seems, I have evolved from an experimental physicist into a computational physicist and somehow am considered something of an authority on the teaching of computational science. (“Computational physics” is the use of computers to model or simulate physical systems and “computational science” is the same thing but applied to any science.) I proposed to teach an intermediate level course in computational science and an upper-level course in parallel programming, both similar to courses that I teach at Kenyon College. Now that we finally have the official go ahead, we will begin the task of matching my proposal more closely with the needs and desires of the Department of Physics at UP.

In addition, I proposed to do research in computational science education while I am at UP. I will study whether and how the teaching methods I use in my classes at Kenyon need to be modified for use at UP. I also plan to continue my current research on numerical modeling of phase separation while I am in Sri Lanka.

So that is what I will be “doing” in Kandy, but as a “Fulbrighter” my other job is to be a good representative of all of you in the US to the Sri Lankans I come into contact with and to share with all of you my experiences of Sri Lanka and its people.

And have the adventure of my life….



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