Eleven from MIT awarded 2024 Fulbright fellowships

Eleven MIT undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni have won Fulbright grants to embark on projects overseas in the 2024-25 grant cycle. Two other students were offered awards but declined them to pursue other opportunities.

Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers year-long opportunities for American citizen students and recent alumni to conduct independent research, pursue graduate studies, or teach English in over 140 countries.

MIT has been a Fulbright Top-Producing Institution for five years in a row. MIT students and alumni interested in applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program should contact Julia Mongo, MIT Fulbright program advisor, in the Office of Distinguished Fellowships in Career Advising and Professional Development.

Top row, l-r: April Cheng, Grace McMillan, Ryan McTigue, and Keith Murray. Middle row, l-r: Maaya Prasad, Anusha Puri, Olivia Rosenstein, and Jennifer Schug. Bottom row, l-r: Vaibhavi Shah, Charvi Sharma, and Isabella Witham. Photos courtesy of the Fulbright winners.

April Cheng is a junior studying physics with a minor in mathematics and is fast-tracked to graduate this spring. They will take their Fulbright research grant to the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany, where they will study different statistical techniques to infer the expansion rate of the universe from gravitational waves. They first developed an interest in gravitational waves and black holes at the MIT LIGO and Caltech LIGO labs, but their research spans a wide range of topics in astrophysics, including cosmology and fast radio bursts. Cheng is passionate about physics education and is heavily involved in developing educational materials for high school Science Olympiads. At MIT, they are a member of the Physics Values Committee, the physics mentorship program, and the MIT Lion Dance team. After Fulbright, Cheng will pursue a PhD in astrophysics at Princeton University, where they have received the President’s Fellowship.

Grace McMillan is a senior majoring in literature and mechanical engineering with a concentration in Russian language. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award recipient, she will teach at a university in Kazakhstan. McMillan’s interest in Central Asia was sparked by a Russian language immersion program she participated in during her sophomore summer in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, funded by MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI). She is excited to help her students learn English to foster integration into the global academic community. During her time at MIT, McMillan has conducted research with faculty in nuclear science; earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences; and the Digital Humanities Lab. Outside of academics, she has been an active member of her sorority, Sigma Kappa, and has served on the MIT Health Consumers’ Advisory Council for two years. After Fulbright, McMillan hopes to attend law school, focusing on education reform.

Ryan McTigue will graduate this spring with a BS in physics and mathematics and a concentration in Spanish. With a Fulbright award to Spain, he will do research at the University of Valencia’s Institute of Molecular Science focusing on the physics of two-dimensional multiferroic nanodevices. He is looking forward to improving his Spanish and getting the opportunity to live abroad. At MIT, McTigue became interested in condensed matter physics research with the Checkelsky group, where he focused on engineering materials with flat bands that exhibited correlated electron effects. Outside of research, McTigue has been a mentor in the physics department’s mentoring program and a member of the heavyweight men’s crew team. After his Fulbright grant, McTigue will begin a PhD in physics at Princeton University.

Keith Murray ’22 graduated from MIT with a BS in computation and cognition and linguistics and philosophy. He will receive his MEng degree in computation and cognition this spring. As a Fulbright Hungary research grantee at the HUN-REN Wigner Research Centre for Physics, Murray will design generative AI models inspired by the primary visual cortex with the goal of making AI models more interpretable. At MIT, Murray’s research experiences spanned from training mice to perform navigation tasks in virtual reality to theorizing about how neurons might compute modular arithmetic. He was also a member of the men’s heavyweight crew team and the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. After Fulbright, Murray will pursue a PhD in neuroscience at Princeton University.

Maaya Prasad ’22 completed her undergraduate education at MIT with degrees in both electrical engineering and creative writing and will graduate this month with an MS in mechanical and ocean engineering. Her thesis research focuses on microplastic detection using optical sensing. Prasad’s Fulbright fellowship will take her to Mauritius, an East African island country located in the Indian Ocean. Here, she will continue her master’s research at the University of Mauritius and will work with local researchers to implement a microplastic survey system. While at MIT, Prasad joined the varsity sailing team with no prior experience. Her time spent on the water led her to pursue marine research at MIT Sea Grant, and she eventually earned an honorable mention to the 2023 All-American Sailing Team. After Fulbright, Prasad hopes to pursue a PhD in applied ocean engineering.

Anusha Puri is a senior majoring in biological engineering. Her Fulbright award will take her to Lausanne, Switzerland, where she will conduct cancer immunology research at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research. At MIT, Puri’s work in the Weinberg Lab focused on understanding mechanisms that drive resistance of breast cancer to immunotherapy. On campus, she founded and serves as president of MIT’s premiere stand-up comedy group, Stand-Up CoMITy, leads MIT’s Bhangra dance team, and is the editor-in-chief of the MIT Undergraduate Research Journal. She looks forward to engaging with teaching outreach and practicing her French in Switzerland. After her Fulbright grant, she plans to pursue a PhD in biomedical science.

Olivia Rosenstein will graduate this spring with a BS in physics and a minor in French. Her Fulbright will take her to ENS Paris-Saclay in Palaiseau, France, where she’ll deepen her education in atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) physics. At MIT, Rosenstein has worked in Professor Mark Vogelsberger’s group researching models of galaxy formation and the early universe, and in Professor Richard Fletcher’s group on an erbium-lithium experiment to investigate quantum many-body dynamics in a degenerate mixture. In France, she will expand on the skills she developed in Fletcher’s lab by contributing to a project using optical tweezer arrays to study dipolar interactions. After Fulbright, Rosenstein plans to return to the United States to pursue a PhD in experimental AMO at Caltech.

Jennifer Schug will receive this spring an MEng degree in the Climate, Environment, and Sustainability track within the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. During her Fulbright year in Italy, she will conduct research on carbon storage in the Venice lagoon at the University of Padua. Schug is excited to build upon her research with the Terrer Lab at MIT, where she is currently investigating the effectiveness of forestation as a carbon sequestration strategy. She also looks forward to improving her Italian language skills and learning about Italian history and culture. Before beginning Fulbright this fall, Schug will study ecological preservation in Sicily this summer through an MIT-Italy collaboration with the University of Catania. After Fulbright, she hopes to continue researching nature-based solutions as climate change mitigation strategies.

Vaibhavi Shah ’21 earned a BS in biological engineering and in science, technology, and society at MIT, where she was named a Goldwater Scholar. She is now a medical student at Stanford University. As a Fulbright-Fogarty Fellow in Public Health, Shah will use both her computational and humanities backgrounds to investigate sociocultural factors underlying traumatic surgical injuries in Nepal. While at MIT, she was on the executive board of GlobeMed and the Society of Women Engineers, and she hopes to use those experiences to amplify diverse voices in medicine while on her journey to becoming a neurosurgeon-scientist. After Fulbright, Shah will complete her final year of medical school.

Charvi Sharma is a senior studying computer science and molecular biology with a minor in theater arts. As a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Spain, she is excited to engage in cross-cultural exchange while furthering her skills as a teacher and as a leader. In addition to teaching, Sharma looks forward to immersing herself in the country’s vibrant traditions, improving her Spanish proficiency, and delving into the local arts and dance scene. At MIT, through Global Teaching Labs Spain and her roles as a dynaMIT mentor, an associate advisor, and a captain and president of her dance teams Mirchi and Nritya, Sharma has served as a teacher of both STEM and dance. Her passion for making a difference in her community is also evident through her work with Boston Medical Center’s Autism Program through the PKG Public Service Center and as an undergraduate cancer researcher in the Yaffe Lab. After Fulbright, Sharma plans to pursue an MD and, ultimately, a career as a clinician-scientist.

Isabella Witham is a senior majoring in biological engineering. As a recipient of the Fulbright U.S.-Korea Presidential STEM Initiative Award, she will conduct research at Seoul National University’s Biomimetic Materials and Stem Cell Engineering Lab. Her work will involve creating biomimetic scaffolds for pancreatic cell transplantation to treat type I diabetes. While in South Korea, Witham aims to improve her language skills and explore cultural sites and cities. At MIT, she worked in the Belcher Lab on nanoparticle formulations, was a tutor for MIT’s Women’s Technology Program, and volunteered as a Medlink. After her Fulbright fellowship, she plans to pursue a PhD in biological engineering.