Fulbright Scholars

Eric Becklin ’12

Locating the Lost Nestorians of Quanzhou, China at Center for Studies of Fujian and Taiwan, Fujian Normal University

The project will investigate the original materials of religious tablets left by Nestorian Christians in Quanzhou, China. The results of this analysis will be used to construct a map of the area approximating where these people were located. The goal of producing this information is to create a physical context for past work done to translate the inscriptions on these tablets so that further substantive research may be possible on the topic.

Jaime Mosel ’12

Forest Ecology and Succession in Hokkaido, Japan at the Silviculture and Forest Ecology Lab, Hokkaido University

Due to global climate change as well as many man-made ecological disturbances, earth’s ecosystems are experienceing rapid change. In collaboration with Professor Koike and the Hokkaido University Silviculture and Forest Ecology lab, this project will research the effects of global climate change on northern forest ecosystems and the decline of mountain birch in Hokkaido, Japan.

Steven Braun ’11

Protein Folding Research at Kyoto University in Japan

Proteins are the workhorses of the cell: they are responsible for carrying out functions ranging from duplicating DNA to moderating cellular growth.  In order for a protein to function correctly, though, it must properly fold into its correct three-dimensional configuration.  This process is enormously complex, and a great deal of research has been done on what is termed the “protein folding problem,” i.e., the process of how a protein gets from unfolded to folded state.  Many debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and Huntington’s disease are related to protein dysfunction due to misfolding; thus, understanding the folding process and how misfolding occurs could result in treatments that prevent or reverse these diseases.

I have been invited by Dr. Shoji Takada at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan to work with him in his protein folding research.  This research will combine computational and biophysical methods, such as molecular dynamics simulations and X-ray crystallography, respectively, to model the thermodynamics of protein folding in the cell.  In doing so, I hope to contribute to the development of a more complete picture of the folding process.

This research gives me the opportunity to integrate both of my majors – chemistry and Asian studies – into a single project.  I have taken numerous Japanese courses at St. Olaf, including an independent study in which I studied chemistry using a textbook written in Japanese, that have prepared me well to take on the linguistic demands of this project.  I have also taken a wide variety of science courses that have exposed me to the incredibly interdisciplinary nature of the sciences.  In general, this sense of interdisciplinarity in all of my experiences has heightened my awareness of the importance of integrating multiple viewpoints in all academic fields.  This importance of multiple viewpoints has in course strengthened my understanding of the importance of multiculturalism in academia as well.  As a result, one of my major goals during my research will be to understand how science is communicated across linguistic borders and how research is conducted in different cultural settings.  Carrying out this project in Japan will give me the opportunity to further enhance my understanding of Japanese culture and how cultural differences affect scientific discourse as well as pursue research directly related to my graduate school research goals.

Click here to see Steven’s Asian Studies distinction project web site.

Anna Coffey ’11

Early Childhood Development at Northwest University in China

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAI will spend a Fulbright year studying early childhood development in Northwestern China. My project is aimed at gauging the mental and physical development of rural children in this region as well the parents’ general knowledge of childhood development. The goal of this project is to identify how the development of these children compares with their urban counterparts, and if they have fallen behind, what measures should be taken to foster the healthy development of the rural children. I intend to do both fieldwork and data analysis, working with Professor Yaojiang Shi, director of the Northwest Socioeconomic Development Research Center (NSDRC) in the School of Economics and Management at Northwest University in Xian. The NSDRC, whose motto is “Northwest People Evaluating Northwest’s Problems,” advocates sustainable development with special consideration for minorities and women. One of NSDRC’s interests lies in rural preliminary education and the improvement of the performance of children in these schools.

Coming into school I did not have a clear vision of how I could successfully integrate my major in Psychology with my slowly developing Mandarin capabilities. For several years I studied in the two departments with relatively little overlap, but I began to realize that it would be difficult to keep up two fields of study indefinitely. I was painfully reluctant to give up either, so I started to look for ways to make the two subjects meet. The Fulbright has made that possible in a way that I had barely dared to imagine. Do psychology research in China! It may sound simple, but psychology is a relatively new field in China, and there aren’t any significant psychology departments outside of Beijing and Shanghai. To do any research, let alone research with the potential to make a significant impact in the lives of people in the rural northwest, was an unfathomable concept a year and a half ago. Yet here I am. With the encouragement, support and honest critiques of professors and friends I have endured the rigors of the application process and I stand now on the edge of what promises to be a very interesting year.

Sara Padula ’11

Gender and Civil Society in Japanese Elections, University of Fukuoka

saraDo women develop influence and receive support from the same people and institutions as men when running for political office? Or are they forced to search outside of traditional networks of political power to find new networks of influence through involvement in civil society? These are the main questions behind the research that I intend to conduct in Japan. Historically, governments have been dominated and monopolized by men, with few channels through which women could enter politics. Yet in the last 50 years, the number of women involved in politics and holding elected positions in government has increased exponentially around the globe.

Japan is an ideal location to study this emerging trend because of the prevalence of strong social networks, and gendered labor markets. Networking is vital for obtaining the support necessary for a Japanese political campaign. Women have fewer opportunities to build these networks because of their different employment options. In addition, the networks women develop are often viewed as less powerful than those of their male counterparts because they consist of community networks, such as parent-teacher associations. My study will focus on female politicians at all levels of government in the region where I am placed. I will attempt to identify which past experiences were most vital in helping successful women politicians achieve public office. I believe that female politicians will be significantly more likely to have a background in civil society than male politicians, while male members will be significantly more likely to have connections with businessmen, politicians, or university alumni. Civil society is defined as civic and social organizations and activities that exist outside of the government or market spheres.

My time at St. Olaf has been instrumental in helping me prepare for my Fulbright. St. Olaf has provided me with the opportunity to take 3 years of Japanese language, as well as the chance to spend a semester studying abroad in Tokyo at Waseda University. Combined with my background in political science, and particularly in comparative politics, or the study of the internal politics of other nations with the intent to find lessons to apply to one’s own country, I have taken courses in Japanese politics, Japanese culture and history, the politics of elections, and civil society. I began the pilot study to my Fulbright project in Political Science 399: Civil Society and Voluntary Associations with the help of Professor Hanada, who helped me to analyze a survey of over 100 members of the Japanese Diet looking at their prior experiences. At the same time, I used this research as the basis of my Japanese 232 presentation, giving me the opportunity to begin thinking about this topic in Japanese, and learning relevant vocabulary words, like civil society (shimin shakai). The Fulbright grant is giving me the opportunity to continue to pursue the research I began in that class, and I’m excited to continue on with both my Japanese language and my political science interests in Japan next year.

Lydia Pfotenhauer ’11

Migration and Gender in Governmental Policies, Hangzhou, China

IMG_2024The primary focus in my Fulbright research is to explore the differing reactions of migrating young women and men towards government policies and support organizations in Hangzhou, China. Rural labor migrants have different expectations of and reactions to services that urban government provides them, and these reactions depend on their needs and expectations, which in turn depend on their generation, gender, and family background. I will be studying whether migrants of one age or gender finds the Hangzhou government’s or social organizations’ provisions more conducive for long-term goals than do migrants of a different age or gender.

I came to St. Olaf with a keen interest in Chinese government and its social policies. After taking several courses on politics in Asia, such as “Japanese Politics and Society” and “Women and Politics in Asia,” I went abroad to Shanghai to study the Chinese political system more closely. While there, most public news and social conversations included mention of China’s labor migration issues, and I became fascinated by this complicated phenomenon. After returning to the US, I read several books on the topic and started emailing professors about how to begin framing and constructing the research project. After countless meetings with professors who critiqued and encouraged me on my written statements, I arrived at the project stated above.