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IU Fulbright winners expand their research overseas



After the most recent round of applications, 12 faculty members from all IU campuses currently represent the University as Fulbright Scholars.

The Fulbright Program provides grants to scholars and gives them the opportunity to conduct research or work in their field and make connections by traveling to another country. Each scholar is then placed with a university, referred to as host institution, to help provide resources for his or her work.

Some faculty members are already abroad, while others have not yet left.

On the application, which is due in August every year, the scholar indicates where they want to be placed, and Virginia Vitzthum, one of IU’s Fulbright winners and a professor in the anthropology department, chose Iceland on her application in 2016. 

“Iceland is broad in their interests and what kinds of research they do,” Vitzthum said. 

For Vitzthum, she was placed at the University of Iceland as her host institution. She said everything where she is staying is provided through the Fulbright program.

In Iceland, Vitzthum is currently in Iceland studying how the amount of daylight in an environment affects women’s biology.  

“No one has really studied the effect of light on human biology,” Vitzthum said. 

Vitzthum’s research stems off of seasonal affective disorder, a condition that has been shown to be most severe in countries at the North and South Poles because they spend extended hours in darkness in the winter, which makes Iceland an ideal place to conduct her research, she said. 

“Nineteen hours of darkness is probably having an effect on your biology,” Vitzthum said. 

Vitzthum said she thinks working in natural conditions is better than working on lab rats would be because they are so different than humans. Thirty-five women agreed to take part in her study, and she is measuring their hormones through urine tests, saliva tests and fitness-tracking watches in both the middle of winter and the middle of summer. She then will compare them to connect how darkness influences their hormone cycles. 

“The arctic is like a natural laboratory,” Vitzthum said. 

Vitzthum said anyone can apply for the Fulbright program, not just scholars from a university.

“It’s really open on what types of topics are pursued,” Vitzthum said. 

Another Fulbright winner and professor in the anthropology department, Brian Gilley, is in Salerno, Italy, conducting research at the University of Salerno. He is working to compare colonization in southern Italy with the Native Americans.

“When people think of Italy, they think of things they see in movies,” Gilley said.

Although he said he thinks Italy is a great country, southern Italy has faced struggles with greater unemployment rates, a less productive economy and more crime than the north, and its history with colonization provides a point of comparison with the United States. 

He said he is working on writing a book with his colleagues from the University of Salerno on this issue. He said his colleagues have introduced him to a more international way of looking at the issue. 

“I have a new way of thinking about problems I was tackling before,” Gilley said, adding that this formation of relationships with another country is the goal of the program. 

Gilley said his mother’s family is Italian, and his research experience in Italy allowed him to improve his Italian language and cultural knowledge. He also said the program has given him ideas for new courses to bring back to the classroom, such as looking at the way Europe, which is viewed as societally advanced and romanticized by Western standards, can also be marginalized. These aspects of the program will benefit him when he returns to IU.

“It’s kind of energized my work,” Gilley said.

Vitzthum also said she will be bringing back the lab work her studies in Iceland to work on in the evolutionary anthropology lab at IU, which will give students the opportunity to work on her research with her. She said this opportunity also gives the University a connection with Iceland.

“It provides opportunities for exchange that didn’t exist before,” Vitzthum said.  

IU’s other Fulbright winners include David Bish, Nicole Jacquard, Armin Moczek, Sara Skrabalak, Maisha Wester, Deborah Widiss, Carlton Waterhouse, James Mendez, Steven Petersheim and Ligaya McGovern.

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