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Leading Innovation in Health, Science and Technology: Fulbright Alumni Research

Serving communities around the world, Fulbright alumni are innovative, collaborative, and driven in their approach to advancing health, science, and technology. Fifty-three Fulbright alumni in these fields have been awarded Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Economic Sciences, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine.

Fulbright alumni overwhelmingly indicate that their participation expanded their knowledge and understanding of their academic fields and resulted in real-world research applications. An alumni survey of 2005-2015 Fulbright U.S. Scholars found that 88 percent of respondents reported that they were exposed to new ideas and concepts in their field as a result of their Fulbright, and 90 percent reported gaining a deeper understanding of their discipline and research area.

Fulbrighters have furthered research and collaboration to solve complex challenges in public health and medicine, pushed technology to new frontiers, and explored new trends in science that have positively impacted individuals and communities around the globe. Learn more about these researchers in the features below.

Joy Buolamwini

UNITED STATES TO ZAMBIA, 2012-2013

Joy Buolamwini (Fulbright U.S. Student to Zambia, 2012-2013) has been called “the conscience of the Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) Revolution.” She is an algorithmic bias researcher and digital activist, who founded the Algorithmic Justice League with the vision of creating a world with more equitable and accountable technology. Buolamwini first entered the digital sphere as an undergraduate student at Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology), researching health informatics in her computer science program. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, she was selected for aFulbright U.S. Student award. While on her Fulbright, she founded the Zamrize Initiative, a program which empowers Zambian youth to become creators of technology through lab-based computational experiences

Following her Fulbright experience, Buolamwini launched her “Code 4 Rights” project to promote women’s rights through technology education. As a passionate advocate for increasing STEM education, she developed Code 4 Rights with the mission to ensure that every country in the world has accessible information about local services that support women’s rights and that women are given the opportunity to create beneficial technology. Buolamwini noted that Code 4 Rights is a direct result of her Fulbright, stating, it “would not be possible without the time I spent as a Fulbright Fellow in Zambia.”

After completing a master’s degree in education from the University of Oxford, Buolamwini explored algorithmic bias at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her master’s thesis at MIT, published in 2017, uncovered large racial and gender biases in A.I. services offered by companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon. To reduce these biases, she has championed the need for algorithmic justice at the World Economic Forum and the United Nations. Buolamwini serves on the Global Tech Panel convened by the Vice-President of the European Commission to advise world leaders and technology executives on ways to reduce the harms of A.I. In partnership with the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology, she launched the Safe Face Pledge, the first agreement of its kind prohibiting the misuse of facial analysis and recognition technology by law enforcement and governments. Buolamwini has been named to the Bloomberg 50, MIT Tech Review “35 under 35,” BBC “100 Women,” Forbes “Top 50 Women in Tech,” and Forbes “30 under 30.” Fortune Magazine named her intheir 2019 list of the world’s greatest leaders, describing her as “the conscience of the A.I. revolution.”

Rana Dajani, Ph.D

JORDAN TO UNITED STATES, 2000-2002, 2012-2013

Rana Dajani (Fulbright Foreign Student, 2000-2002; Visiting Scholar, 2012-2013) is a molecular biologist and an authority on genetics in Jordan, with a research focus on diabetes, cancer, and stem cells. Her work bridges biological evolution theory and Islam, and was instrumental in establishing research law and ethics for stem cell therapy use in Jordan, opening the door for regulation in the Arab and Islamic world. For her contributions to science, she has been ranked 12th among the 100 most influential Arab women by Muslim Science Magazine in 2015, and was inducted into the U.S. Embassy in Jordan’s “Women in Science Hall of Fame.”

Dr. Dajani’s academic journey benefitted from participation in two Fulbright programs. In 2000, she received a Fulbright Foreign Student award to pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Iowa. In 2012, she returned to the United States as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar to Yale University, where she studied the role of microRNA in human embryonic stem cell tumorgenesis. Fulbrighters are not only known for their highquality research but their commitment to making a positive impact on their communities. Outside of the lab, Dr. Dajani co-founded “We Love Reading,” a program to instill a love of reading among children in the Arab world. Since 2006, “We Love Reading” has established more than 4,400 libraries and trained more than 7,000 women to read aloud to children through a pay-it-forward system, reaching children in more than 55 different countries around the world. The program has also been established in many refugee camps. For “We Love Reading,” Dajani has won multiple awards, including the Library of Congress “Literacy Award Best Practices,” a STARS Foundation “Impact Award,” the Synergos “Arab World Social Innovator Award,” the Qatar Foundation “WISE Award,” the UNESCO “International Literacy Prize,” and recognition from IDEO.org.

Jose Vicente Siles, Ph.D

SPAIN TO UNITED STATES, 2010-2011

Jose V. Siles (Fulbright Visiting Scholar, 2010-2011) is an experienced terahertz component and circuit designer, having designed and tested world-record-breaking terahertz sources and mixer circuits up to 3THz for the French Space Agency, European Space Agency, the European Commission, and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. His work supports applications across radioastronomy, planetary science, cosmology, radar imaging, terahertz communications, biomedicine, and cancer research.

As a Fulbright Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dr. Siles joined the Submillimeter-Wave Advanced Technology Group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2010. Dr. Siles has leveraged his Fulbright experience in his role as Principal Investigator of several NASA-funded tasks. He is developing the next generation of high-spectral resolution submillimeter-wave instruments for astrophysics and planetary science, including the Astrophysics Stratospheric 2.5-m Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths (ASTHROS) NASA balloon mission, scheduled to launch from Antarctica in December 2023. He is the first Spanish engineer awarded the “Lew Allen Award for Excellence” by NASA. Also a leader outside of the lab, Dr. Siles continues to give back to Fulbright, serving as the President of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Fulbright Association.

Kip Thorne, Ph.D

UNITED STATES TO FRANCE, 1966-1967

Kip Thorne (Fulbright U.S. Scholar to France, 1966-1967) is one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and a Nobel Laureate in Physics for “decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.”

In 1966, Dr. Thorne received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to France, where he taught theoretical physics at Les Houches Summer School of Theoretical Physics. Dr. Thorne’s scientific contributions, which focus on the general nature of space, time, and gravity, span the full range of topics in general relativity. In addition to his own research, Thorne has served as a mentor and thesis advisor for many leading theorists who now work on observational, experimental, or astrophysical aspects of general relativity.

Since 2009, Thorne has turned his efforts toward collaborations with artists, musicians, and filmmakers to inspire non-scientists and young people with “the beauty and power of science” (Nobelprize.org). These efforts include advising for Christopher Nolan’s film “Interstellar,” and production of a multimedia concert with Hans Zimmer, an illustrated book with painter Lia Halloran, and more.

For a list of all Fulbright alumni Nobel Laureates, please visit https://eca.state.gov/fulbright/fulbright-alumni/notable-fulbrighters/nobel-laureates.