Three PhD students and a senior academic based at University of Limerick have received Fulbright Scholarships to the US, marking a record year for the University in the scheme.

Minister Ciarán Cannon announced on Thursday, 11th June the 2020-2021 cohort of Fulbright Irish Awardees, saying that they will “shine a light on urgent international research issues”.

At a time when international education programmes face huge challenges, the enduring Fulbright Programme, which was established in 1946, will support 36 remarkable academics, professionals and students from Ireland to go to the USA and collaborate with their US counterparts.

The four Fulbright Irish Awardees from UL are Professor Orla Muldoon, PhD candidates Michael O’Sullivan and Aleksandra Serafin and PhD student Dylan Storan.

“The Fulbright Program offers international educational and cultural exchange programs for students, scholars, artists to pursue important research and professional projects. As an exemplar, it is one of the most prestigious and competitive fellowship programs in the world and this year has been a record year for UL,” said UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald.

“In receiving these scholarships, our three PhD students Michael O’Sullivan, Aleksandra Serafin and Dylan Storan, along with Professor Orla Muldoon, will benefit hugely thanks to the strong relationship UL has with the Fulbright Commission in Ireland.

“International collaborations, and in particular our US links through the Fulbright Commission, will go to strengthen UL’s ambitions of being an international university in the Mid-West of Ireland.”

The Irish awardees will shine a light on urgent international research issues from advances in cancer research, to cybersecurity and human rights. They will also represent, share and promote Irish culture, particularly through the Irish language programme. Award recipients are due to travel from September 2020, with a majority going from January 2021.

“The role of Fulbright Awardees in driving international research and keeping global channels of communications open is more important than ever,” said Minister Cannon.

“Fulbright has always propelled collaboration between the brightest minds. I wish this year’s Awardees every success for their time in the United States.”

The US Ambassador to Ireland Edward F. Crawford added: “The Fulbright program plays a crucial role in strengthening the unique relationship shared by the United States and Ireland. The durability of Fulbright is especially important during these challenging times.”

Executive Director of the Fulbright Commission in Ireland Dr Dara FitzGerald thanked partners and sponsors for their support of the programme, adding: “We also enjoy tremendous support from Irish institutions including University of Limerick, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, University College Cork, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, National University of Ireland Galway, Maynooth University, Technological University Dublin, The AMBER SFI Centre, Dublin Institute of Advances Studies and the Hugh Lane Gallery.”

More on the Fulbright Irish Awardees from UL:

Dylan Storan is a PhD student in the Department of Chemical Sciences, based in the Bernal Institute at UL. He graduated from UL in 2018 with a First Class Honours BSc in Pharmaceutical and Industrial Chemistry. As part of his Fulbright Award, Dylan will visit Professor James Cahoon’s laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here, he will focus on optimizing the electrical properties of silicon and germanium nanowires through the fabrication of nanodevices and the subsequent electrical characterization of these devices.

Orla Muldoon is founding professor of psychology at UL who has led the development of the Centre for Social Issues research which supports the psychological study of social issues. As a Fulbright Irish Scholar, Prof Muldoon will visit the University of Kansas to collaborate to develop theory and research in social psychology with an eminent scholar there. She will draw from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Series to examine the role of identity in determining the impact of trauma on biological markers of stress.

Michael O’Sullivan is a PhD candidate based at the School of Engineering at UL who received his BSc. in Product Design & Technology from UL in 2016 and began his PhD after graduating. He spent the first three years as a researcher on the EU Horizon 2020 Project IBUS and is now part of the Confirm Smart Manufacturing research team. As a Fulbright-Enterprise Ireland Student to Georgia Institute of Technology, Michael will explore how his methodology could be used to inform new design and manufacturing methods and he also hopes to test this with students and companies in Atlanta.

Aleksandra Serafin is a PhD candidate at the School of Engineering based at the Bernal Institute, she also holds a B.Eng. in Biomedical Engineering from UL. Her doctoral research focuses on developing and characterising novel materials for use as electroconductive scaffolds for the purpose of spinal cord injury repair. As a Fulbright Student to University of California San Diego, she will further her material research with detailed in-vitro and in-vivo studies.