Category Archives: Research

All is Well in Greifswald!

All is well in Greifswald! From September through December of 2017, the machine at which I am working, the Wendelstein 7-X, was in operational phase 1.2a, during which I was working in the control room to help operate and collect data with specially filtered cameras. At the end of November, we ran the experiment that I am working on, in which we tested specifically designed new magnetic field configurations to mimic situations we might reach in later phases.

OP1.2b should begin in late summer, and then the hardware I am preparing for, the scraper elements, will be installed in the machine and we will repeat the same experiments to see how the scrapers affect the plasma. In the meantime, I am analyzing data from the previous phase, preparing multiple presentations on my work, and learning to operate probes which can be used to measure the temperature and density of the plasma near one of the installed scraper elements.

From this Saturday to next Wednesday, I am attending the Fulbright mid-year seminar in Berlin, and I will be giving a five minute “Ted Talk style” presentation on my research there. In mid-April, I will be flying back to the United States for a “working group meeting” at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where I will give a 20-30 minute presentation on the scraper element project. Then in the beginning of July, I hope to attend the European Physical Society’s 45th Conference on Plasma Physics in Prague to present a poster on my work and to learn more about recent advances in my field.

When my Fulbright scholarship ends in mid-July, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory will be taking over my support and employing me as a summer student so that I can stay in Germany and continue working on my project until the beginning of September. At that time, I will be moving to New Jersey to begin a PhD program in plasma physics at Princeton University.
Here are two photos of me here, one of me working in the control room with a few colleagues and a recent one taken of me in my supervisor’s laboratory.

Post by Alex L.

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Zambian Women Are Dying From Preventable Complications

I am humbled and grateful that I have so many healthcare options, which are not available to most women in Lusaka, Zambia. Childbirth never seemed dangerous or scary to me. But, how would I know? I have never been pregnant. These are reflections after my time as a Fulbright Student Scholar in Lusaka, Zambia. I completed a documentary short as the research element of my appointment.

I was embedded on the labor ward at the University Teaching Hospital.  The hospital’s visuals are very different from my hospital experiences in US.  But, the human connection between doctors and patients is hauntingly similar. Those narratives resonated with me.

The final  film, WARD B12,  offers a hyper-realistic behind-the-scenes view of the low cost labor ward, B12, at the University Teaching Hospital. Follow patients,  doctors, caregivers, and midwives as their days intersect and unfold into a powerful narrative about determination, strength, life, and loss.  The film highlights the need for improvements in women’s healthcare and the powerful personal narratives that beat all odds.

The film tackles globally significant, easily relatable, issues that bridge borders and have the potential to deliver a new, significant point of view to an international audience.

Watch the trailer for the film, WARD B12, on vimeo now.

While in Zambia, I made connections that I will continue to grow.  And I hope that my documentation will add to a public discourse on the subject of women’s health and specifically encourage institutions and individuals to give available resources.

Every adventure supplies new inspiration for artistic expression, content and process.  I believe in the immortality of art & collaboration. With so many stories to tell, there’s no reason to stay in one place.

BIO: Becky Beamer is a freelance documentarian who is currently searching for screening and speaking opportunities related to this project, WARD B12.  For Becky Beamer’s contact information and other projects visit her  website.


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Top 8 Fulbright Students’ Must Pack Items

Lusaka, Zambia – One needs to get creative at the Birdsnest Backpackers when you are not just staying for a few days, but months. The bunkbed is covered with a very necessary mosquito netting but the cement ceiling made it hard to hang from the top.

Congratulations to all Fulbright recipients for 2017-18 school year.  I fully understand the intensity of the application process and then the excitement of receiving the appointment.  You will surely have an unforgettable adventure.  I am taking a moment to reminisce about my time last year preparing to depart to Lusaka, Zambia. I wish I had a list of recommended items to throw in my suitcase.  And then I really wished I had that same list even more once I arrived and spent a lot of money on some items that are much cheaper in the USA. So, without further adieu – I give you my list of Top 8 Items to Pack for your Fulbright Adventure!

Top 8 Items to Pack for your Fulbright Adventure:

  1. This is an inside look at Becky Beamer’s Fulbright adventure packing must-haves and maybes. Only about half of these made the suitcase.

    Headlamp : Ugh, I always pack my headlamp.  I take it to the beach.  I take it to youth hostels and I take it camping.  I can’t remember a documentary shoot in 10 years when I didn’t have my headlamp.  But, I forgot to take my headlamp to Zambia. Zambia suffers from regular load shedding (or planned power outages) across the city.  I broke down and had to buy one since I had no light in the neighborhood.

  2. Crystal Light Single Serving Packets : Nothing gets older to drink than bottled water for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  Well, it was water or drink super sugary soft drinks and juices.  I’ll be feeling the effects of this bad choice as I try to lose the 10 pounds I packed on from poor eating habits.  Everything here is full fat and full sugar. It’s something to think about before you put on a couple extra pounds like I did. Now, I truly appreciate the options for healthy and safe eating that we have in the USA
  3. Fast Drying Camping Towel : Like many budget travelers, I found myself bunking in at a backpackers when I first arrived. I was so thankful that I could wake up to a towel the first day I arrived. It also packed easily into a backpack when I went on small journeys or sat by a pool.
  4. Carabiner : I attach things to things to things.  I packed pretty light and so, I couldn’t afford to misplace anything. So, I attached my shoes, umbrella, and bag of food to my backpack.  Also, in a pinch, I found that it could be used as a trade.  Carabiners are impossible to find in Lusaka so it’s a hot commodity on the crafts market.
  5. Extra Battery Pack for Phone – Solar If Possible : I mentioned before that Lusaka regularly has power restrictions.  As a technologically based project and person who likes my computer, a lack of power slowed me down.  I regularly sat in the dark doing literally nothing but, being mosquito food. I wish I had brought a power block.  If power is questionable in your Fulbright location, splurge for power now. Also, I did have the forethought to bring rechargeable AA and AAA batteries.  That has saved me a lot of money.
  6. Cloth Folding shower caddy / Flip Flops: This item is probably not at the top of your list of things to buy before you leave.  But, if you are sharing a bathroom at any point in adventure pick one up at Target.  You can grab one during the “back to school” sales for about 15.00 USD.  And then wander over to Walmart and grab the 2.00 cheap-o flip flops.  I used them at the backpackers, around the pool, in my house, and when visiting friends.  
  7. Ziplock Baggies: Nobody does ziplock like Ziplock. I cherish the large baggies with a slide zipper closure.  Those are unheard of in Lusaka.  I brought 10 and I’ve reused each one about 30 times.  I keep bread, cheese, veggies, meat, chips, cereal and more in my baggies.  I wash them and reuse them another time.  I bet you don’t do that in the states.
  8. Journal: Books and paper are expensive.  In Zambia, it’s very difficult to find nice writing paper or a blank journal.  Throw one into your bag.  You will love the way your moleskine journal feels in your hands compared to what you can find in some cities.

Atlanta, Georgia – This sunrise was only made possible thanks to a delayed flight. The 39 hour long flight to Lusaka, Zambia just got 24 hours longer.

Yes, every country appointment is different but, these items should be a consideration for all. Please consult your specific country’s representative to see if they agree with this list. And put them on the spot with a couple questions like  “What do you and your colleagues purchase when you come back to the USA? What everyday items are super expensive there that I might want to bring with me?”.


Happy travels to all,



Some of my first impressions of Zambia. The vibrant color is obvious. I wish I could send the feeling of growing in the heat of September.

Some of my first impressions of Zambia. The vibrant color is obvious. I wish I could send the feeling of growing in the heat of September.

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Thoughts one month before departure for Poland!!!!

Hey all. My name is Pandora White and I am a 4th year chemistry doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama. I have been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Research Grant to Poland for the 2016- 2017 cycle. Currently, I am less than 30 days away from my scheduled departure. I am currently engaged in packing and preparing for departure. So, I will tell you my thoughts about this process.

First of all, let me inform you of some of my traits that heavily influence my packing process. I am an African American with natural hair, plus size, and a solo traveler. In America, this may not seem like a big deal. However, when it comes to other countries this seems to be an incredible mixture of traits. I have travelled abroad to 7 countries and have spent months in a few of them.  So while preparing to depart, I always ask myself these questions:

  1. Will my race/nationality cause a problem? In countries like Jamaica or Ghana where the majority of the population are members of the African diaspora, I did not have any problems with race. However, in some of the other countries I’ve visited, I felt my blackness. People stare at me, take photos of me, or ask me tons of questions. So in general the normal responses I get when people see me are:
    1. In some countries I have travelled to, some people have not seen African Americans and they want to document it in some way. Some people ask to take my photo and sometimes they just do it without permission. It makes me feel like I have my own paparazzi.  I have started taking photos with the people who ask to take my photo to document it. I generally respond kindly to these requests, and the people leave me alone.  Here are a few photos of this:

      Shirahama Beach in Shirahama, Japan


      Kochi, Kerala, India

    2. Confused/ Misinformed/Ignorant. These people are generally not a problem.  They just do not know of my culture, history and how to approach me. I consider those as teaching moments, but sometimes they anger me.  Recently, I was in the Philippines and a guy from Amsterdam asked me “Why are Negroes in America so violent?”  This was during the time when BLM protests were happening all around America. Instead of responding angrily, I explained to him the events that led to the protests and hopefully that influenced him not to think that African Americans are violent.
    3. Anger/racism. Although, I have never had anyone openly attack me. I have had a couple of altercations. I am always concerned about racists.
  1. What to do about my hair& skin?Pandora3A lot of study abroad programs tell you that you can just pick up shampoo anywhere so you do not need to pack it. However, in my case I cannot do that.  My hair is all natural. A lot of the things I use are not available in certain countries like Taiwan.  In those instances, I make my hair care and skin products from raw ingredients. So I have been compiling recipes and gathering some of the ingredients that may not be readily available such as Shea butter.
  1. Will they have clothes my size? Being both plus size and tall in America, there are specialty stores and tons of options which makes it easy for me to find clothes. However, in some countries like India and Japan, they don’t sell clothes in my size. I had to rely on what I brought with me and in some cases hire a tailor/ seamstress to make my clothes. So right now, I’m thinking about what is the most durable and versatile clothes I can pack.Pandora4
  2. Is it safe and are there rules for women that I should know? Knowing the appropriate dress code for women can help a lot in some places. I do not want to receive unwanted attention because my shorts are too short. So I pay attention to that.  In some places, it is uncommon for single women to rent apartments which makes it difficult to find apartments. In general, I just rely on instincts but I also research the country.

I have tons of anxieties about going to Poland, but I am also looking forward to all the new adventures that may befall me. I will post my detailed packing list closer to my departure date.  If you have any questions or comments, please post a comment.



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My Fulbright Application Year

Hi everyone!  These past few months, I’ve been toying with the idea of maintaining a blog for my experiences this coming year as a Fulbright grantee in Spain.  I’ve decided to go through with it, to document what is sure to be one of the most exciting, challenging, and transformative years of my life for myself and others.  First off, I just want to say how blessed I feel to have been given this opportunity.  I wouldn’t be where I am right now without the support of countless professors, mentors, family members, and friends.  It’s been a crazy ride getting to this point and I can’t wait to embark upon this next stage of my life.

Applying for a Fulbright grant has been on my radar for quite a few years, although I can’t say I recall the exact instance in which I first heard about it.  I’ve spoken with numerous past grantees that raved about their experiences and the two main types of grants, for Graduate Researchers and English Teaching Assistants, were both very applicable for me as a future healthcare professional.  Though I did travel to several Spanish-speaking and non Spanish-speaking countries during my undergraduate years, these trips were never for an extended period of time.  I yearned to truly feel as though I have lived in, not simply visited, another country, which is exactly what the Fulbright Program would give me an opportunity to do.  It was not a matter of whether or not I wanted to apply for the program, but of deciding upon a country and grant category as well as finding the time to put together a competitive application.  Flashing back to the summer of 2014, I was simultaneously working, studying for the MCAT in July, submitting primary and secondary medical school applications, and applying for the Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program.  Needless to say, my preparations for applying for a Fulbright were put on the back burner for most of that summer.  I didn’t really start to solidify my country and grant type until the end of July, which I DON’T suggest.  Considering that the University of Alabama campus deadline for submitting the application was in early September, I had my work cut out for me.

As I mentioned, the two types of grants that I was considering were for English Teaching Assistants and Graduate Researchers.  After consulting with Dr. Beverly Hawk, the campus Fulbright advisor, I decided that I was best suited for a position as a graduate researcher.  In order to apply for this type of grant, I would need to identify a host institution and mentor in my country of interest, develop a project proposal, and secure a letter of invitation from the institution.  I had previously participated in an HIV/AIDS summer research fellowship with a Principal Investigator from France, so I reached out to him about any Spanish HIV/AIDS researchers that he knew.  Fortunately, he was able to connect me with several of his good colleagues across Spain whose research interests aligned with my own.  I received offers to work at two institutes, one in Madrid and one in Barcelona, so my last decision before proceeding with the application process was choosing between the two institutes.  I ultimately decided to indicate the Hospital Ramon y Cajal in Madrid as my host institution for several reasons:

  • I am fluent in Spanish but not Catalan, which is widely spoken in Barcelona.
  • The research being conducted at the Hospital Ramon y Cajal (which I will discuss more in a future post) struck me as particularly fascinating and innovative.
  • Most of the other Fulbright grantees in Spain would be living in Madrid.

Come September/October, I had completed and revised my application countless times, been interviewed by the campus Fulbright committee, and submitted my final application to the National Screening Committee.  From this point on, there was nothing more for me to do – no more essays or interviews, just waiting on a decision to come in the spring.  As the fall semester progressed, I began to attend medical school interviews and continued working on my Navy application, not thinking about the Fulbright application that I no longer had control over.  At this point, there were a lot of uncertainties as to what my next step in life was going to be.  Would the Navy allow me to accept a Fulbright grant?  If I was accepted to medical school and the Fulbright Program, would I be able to defer medical school?  January brought me closer to resolving some of these uncertainties.  Within a few weeks, I found out that I would not be able to join the Navy that year, received my first medical school acceptance, and was informed that I had made it to the final selection process for a Fulbright grant in Spain.

On spring break, I opened up my email to some of the most exciting news of my life – I had been selected as a Fulbright grantee!  The rest of the semester was relatively smooth sailing from there.  I had decided that I would be attending Florida International University (FIU) for medical school and the administration was extremely receptive to my request to defer my start date for a year.  As FIU is located in Miami, it’s virtually a necessity for medical personnel to be able to communicate with the plethora of Spanish-speaking patients.  Living in Madrid and working at a Spanish hospital is certainly going to prepare me well for medical school when I come back to Miami.

Anyways, that’s a summary of the craziness of my application year for Fulbright!  I won’t be leaving for Madrid until August 31, so stay tuned for some more pre-departure posts about my research project and what I’m doing for prepare for this upcoming year.  ¡Hasta pronto!

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