The Benefits of Research Abroad: 3 Questions With GEM Fellow Tracey Wellington

Jul 02, 2012
Tracey Wellington, GEM Fellow and 2006 East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes Fellow in Japan

Tracey Wellington is another example of a ProFellow. An accomplished graduate student in engineering, she now has several fellowships under her belt, including a National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) grant that allowed her to conduct research in Japan in 2006. The EAPSI grants provide U.S. graduate students in science and engineering first-hand research experiences in Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore or Taiwan. These research experiences give students an introduction to the science, science policy, and scientific infrastructure of the respective location as well as an orientation to the society, culture and language. One of the primary goals of the EASPI is to help students initiate scientific relationships that will better enable future collaboration with foreign counterparts. We asked Tracey about her experience applying and the benefits to conducting research abroad.

1. Why did you decide to apply for the EAPSI summer fellowship to Japan?

I was a first year graduate student and have always looked for the opportunity to incorporate an international component in my studies. When I saw the email about the fellowship I thought it would be an exciting opportunity because I would be able to serve as my own Principal Investigator and also have the challenge of conducting research in a country and language that I wasn’t familiar with.

2. What do you think made your application stand out?

I must admit I was surprised and elated when I was accepted since I was a first year graduate student who had just completed my Bachelor of Science and I was not far along in my research program. I believe what helped my application stand out is the fact that I had conducted research as an undergrad in a number of different areas (astronomy, high energy physics and science education) and found an opportunity in Japan that would allow me to utilize equipment that weren’t accessible to me in the US. Through my advisor I was able to find a host at the Institute for Solid State Physics at the University of Tokyo and I was able to conduct a number of experiments that I was later able to present at national and international conferences.

3. What are the professional benefits of conducting research abroad?

There is important and exciting research going on everyday around the world and if we don’t step out of our immediate surroundings we will never know the full extent of the advancements that are happening in our field. I learn so much from my colleagues overseas; some make great discoveries using state of the art resources and some with very little. In the end they all contribute to the advancement of knowledge in our respective fields.

Tracey Wellington is currently a 2012 GEM Fellow sponsored by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). She was awarded the Energy Science and Engineering Fellowship through the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education (CIRE) to complete a PhD in Energy Science and Engineering beginning Fall 2012. CIRE is a joint center between the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and ORNL. Tracey has a BS in Mathematical Physics from Randolph College and an MS in Materials Science and Engineering from Texas A&M University where she was awarded a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT). 

© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.