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Fulbright Adventures in Germany November 16, 2010

Posted by Christine Morrison in Fulbright, Germany, Undergraduate.
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Hello readers! My name is Christine Morrison, and I graduated from the University of Michigan in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry degree with honors. (I will begin my PhD at the California Institute of Technology in September 2011.) Since September 2010 I have been living in Karlsruhe, Germany as a Fulbright scholarship awardee with a grant to do research in chemistry for ten months.

I chose Germany for several reasons:

Language Course in Marburg

Before arriving in Karlsruhe, Germany, Christine spent six weeks in Marburg for a language course with other Fulbrighters. She and her classmates enjoy their lesson over brunch at their teacher's house.

1) My  great-grandparents emigrated from Germany, 2) Germany is one of the world leaders in chemistry today, and 3) Germany is essentially the birthplace of chemistry. I chose chemistry because life is just that much better with chemistry in it. =)

My academic home for the next year is the Institute of Nanotechnology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). My primary project is synthesizing a class of three-dimensional, porous compounds. These compounds consist of metal ions that are connected to each other by organic molecules (ligands). They are appropriately called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). MOFs are very versatile materials that have numerous applications. They can be used for gas storage, for example, storing hydrogen in fuel cells, and gas separation, such as capturing carbon dioxide from a gas mixture. The particular group I work for is at the forefront of studying the magnetic properties of mixed-metal and mixed-ligand MOFs. Studying the magnetic properties of MOFs offers the opportunity to improve magnets due to the unique interaction between metals and organic molecules as well as their organization. My goal is to synthesize novel mixed-metal, mixed-ligand MOFs, using elements from all parts of the periodic table.

A year ago I was so excited about graduate school that, admittedly, I was not sure about accepting a Fulbright scholarship if I was offered one. When I did receive my Fulbright acceptance letter, however, there was no decision to be made: I would regret it if I did not take this opportunity. I had my first abroad experience in the summer of 2009, researching at Peking University in Beijing, China for ten weeks. It was during this time that I came to understand the importance of international experience for academic and personal growth. I learned how to function independently in a foreign environment, and that there is nothing comparable to living in a different culture. A Fulbright scholarship presents the opportunity to live and do research (or teach) in a foreign environment for nearly an entire year.

The research I do at KIT is not related to my undergraduate research or the research I will do for my PhD.

Karlsruhe Palace

The palace at the heart of Karlsruhe on a cloudy day. Behind the castle are several gardens and nature trails, and in front of the castle is the center of the city. All major streets start at the palace and extend outward like sunrays, similar to the layout of Washington D.C.

However, I consider this research experience to be very important. Firstly, it is an area of chemistry that has excited me since my first exposure to it in my undergraduate lab (though it was not my project). Secondly, including my research in China and my future PhD research, I will have significant experience in four areas of chemistry and three countries. As a professor (which is my goal), I can combine this diverse knowledge set and international connections to answer questions in creative and collaborative ways.

I owe a lot to the International Institute (II) for helping me get to Germany. The II was there throughout every step of the Fulbright application process (most of which I did in China) to answer my questions and guide me in the right direction by offering their many resources. So thank you, II!

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