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Three Northeastern students named Fulbright scholars

Lucas Schoeppner

Lucas Schoeppner (center), Lauren Byrnes (right), and Hollis Thomann (left) have earned the prestigious scholarships and will travel to Germany to study, conduct research, and teach. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Three North­eastern students—Lucas Schoeppner, Lauren Byrnes, and Hollis Thomann—have received Ful­bright Schol­ar­ships for 2013–2014. The trio will leave in Sep­tember to com­plete their Ful­bright U.S. Stu­dent Pro­gram awards, all of which will take place in Germany.

The three Ful­bright schol­ar­ships are the most awarded at North­eastern in one year, said Joanna Iacono, director of the Office of Fellowships.

The Ful­bright Schol­ar­ship is a merit-​​based award that pro­vides funds for U.S. cit­i­zens to study, con­duct research, or teach inter­na­tion­ally. As recip­i­ents of one of the most pres­ti­gious nation­ally com­pet­i­tive fel­low­ships, Ful­bright scholars seek to increase mutual under­standing between the people of the United States and other coun­tries across a vast array of disciplines.

Schoeppner, a 2012 grad­uate who earned a degree in jour­nalism with double minors in his­tory and inter­na­tional affairs, is one of five stu­dents nation­ally selected to par­tic­i­pate in the Ful­bright U.S. Young Jour­nalist Pro­gram. Through his 10-​​month schol­ar­ship, the Penn­syl­vania native will con­duct research and work with one or more media insti­tu­tions. He plans to con­tinue inves­ti­gating a topic that recently piqued his interest: the eco­nomic and envi­ron­mental con­se­quences of fracking—also known as hydraulic frac­turing, a process of extracting nat­ural gas and oil from shale rock layers deep underground.

Schoeppner said fracking presents a unique inter­sec­tion of envi­ron­mental, eco­nomic, and policy issues. “The use of fracking tech­nology has exploded over the past sev­eral years in the U.S., cre­ating a huge envi­ron­mental debate, rev­o­lu­tion­izing the fossil fuel industry, and forcing alter­na­tive energy pro­grams to cope with new real­i­ties,” he explained. “I want to look at the prac­tice objec­tively and inves­ti­gate the impacts fracking will have if, and when, it’s adopted in Germany.”

While working on co-​​op at Boston-​​based Ceres, a net­work of envi­ron­men­tally con­scious investors, in 2011 he began to under­stand the envi­ron­mental and eco­nomic fac­tors that shape large-​​scale multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions’ deci­sions to tap into nat­ural gas reserves.

“For better or worse, some com­mu­ni­ties don’t want fracking in their area,” Schoeppner said. “While in Ger­many, I want to be part of the ongoing national dis­cus­sion on if, and how, to develop the 8 tril­lion cubic feet of nat­ural gas under German soil.”

Byrnes, a senior biology major, has received a Ful­bright for Study and Research and will pursue her master’s degree in mol­e­c­ular bio­sciences at Hei­del­berg Uni­ver­sity in Ger­many. The Ohio native plans to expand on her impres­sive in-​​class and expe­ri­en­tial research into cel­lular and mol­e­c­ular biology, par­tic­u­larly as it relates to cell migration.

“My expe­ri­ences in the lab have been instru­mental to my under­standing of tech­niques and the­o­ries taught in the class­room,” Byrnes explained. “Learning about DNA and pro­teins and working with them is very dif­ferent. My oppor­tu­ni­ties to design my own exper­i­ments and gain inde­pen­dence in a lab set­ting are a major reason why I want to and why I’m able to attend grad­uate school.”

Her interest in inter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tions was sparked by a study abroad expe­ri­ence in Frieburg, Ger­many in Fall 2011. During this experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­nity, Byrnes learned that the work of sci­ence revolves around strategic multi­na­tional part­ner­ships, and it strength­ened her desire to live, study, and research in Ger­many fol­lowing grad­u­a­tion and pursue a career as a global scientist.

Thomann, a senior lin­guis­tics major with double minors in inter­na­tional affairs and psy­chology, earned a Ful­bright Eng­lish Teaching Assist­ant­ship in Ger­many. As part of her 10-​​month pro­gram, Thomann will assist Eng­lish instruc­tors and teach Eng­lish as a second lan­guage. She also hopes to learn more about the suc­cessful bilin­gual English-​​German pro­grams in the German school system and trans­late those best prac­tices back home in U.S. bilin­gual edu­ca­tion programs.

“Bilin­gual edu­ca­tion laws vary by state in the United States,” Thomann explained. “All edu­ca­tors have their gen­eral teaching cer­tifi­cate, but most are not spe­cial­ized in bilin­gual edu­ca­tion. That training then falls on the schools. It’s impor­tant to get these teachers trained in bilin­gual edu­ca­tion tech­niques because it will ben­efit both the school and the student.”

Thomann hopes her work in Ger­many will build on her pre­vious expe­ri­ences teaching and researching bilin­gual edu­ca­tion in America, and help her in advo­cating for bilin­gual programs.

“Through my under­standing of lin­guis­tics, I’ve been able to be a more effec­tive Eng­lish lan­guage teacher,” Thomann said. “I want to empower other lan­guage teachers, par­tic­u­larly those in bilin­gual pro­grams, to use lin­guis­tics to improve lan­guage learning.”