Rice University

Rice University Center for Civic Leadership

Current Winners

Fulbright Scholars

Students who receive a Fulbright grant have a strong academic background, leadership potential and a passion for expanding mutual understanding among different nations and cultures. This year, 7 Rice University students were awarded Fulbright grants to study, teach and/or conduct research in a foreign country.


Rachel Buissereth (Hanszen ’17) will research with James Cook University and The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Cairns and Northwest Australia for next year. Her research will explore various ways to break boundaries between hydrological, environmental, and cultural factors affecting indigenous peoples in the Fitzroy River Catchment. By using various participatory methods such as in depth interviews and participatory 3D mapping workshops, her goal will be to increase communication between indigenous and non-indigenous people and create protocols for working with indigenous communities all over the world.

Hanna Downing (Will Rice College '17) will serve as a Fulbright English teaching assistant to elementary and middle schoolers in Taiwan for one year. As a student double majoring in Asian Studies and Policy Studies, she is eager to learn more about the Taiwanese education system. She will work with a certified local English teacher to prepare lesson plans and teach students. She is looking forward to engaging within the Taiwanese education system as seen through the eyes of individuals who are impacted most. In addition to sharing American culture with Taiwanese students, she will also further advance her Mandarin language skills. Through educational and cultural exhcanges, Hanna will develop close realtionships with students, teachers, and community leaders in an effort to understand what educational betterment looks like for students around the world. Upon her return, she will go to law school and further explore the intersection between law, policy, and education.

Cyrus Ghaznavi (Sid Richardson '17) will research with Hokkaido University's Research Center for Zoonosis Control in Sapporor, Japan for ten months. Specifically, he will research the role that mucin-like region (MLR) of Ebola's glycoprotein plays in tissue tropism and viral pahtogenesis. Uising a Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) delivery system, Cyrus will use molecular cloning techniques to compare viral growth of recombinant VSV systems (with and without hte MLR) in cell culture and live mammalian models. He will also analyze virla tissue tropism in multiple organ systems of infected hamsters, the result of which may help unravel the mysteries of filovirus pathogensis. (Cyrus is also the recipient of the Luce Scholarship and thus declined the Fulbright). 

Camila Kennedy (Jones '17) will work as an English Language Teaching Assistant in Mexico for 9 months. Mexico's Fulbright Commision, teamed with the Secretaría de Educación Pública, will assign Camila to a public school where she will assist permanent instrutors with classroom curriculum and extracurricular language activities. In addition to her teaching role, Camila will work on a multimedia project focusing on varied experiences of "going back to Mexico", from voluntary return migration to forced deportation. She hopes to get students and other teachers involved in the project. 

Benjamin Morris (second-year masters student) will study with Helge Sunde at Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, Norway for ten months. Morris will study music composition privately with Professor Sunde and will conclude his studies by composing a full-length work for jazz and classical fusion ensemble to be performed in Norway and the United States. Morris will write an accompanying paper and blog and edit together a short video that will serve as a document of the process of composing the work and the collaborations that will take place at the Academy. In Oslo, Ben will also compose for student ensembles at the Academy, perform with other musicians, interview student composers and performers, attend a variety of concerts, and teach in the community.

Luce Scholar

Luce Scholars have outstanding capacity for leadership, a record of high achievement, and mature and clearly defined career interests. The Luce program is intended for young leaders who have had limited experience of Asia and who might not otherwise have an opportunity in the normal course of their careers to come to know Asia.

Cyrus Ghaznavi (Sid Richardson '17) will conduct a fellowship with the Luce Scholars Program in Tokyo, Japan for thirteen months. For the first two months of the program, Cyrus will attend Japanese classes in order to improve his proficiency of the host country's language. For the remainder of the program, he will work full-time with a global health organization in Tokyo (TBD), where he will get the opportunity to explore the Asian international health landscape. Throughout the thirteen months, Cyrus will engage in full-fledged cultural immersion, experiential learning, and professional development. The Luce Scholars Program will also host a midterm meeting in Thailand and a warp-up meeting in India at the conclusion of the program, after which Cyrus will return to the U.S. to attend medical school.

Wagoner Scholars

The Wagoner Foreign Study Scholarship provides students the opportunity to conduct independent research abroad for a minimum of eight weeks to one academic year. 



Lucrecia Aguilar (Baker ’18) will research with the Belize Carnivore Project this summer (2017) in the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, Belize for eight weeks. She will study the effects of logging on jaguar populations by comparing the land use and behavior of this big cat species in logged production forest versus reserve forest. To do this, she will analyze images obtained from remote camera traps, which capture photographs of animals through motion detection. Under the guidance of Dr. Marcella Kelly of Virginia Tech, Lucrecia will partake in setting up and collecting data from a grid of camera traps in both logged and unlogged forests. She will then compile images from this summer’s study with image data from previous years to investigate discrepancies in jaguar habitat use between forest types. Conclusions from this research may have implications for jaguar conservation and forest management.


Yasna Haghdoost (Will Rice '17) will conduct research at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon for six months. Yasna will be investigating the role of civil society and grassroots organizations in addressing gender-based violence. 


Lauren Howe-Kerr (Duncan College ’17) will conduct research at UC Berkeley Gump Station this fall 2017 in Mo’orea, French Polynesia for eight weeks. Off the island of Mo’orea is a National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research site—one of 26 sites in the world and the only coral reef LTER site. Here, Lauren will examine the role of viruses in coral health and reef degradation. She will be isolating viruses in coral mucus and assessing the potential role of these viruses in coral bleaching.



Emily Jacobson (Duncan College ‘17) will conduct research this year in Medellín, Colombia for eight months. Her research will explore the social impacts of urban development projects in Colombia to understand the role of urban development and planning in advancing gender equity. Colombian cities have been globally recognized for their innovative urban development projects, which include sustainable mobility solutions and creative uses of public space. These developments may have the potential to expand the social and economic opportunities available to women, especially women of lower socioeconomic status. Her research project has three objectives: a) to determine how existing urban development projects impact men and women differently; b) to understand how urban development can be a vehicle to advance gender equity; and c) to identify what urban innovations, if any, citizens have created to supplement the government’s efforts to promote gender equity.



Jake Krauss (Martel ’17) will research with Fauna Forever this year near Cusco, Peru for two months. The project will study the mating behavior of the beautiful Andean Cock of the Rock (Rupicola peruvianus). In order to do this, he will search for large congregations of males, called "leks," and record the locations of each with a GPS. Once the locations of leks are mapped, he will choose the best leks and observe the birds' behavior, meticulously recording patterns and analyzing the trends that appear. 



Neethi Nayak, (Martel ’17) will research at the University of Costa Rica this year in San José, Costa Rica for four months. Her research project is a case study on the globalization of sustainability for building metrics, particularly the LEED certification program. The case study will examine the implications of the globalization of building metrics, a comparison of its implementation in Costa Rica and the United States, and public response and sentiment towards the standard. Components of this research project include, literature review, fieldwork, and interview, to comparatively analyze LEED with the Costa Rican RESET in a mixed methods approach.



Shivani Raman (Martel '19) will conduct research at the Center for Excellence in Chronic Diseases (CRONICAS) at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH) this Spring (2018) in Lima, Peru for four months. Shivani will be working on the ongoing COHESION project in order to improve Peru’s health system response for attending to the double burden of non-communicable and infectious diseases. Specifically, she will be examining the current system of management for these diseases, working to understand its challenges, and developing country-specific interventions that are adapted to the local communities, the primary health care structure, and pertinent sociocultural factors. The project will deliver context appropriate interventions at the policy, health system and community level in order to improve the efficacy of health care responses.



Elaine Shen (McMurtry, ’18) will research at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute this summer (2017) in Bocas del Toro and Panama City, Panama for three-and-a-half months. She will be looking at fish diversity in seagrasses and mangroves in a Caribbean archipelago using environmental DNA sampling. Her field research will consist of collecting water samples and filtering them for their DNA. Then, she will take these DNA samples, amplify parts of the DNA that code for fish using universal primers, and process them for next-generation sequencing on the Illumina platform. This will translate the physical samples taken in the water into digital DNA barcodes that can be used to identify fish species through bioinformatic analysis.



Hasan Seede (Jones 2016) will research at German Cancer Research Center this Winter 2017 in Heidelberg, Germany for five months. His project will focus on molecular research using novel resources and methods developed by the CRISPRflydesign team to understand how signaling pathways in stem cells induce cancer. The project will particularly focus on WNT signaling, which is crucial in cell-cell communication in animals and plays an important role in many human pathologies. The aim of the project is to use CRISPR as a mutagenesis tool to target WNT genes in the gut stem cells to determine if malfunction in the signaling protein induces cancer.



Zoe Tao (Jones ’17), will conduct research at the Institute for Music, Art, and Process (IMAP) this summer of 2017 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain for eight weeks. IMAP is a multidisciplinary institution that focuses on using music in a diverse array of medical and therapeutic contexts, working in both private therapy settings and inpatient hospital units. In addition to observing how an interdisciplinary mental health team can flourish, Zoe will be having semi-structured conversations with music therapists, psychologists, physicians, and their patients in palliative and end-of-life care settings. She hopes to highlight prevalent themes and concerns among patients and their caregivers regarding physical, psychosocial, and spiritual well-being, as well as how music therapy can address these themes and concerns. As an incoming MD student, Zoe’s personal goal for this project is to explore the possibilities of integrating the creative arts into medical practice. 


Kate Thomas (Will Rice ‘17) will research with Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) this year in Buenos Aires, Argentina for seven months. Kate will continue a project she began as her sociology honors thesis studying risks from the petrochemical industry in a fence-line community. Her work will consist of statistical analysis of environmental and demographic data, as well as interviews with community stakeholders. 



Erin Yang (Hanszen '17) will research at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium for 7 months. Erin's project will focus on single-cell cancer genomics, both in optimizing the methodologies of this emerging field and using them to study tumor samples from cancer patients. She will use sophisticated flow cytometry techniques as well as bioinformatics softwares to identify trends in gene expression in breast cancers. Erin's research will investigate the heterogeneity of tumors and the potential for genetic and molecular therapies.