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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Four from ODU Earn Fulbright Awards

By Joe Garvey

A graduate student and three faculty members from Old Dominion University have been selected as Fulbright scholars for study overseas.

  • Hannah M. Twiddy, a Ph.D. candidate in human movement science in the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies, will conduct postdoctoral research in Australia.
  • Sandeep Kumar, a professor of civil and environmental engineering in the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, will spend five months starting in February 2022 at the University of Naples "Parthenope" in Italy.
  • Justin Haegele, associate professor of human movement sciences, was named to the Fulbright Specialist Roster. This places him among a pool of candidates eligible to be matched to a host institution in the next three years.
  • Dimitrie Popescu, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, will spend four months in the High-Speed Networks Lab at Budapest University of Technology and Economics, beginning in April of 2022.

These latest recipients boost the number of ODU-affiliated Fulbright scholars to 173. ODU faculty and students have now earned 83 Fulbright awards - 57 scholar awards and 15 specialist awards by faculty, along with 11 student scholarships. Additionally, the University has hosted 18 foreign Fulbright faculty members and 72 foreign Fulbright students (who earned master's or doctoral degrees at ODU).

"The Office of Research has been successful over the past five years in helping faculty and students develop competitive Fulbright applications," said Karen Eck, ODU's assistant vice president for research. "We are thrilled to see an increase in awards that have helped internationalize ODU research connections and provide a unique professional experience for participating scholars."

Twiddy, who plans to graduate in December, will be based at the University of Newcastle in Australia as part of a project to study perspectives of healthy aging across older adults. The study will take data she collected from Costa Rica and the United States and use an Australian longitudinal study on women's health to define models of successful healthy aging from multiple countries and cultures.

Twiddy expects her fellowship to begin in February 2022 and that she will be at the University of Newcastle for at least six months.

"This will allow me to expand this international research to include three countries of differing cultures, health care, economic development and community resources," Twiddy said.

Twiddy, whose doctoral concentration is applied kinesiology and who has been mentored by assistant professor Leryn Reynolds, earned a bachelor's degree in exercise science from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2014 and a master's in exercise science from ODU in 2016.

"I couldn't be more excited and honored to be representing my family of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, my ODU community and the U.S. in researching as a Fulbright scholar," she said. "This whole experience has been eye-opening and provides an international foundation for my future as a researcher, especially with my interest in traveling as an independent scholar to research healthy aging around the world in differing cultures."

Kumar, who has done groundbreaking work on algae-based biofuels, will teach two graduate-level courses in addition to developing a collaborative research opportunity.

He is no stranger to Italy. He first established a relationship with the University of Padova in 2015, beginning a collaboration on research projects. That led to the signing of a university-wide memorandum of understanding (MOU) between ODU and the University of Padova.

Kumar returned to Italy in 2017, accompanied by his chair, Ben Stuart, now dean of the Batten College. That resulted in an MOU to provide student and faculty exchanges between Norfolk and Padova - a city of 215,000 near Venice - that was signed in 2018.

"I feel honored to be selected for this overseas opportunity and am looking forward to this life-changing experience," he said.

Haegele's research involves the interdisciplinary field of adapted physical activity, with a primary interest in examining how individuals with disabilities, specifically those with visual impairments or autism spectrum disorder, experience participation in physical activity.

"Within my host institute, I would hope to engage with faculty to discuss ways to structure pre-service physical education coursework to enhance training in my specific areas of expertise: inclusion, teaching students with visual impairments and teaching students with autism spectrum disorder," he wrote in his application for the award. "Within primary and secondary schools, I would first seek out opportunities to observe and learn about the current status of inclusive education for those with disabilities, and then lend advice and demonstrate instructional techniques that may be helpful."

Haegele has received several awards designated for emerging scholars in physical education and adapted physical activity, including the David P. Beaver Young Scholar Award from the National Consortium of Physical Education for Individuals with Disabilities, the Mabel Lee Award from the Society of Health and Physical Educators, the Hally Beth Poindexter Young Scholar Award from the National Association of Kinesiology in Higher Education, and the Elly D. Friedmann Young Professional Award from the International Federation of Adapted Physical Activity.

Popescu, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, will spend four months in Hungary working on a project titled "5G Wireless Networks for Sensors and IoT Device Communications."

The award will provide Popescu with the opportunity to learn about STEM education in Hungary through research and teaching at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, one of the most prestigious European universities and the first in Europe to award engineering degrees to students.

"I look forward to experiencing the state-of-the-art facilities in the High-Speed Network (HSN) Lab at my host institution and to the start of a long-term research collaboration with faculty and students working the lab in the area of 5G wireless network," Popescu said. "In addition, I hope to learn from their experience in STEM education and to return with new ideas on how to improve student recruitment and retention in engineering and other STEM disciplines at ODU."

Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 400,000 participants from over 160 countries the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Fulbright alumni include 60 Nobel Prize laureates, 88 Pulitzer Prize recipients and 39 who have served as a head of state or government.

"The Fulbright Scholarship is the premier opportunity to represent the U.S. as a cultural ambassador," said Sharon Pitney, outreach coordinator for ODU's Center for Global Engagement. "The past year has certainly highlighted the importance of diplomacy, transcultural communication and international exchange. There is definitely a Fulbright opportunity for everyone."

To learn more about Fulbright awards, contact Pitney in the Center for Global Engagement at cge@odu.edu or call 757-683-4419.


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