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Where in the World Will Your Ph.D. Research Take You?

Ph.D. research doesn’t have to keep students tied to a single university in a single city. In fact, there are many funding opportunities to help students explore and take their studies abroad. During the course of their Ph.D. research, students from USC have found themselves interviewing children in South Korea, combing through archives in France, working with the government in Peru and more. 

View in South Korea taken by USC Ph.D. student Stephanie Kang.

Each year, the University of Southern California helps graduate and undergraduate students apply for and receive funding from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It is sponsored by the U.S. government and allows U.S. citizens to travel, study and work abroad. About four to five Ph.D. students typically apply for Fulbright awards in any given year. USC is encouraging more Ph.D. students to consider a Fulbright award and is providing resources to help students during the application process.

Depending on your field, a Fulbright award can help you dive deeper into your research and take advantage of resources you might not otherwise be able to access. Natalia Lauricella, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History, received a Fulbright for the 2018-2019 academic year to conduct archival research in Paris. Lauricella says her dissertation looks at the networks of master lithographers, avant-garde painters and art dealers who produced color prints, posters and books in the late 19th and early 20th century in France. The Fulbright award is allowing her to examine archival material housed in libraries in Paris for nine months. Lauricella says the length of the Fulbright gave her a unique opportunity to immerse herself in the research.

Natalia Lauricella, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History

“One of the central figures in my dissertation is a master lithographer who opened his own atelier in the 1890s. The atelier still operates in Paris, and during my time here, I have spent many afternoons visiting the shop and speaking with the printers and artists working there today. Because of the Fulbright grant and the length of time I am in Paris, I have had the opportunity to return multiple times to the atelier and cultivate relationships with these printers. Some of the most important developments in my project have come from my discussions and observations in the print atelier,” said Lauricella.

Another Ph.D. candidate’s research has taken her to South America with a Fulbright award. Hai-Vu Phan is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and International Relations. Her research focuses on renewable energy policies. Through Fulbright, she was able to work with the energy regulator of Peru. She says she visited wind farms and solar farms as part of official state visits. She also traveled to isolated communities in the Amazon to check on distributed solar energy systems.

Hai-Vu Phan, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and International Relations

“I highly recommend that students apply for Fulbright,” said Phan. “It is a generous award. You are offered many resources in the host country and you forever belong to an alumni network of distinguished people that can help your career in the future.”

Stephanie Kang’s research took her to South Korea. Kang, a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and International Relations, says her research focuses on the design and implementation of security commitments between countries and how such commitments affect the likelihood of conflict. She says the U.S.-South Korean military alliance is the ideal case study for her dissertation project. She says she her Fulbright award has allowed her to interview people at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, the U.S. Combined Forces Command and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Stephanie Kang, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and International Relations

“The Fulbright program provides a unique opportunity to establish academic and professional relationships with scholars outside the U.S.,” said Kang. “These avenues for transnational research cooperation are important for PhD students who conduct research on international topics or have area interests in which the perspectives and work of scholars and professionals from other countries is essential.”

Kang says aside from the academic opportunities, one of her most memorable experiences in South Korea was having Thanksgiving dinner at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Seoul, complete with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving dinner in Seoul, South Korea

Katie Capra, the Associate Director of Academic Honors and Fellowships, says Ph.D. students who are interested in applying for a Fulbright should attend one of USC’s Fulbright Writing Workshops or watch the workshop online. She also encourages students to think about how the timing of a Fulbright will enhance their dissertation. Once students decide to apply for Fulbright, they need to participate in advising during the summer with Academic Honors and Fellowships staff. Students can find detailed information on the application process and resources here.