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Record-Breaking Eight Drexel Dragons Named Fulbright Grantees

April 12 2017

This year's class of Drexel Fulbright awardees. From left to right, top row: Carli Moorhead, Claudia Gutierrez, Emily Lurier and Gregory Niedt. From left to right, bottom row: Kaitlin Thaker, Shawn Joshi, Vaughn Shirey, Wen-kuni Ceant.

More Drexel University students and alumni were offered grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this year than ever before, with eight Dragons receiving the prestigious award this spring.

The number breaks the previous record of seven accepted Dragons in 2014 and 2013. Just a decade ago, it was considered a high turnout if three Drexel students and alumni were offered Fulbright awards in one year.

“The increasing number of Drexel students being recognized by Fulbright reflects the incredible talent and promise of these candidates, as well as the University’s commitment to helping our students achieve both in and out of the classroom,” said Meredith Wooten, PhD, director of the Drexel Fellowships Office. “These students and their Fulbright plans reflect Drexel’s commitment to international engagement and experiential learning. Their experiences researching and teaching abroad will help prepare them to become leaders in their chosen fields.”

A total of 18 students and alumni submitted Fulbright proposals this year, with 11 Dragons then selected by the Fulbright National Screening Committee to advance as semifinalists. Four of Drexel’s eight awardees come from the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, research, creative projects or teaching English in over 140 countries around the world. While abroad, the Drexel scholars and teachers will promote mutual understanding and cultural exchange as citizen ambassadors for their country and university.

“Perhaps more important than the prestige associated with Fulbright is the cultural immersion and connections these students will gain as Fulbrighters living independently in their host country communities,” said Wooten. “For several of these students, this will be the longest time they have lived abroad on their own. They will learn about the local culture and norms, and they will learn a lot about themselves.”

Wooten hopes that the record-breaking number of accepted Fulbright grants this year encourages more Drexel students and alumni to consider applying for the grants themselves.

Here are the Drexel students and alumni that received Fulbright grants this year:

Carli Moorehead, a senior biomedical engineering student in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems who will complete a Master’s thesis in materials engineering, was awarded a study/research grant to Italy. Moorehead, who is also a Goldwater Scholar and received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, plans to design “smart” bioceramics for targeted treatments.

Claudia Gutierrez graduated with a BS/MS in biomedical engineering from the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems in 2015 and was a member of the Pennoni Honors College. She is now pursuing an MD at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. She will return to Switzerland, where she completed an international co-op as a Whitaker International Undergraduate Scholar  with a study/research grant to work with experts in tissue engineering. Like Moorehead, Gutierrez’s first research experience at Drexel was as a STAR Scholar.

Emily Lurier, a PhD candidate in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, received a study/research grant to the Netherlands to work with leading experts in the field of heart valve tissue engineering. She also received a Whitaker International Fellowship this year to work in the Netherlands.

Greg Niedt, a PhD student in the Department of Communication, Culture, and Media in the College of Arts and Sciences, received an EU Fulbright study/research grant. He plans to examine how texts are used to claim and contest space by residents of different ethnolinguistic backgrounds, as well as the sociopolitical structures that shape (and are shaped by) this process, in Germany, Italy and France — a continuation of his dissertation work conducting similar research in South Philadelphia.

Kaitlin Thaker, a senior global studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences and a double minor in German and philosophy, received an English Teaching Assistantship Fulbright grant to teach English in Germany. Thaker, who is also a member of the Pennoni Honors College, has studied German, Russian, Japanese and Chinese and hopes to one day use her skills and experiences to work as an interpreter.

Shawn Joshi, an MD/PhD student completing his second year of medical school in the College of Medicine and the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, received a study/research grant to the United Kingdom to explore the clinical use of portable medical neuroimaging devices on physical therapies for children with motor learning disabilities. Joshi, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, was offered one of just two “Open Awards” offered by the Fulbright-UK Program, one of the most competitive Fulbright student grants that had over 160 candidates apply for two spots.

Vaughn Shirey, a senior environmental science major in the College of Arts and Sciences with minors in bioinformatics and sustainability in the built environment, received a study/research grant to Finland. Shirey plans to analyze citizen science data and specimens at The Finnish Museum of Natural History in order to gain a better understanding of the value of citizen science towards augmenting existing data in natural history. DrexelNow previously wrote about Shirey’s work to establish the Drexel Naturalists’ Association.

Wen-kuni Ceant, who graduated with a masters in health management and policy from the Dornsife School of Public Health in 2016, received a study/research grant to Senegal. She will evaluate the feasibility and replicability of prepayment plans to finance health care in the West African region.

For more information about applying for a Fulbright as a Drexel student or alum, visit the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website or the Drexel Fellowship Office. Email the Fellowships Office at