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Update from Sarah Lightfoot Vidal, BS/MS '13

July 9, 2015

Working at the lab at CIPA

We recently caught up with Sarah Lightfoot Vidal (BS/MS materials science and engineering  ’13), who talked about her experience as a Fulbright Student in Chile.
Here's what she had to say: 

Six months ago, I returned to the United States after completing the amazing, fulfilling journey that was my Fulbright fellowship. I worked in el Centro de Investigación de Polímeros Avanzados (CIPA) in Concepción, Chile, in collaboration with la Universidad de Concepción. Although Concepción does not show up in any tour guides, or “must-see” lists for Chile, I completely disagree. I left with a love and appreciation for los penquistas (the city’s demonym) and all of Concepción.  

SLV Mtg Hammer

During my time there, I saw the river (Río Bío Bío) completely empty and watched the spring rain fill it with life. I saw Concepción’s orchestra perform a deeply emotional presentation of Violeta Parra’s greatest songs, my first experience feeling Chilean folklore. I had the great honor of meeting U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Michael Hammer, along with fellow Department of State alumni living in Chile. I met local artisans and apprenticed for three months with a talented artist learning how to silversmith—I have the jewelry to prove it.  

SLV Silversmith

Beyond Concepción, my Fulbright led me to great friends. I traveled to the south where my friend and I stumbled upon a small museum; a basement display contained field notes and sketches by Charles Darwin, drawn of that exact region in Chile. I visited important monuments in Santiago, took in all the architecture, saw Pablo Neruda’s house, La Chascona.  My friends and I white-water rafted in the south of Chile, all because we couldn’t climb Volcán Villarica (it was too dangerous that day!).

I returned from my journey to continue my PhD at Tufts University in Biomedical Engineering, reinvigorated, inspired, and motivated to work on engineering issues with an international focus. Here at Tufts, I am an NSF IGERT fellow in the Soft Material Robotics program, and was recently awarded the NDSEG Fellowship.  

To close, I would like to deeply thank the Fulbright Association and the Department of State for awarding me this opportunity of a lifetime. It has forever changed my world-view and I will always be thankful and dedicated to international education. I would be remiss if I did not thank everyone at Drexel who supported me in achieving my dreams, first and foremost my mentor Dr. Michele Marcolongo, Dr. Christopher Li, Dr. Antonios Zavaliangos, Dr. Lawrence Souder, Dr. Paul Block, Dr. Richard Knight, Dr. Mitra Taheri, and the rest of the Materials Department who helped and inspired me throughout my 5 years.  Lastly, I’d of course like to thank the Fellowships Office at Drexel. My concluding message to anyone interested in applying (to anything) is to always believe in yourself. You will miss all of the shots you do not take.

SLV Science Cafe 

About the Fulbright U.S. Student Program

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is designed to give recent B.S./B.A. graduates, master's and doctoral candidates, young professionals and artists opportunities for personal development and international experience.  Each year, Fulbright awards 1,900 grants for 9-12 months of self-designed study, research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 participating countries.

Fulbright U.S. Student grants are administered by the Institute for International Education (IIE) with the goal of encouraging cultural exchange and mutual understanding through engagement in an "atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom."

To apply for Fulbright at Drexel University, you must submit an application for campus review. To learn more, check out our 2016 Fulbright Student Program page or email


About the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG)

The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship is a highly competitive, portable fellowship that is awarded to U.S. citizens and nationals who intend to pursue a doctoral degree in one of fifteen supported disciplines. NDSEG confers high honors upon its recipients, and allows them to attend whichever U.S. institution they choose. NDSEG Fellowships last for three years and pay for full tuition and all mandatory fees, a monthly stipend, and up to $1,000 a year in medical insurance (this excludes dental and vision insurance). 

For more information, please email Meredith Wooten, Acting Director, Fellowships Office.