Two Schlumberger fellowship recipients among them
Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M University’s ecosystem science and management department is now home to a second Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future Fellowship recipient, which is a special achievement for the department, according to foundation officials.
Wasantha Kulawardhana, a doctorate student, has been notified she will receive the Schlumberger Foundation 2012-2013 Faculty for the Future Fellowship. Ignacie Tumushime, also a doctorate student in the department, was selected in last year’s round.
The Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future program, launched in 2004, awards fellowships to women from developing and emerging economies to pursue doctoral or post-doctoral studies in the physical sciences and related disciplines at top universities abroad, according to Eve Millon, communications and community coordinator at the Schlumberger Foundation.
“The long-term goal of the program is to generate conditions that result in more women pursuing academic careers in scientific disciplines thus contributing to the socio-economic development of their home countries and regions,” she said.
To date, 257 women from around the world have received the fellowship. The newest 63 recipients were announced in April for the 2012–2013 academic year, Millon said. Kulawardhana and Tumushime joining their ranks “is a significant achievement, considering the intense competition.”
“These two young women are a great example of the students we’ve attracted and the programs that are being conducted here at Texas A&M in our ecosystem science and management department,” said Dr. David Baltensperger, interim department head of ecosystem science and management. “We hope their recognition will encourage and attract other top-notch students.”
Tumushime, in her second year on the fellowship, said they are allowed to renew their application each year to continue receiving funding, but “you have to work hard, score high, research and publish to even be considered. It is very competitive.”
Both agreed the fellowship funding helps them find a way to combine being mothers and scientists and to give back to their native countries.
“This allows us to have the freedom to conduct our studies free of stress,” Kulawardhana said. “It encourages us to build relationships with our home countries. It covers the expenses for us to go back and work with faculty members and students to encourage more women to come into science and to do research in their native countries.”
Kulawardhana earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka in 2002 and joined the university as a teaching assistant. She was awarded the Unilever Ceylon Water Professional’s Fellowship by the Post Graduate Institute of Agriculture of the University of Peradeniya. Upon completion, she joined the International Water Management Institute in January 2005.
She worked on several research projects to incorporate remote sensing and geographic information system data and technology. Kulawardhana was elected as the founder-secretary of the Geo-Informatics Society of Sri Lanka for four consecutive years until she left the country for her doctorate studies.
She was a member of the teaching panel of the Board of Agricultural Engineering of the post graduate Institute of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya. She was awarded the Presidential Award for Scientific Research 2007-2009 by the National Research Council of Sri Lanka.
At Texas A&M, Kulawardhana’s doctoral research study focuses on developing a remote sensing and GIS-based modeling approach for the assessment of vegetation dynamics, plant productivity and carbon sequestration, particularly in grassland-dominated ecosystems.
“I’m mostly interested in developing innovative research methods to incorporate satellite imaging technology into the environmental and related studies,” she said. “This technology is still growing and very few in my country are doing it. It will be very useful in helping better manage our natural resources. I want to educate, train people and share my experience with them so they can use it to be decision makers and get better practices implemented.”
Dr. Rusty Feagin, associate professor in the Spatial Sciences Laboratory, and Dr. Sorin C. Popescu, associate professor in spatial sciences-remote sensing, co-chair her doctoral research committee.
“It’s a privilege and testament to her quality as an individual and to the quality of her research that she won the award,” Feagin said. “Her study on carbon and remote sensing will be very important in Srilanka and other developing countries. When you do the entry-level work, that’s when it is really important – the type of knowledge it gives you.”
Kulawardhana is also a recipient of the Tom Slick Graduate Research Fellowship for 2011-2012, which is presented to outstanding doctorate candidates of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Tumushime, a Girl Scout since she was a little girl, earned a bachelor’s degree in 2002 from the National University of Rwanda, where she was the only woman in her class. After working as a junior lecturer at the Higher Institute of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry, she received a government scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at the Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux in Belgium.
Upon completion, she returned to teach before working as an environmental officer for Rwanda’s Rural Sector Support Project. She carried out several studies regarding the environmental protection on different subprojects funded by Rwandan Rural Sector Support Project all over the country.
Tumushime is currently pursuing a doctorate in forest science. Her doctoral research examines the impact of nitrogen and other fertilizer inputs on carbon dynamics in managed loblolly pine forests of the southeastern U.S. These pine forests are important components of the economy, and like forests generally, are important to mitigating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
“I want to understand how fertilization can improve the forest production and sequester carbon in the trees and soil to mitigate climate change,” she said. “This climate change is a growing issue and so many people need to understand how to deal with it. When I get more skills, I can go back to help my home country and contribute to well manage our natural resources in order to mitigate climate change regionally and globally.”
Dr. Jason Vogel, assistant professor in forest ecosystem science and Tumushime’s advisor, said “Ignacie has the drive and determination to make a significant contribution to our understanding of carbon and nutrient cycling in forests. Because of this fellowship, both what she learns and her service as a role model to other Rwandan women, will help her home country deal with future climate change and forest management issues.”
Another thing Tumushime says is important for her to do when she goes back to Rwanda, in addition to putting her research to work, is encourage other young women to get into science and technology so they can prepare better for their future and contribute to the development of the country.
“As a Girl Scout, I got involved in so many encouraging activities with youth, especially the high school girls in my country,” she said
“I want to be a role model for them, to share with them my experiences as a woman and a mother who has excelled in school and raised a family,” Tumushime said. “Last December, I was able to go home and participate in a workshop with about 200 high school girls. The main objective was to encourage them to get into science and technology, pursue their studies abroad, get more skills and higher degrees. I want them to feel competitive and confident that they can push the limit and shape their future.”