Nov 28, 2018

Two Weeks can turn into a Lifetime of Opportunities

Von Grant Norton

Outside TU-Berlin with fellow Fulbrighters Angela Miller (University of Florida) and Beth Laux (University of Utah)

The Fulbright International Education Administrators Seminar Program in Germany

The Fulbright International Education Administrators (IEA) Seminar Program was developed to help U.S. international education professionals and senior higher education officials create empowering connections with the societal, cultural, and higher education systems of other countries. Seven countries currently participate in the IEA program. In October 2017, I was one of eleven lucky administrators from across the U.S. that spent an intensive two weeks in Germany to learn about the country’s education system, establish networks with international colleagues, and create partnerships for collaborations and study-abroad opportunities. That is what the “guidebook” says will be the outcomes of the program and “yes” they are correct.

My two weeks in Germany led not only to establishing a new research collaboration with colleagues at the Technische Universität Berlin, but also an opportunity for our Honors College undergraduates to spend the summer at TU-Berlin working alongside some of Germany’s top researchers, and a collaboration with two IEA colleagues to come together in Boston this Fall to share our experiences with administrators, faculty, and students from across the country at the National Collegiate Honors Council annual meeting.

Leaving Germany at the conclusion of my Fulbright program I was convince that there were opportunities ahead as a result of this experience, but I wasn’t quite sure what they were or what would be the next step. Still it was getting close to Thanksgiving, the end of the academic year, and the holiday season, which meant that my thoughts turned from Germany to home.

Early in the New Year, completely out of the blue, I received an e-mail from Professor Dr. Aleksander Gurlo, who holds the prestigious Chair of Advanced Ceramic Materials at TU-Berlin. During the IEA visit to TU Berlin I had stopped by Professor Gurlo’s office to see if I could meet him. Unfortunately he was out of town. I left my business card with his assistant and didn’t expect to hear anything further. As it turned out Professor Gurlo uses in his classes at TU Berlin a textbook “Ceramic Materials: Science and Engineering” that I wrote with Professor Barry Carter. Aleks’s e-mail was to see if there were possibilities to establish a research and teaching collaboration between Washington State University and TU Berlin. I was thrilled. The opportunity to return to Berlin was certainly very appealing – the city is one of the most amazing places I have visited - as was the possibility to work with one of the leading ceramics researchers in Europe.

In June 2018, I returned to Berlin and to the Technische Universität. During that visit I met with Aleks and gave a seminar to researchers in his group where I learned that we shared a joint interest in catalysis. Specifically, we are both working on nanoparticle catalysts for converting hydrocarbons into a gaseous mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide known as “synthesis gas”. At TU Berlin one of the driving forces for their research is the conversion of the two principle gases – methane and carbon dioxide – responsible for the greenhouse effect. At WSU our interest is in converting the chemical energy in hydrocarbons, particularly liquid fuels such as gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and next-generation bio-based fuels into electrical energy using high efficiency fuel cells. The initial joint project between our two institutions was to combine our interests and fabricate a fuel cell that could operate with a direct feed of methane. Fuel cells are very efficient devices to produce electricity and are clean alternatives to dirty diesel generators. Using methane-fed fuel cells at, for example, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) sites would be good for the environment in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and provide economic benefits. Our initial results are promising and show that combining our two technologies was a good idea. This research would not have happened without Fulbright Germany.

My return visit to Berlin also allowed me to explore parts of the city and see things that I had not had time to do during my first visit. I walked up into the glass dome of the Reichstag building to get a spectacular full 360° view of Berlin. I saw Titian’s Venus and the Organ Player at the Gemäldegalerie and went to Tosca at Staats Oper on Unter den Linden. I also began to plan what I would do on my next visit to Berlin.

One of the best parts of the IEA Seminar Program is that you meet people that come from all parts of the United States, from schools large and small, with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Rochelle Gregory is Division Chair for the English, Speech and Foreign Languages department at North Central Texas College, a large public two-year college in Gainesville, Texas, one hour north of Dallas. Kyle Kopko was Director of the Honors Program (and now Associate Dean of Institutional Effectiveness, Research, and Planning) at Elizabethtown College, a small private liberal arts college, west of Philadelphia and close to the Susquehanna River. During our time together in Berlin, Rochelle, Kyle, and I decided that we would meet up in Boston in November 2018 at the National Collegiate Honors Council annual meeting and share our Fulbright experiences. During our presentation we will describe what we did, where we went, and what we learned. We will provide a U.S. perspective on Germany’s higher education system and opportunities for engaging with a country that welcomes international students and embraces globalization. We will also discuss how our experiences in Germany are impacting honors education at three different types of institution: a research-intensive state university, a small private liberal arts college, and a community college. Each of us has found different ways to embrace our newfound connections with Germany. For Rochelle it is integrating German language into the core curriculum and writing a book chapter based on conversations in Germany about refugee mothers and their access to resources. ForKyle it is sharing his experiences in Germany with students in his classes. For me it is creating opportunities for our undergraduates to have international research experiences in Germany.

About the Author
Grant Norton is Dean of the Honors College and Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University. He obtained his PhD in Materials from Imperial College and spent a two-year postdoctoral at Cornell University. Grant has held appointments as a Research Associate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a Visiting Professor at Oxford University, and a Visiting Professor at the Chien-Shiung Wu Honors College at Southeast University in Nanjing.

His research is focused on applications of nanomaterials in clean energy and the life sciences. He has written over 200 papers, several book chapters and patents, and has two textbooks including Ceramic Materials: Science and Engineering, which has over 840,000 downloads. Grant serves as Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Materials Science. Among his many consulting activities, Grant is most proud of his work on the World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington DC, which opened on April 29, 2004.

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