Fulbright Research Fellowship at Ghent University: Ed Himelblau

Ed-in-Gent

Associate Professor Ed Himelblau (California Polytechnic State University) received a 3-month Fulbright Fellowship to do research at the University of Gent in Belgium. Himelblau and his family have been living in Gent since March. Himelblau is working with the research group of Dr. Yves Van de Peer. The Van De Peer group is on the forefront of using computers to study plant evolution. Himelblau explains, “When we sequence the genomes of today’s plants, we see that almost all of them underwent genome doubling or tripling at some point in their evolution.” Himelblau’s research has focused on understanding the fate of genes in these double and triple genomes. “For some genes it is advantageous to the plant to have extra copies. For other genes, the extra copies reduce the plants health. DNA sequencing and computers allow us to compare the genomes of many plants species and ask what genes are maintained and what genes are deleted following a duplication event.”

Ed-at-VIB

Himelblau’s home university is a primarily-undergraduate, teaching-focused institution. The difference between US and European educational systems was an interesting topic of discussion between Himelblau and his hosts at Ugent. “Between the university system and the professional degree system there isn’t anything quite analogous to my institution,” Himelblau explains. To help highlight potential careers in biology education, Himelblau teamed up with a faculty member from HoWest, a professional university near Brugge to present a talk for pHD and Post-docs at Ugent. “We described our jobs and gave our advice about applying for such position. It was great to see young scientists interested in biology teaching careers.”

An important part of the Fulbright Program is that it gives US scholars and their families the chance to experience living abroad. “Gent is a great place,” Himelblau says, “Not touristy, but still full of cathedrals, cobblestone streets, and canals. We ride bikes just about everywhere and take a tram if it’s raining.” Himelblau’s daughter is enrolled in a Flemish school and has learned much more Dutch than Prof. Himelblau. “Everyone in the lab speaks english so I haven’t learned as much Dutch as I’d hoped.”

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