One of the great privileges of my time as a U.S.-Italy Fulbright Scholar has been the opportunity it has afforded me to share scientific insights with laboratories and investigators across Europe. In the course of my research, I became aware of a rich body of work on van der Waals (vdW) dispersion forces coming out of Prof. Alexandre Tkatchenko’s group at the Université du Luxembourg. When I reached out to him to discuss his 2016 article in Science magazine, he responded immediately and graciously invited me to Luxembourg during his “vacation” days so that we could consider together how to apply their vdW methods to select biological systems, opening new avenues to potentially significant clinical applications.
What a thrill it was to finally navigate this exotic little country nestled between the giants of France and Germany. The quiet streets lined with conifers provided a quaint backdrop for the many rich conversations I shared with Prof. Tkatchenko’s postdocs, who I found to be working on a multiplicity of challenging problems in fundamental many-body physics. My lecture on our investigations into vdW forces and coherence in biomolecules at the Howard University College of Medicine was incredibly well received, and perhaps contrary to what one might expect given the divergent scales of expertise, we were able to identify several areas of mutual interest for future collaboration.
Over meals we were able to share stories and lessons learned on the path of discovery, deviating from science where necessary in order to relay a small part of the formative familial, professional, and societal experiences that have shaped our personal narratives. An immense debt of gratitude is owed to the Italian and Belgian/Luxembourgish Commissions for having gifted me such an outstanding inter-country experience during my tenure as a Fulbright Scholar. I strongly encourage future Fulbrighters to broaden their experience by seeking similar partnerships.
– Dr. Philip Kurian