BU Graduate Carrying Out Fulbright-Funded Chemistry Research in Florence, Italy
Fulbright Recipient: Robert Sandberg
Hometown: Syosset, New York
Class of 2013
Article Written by: Tasfia Rahman, Class of 2014
Robert Sandberg graduated from Binghamton University in May 2013 with a degree in Chemistry and Mathematics. It was through these areas of study that he first became interested in Computational Biology research. He also has a passion for Italian language and culture, which lead him to study abroad in Florence during the spring of his junior year. Robert was recognized for his accomplishments as an undergraduate and is currently spending the 2013-14 academic year investigating ways to treat the nerve condition Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at the University of Florence through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. He has also been accepted to the PhD program at Stanford University, which he will pursue upon returning from Italy.
Robert began his research experience during his sophomore year working as a Research Assistant for Professor James Dix with the Department of Chemistry. Professor Dix became an invaluable mentor to Robert as he continued to pursue his interest in science research. With Professor Dix's help, Robert was accepted to the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program during the summer before his junior year. He spent the summer at Northwestern University working on techniques to make solar cells more efficient. He also had the opportunity to participate in the REU program during the following year at Cornell University where he examined the properties of water.
Alongside his scientific pursuits, Robert also enjoys learning Italian. He began studying the language several years before coming to Binghamton. While abroad, he took time to enjoy the great food and architecture, but he was also able to make a connection with a faculty member at the University of Florence. This connection was essential to his application for the Fulbright Research Grant. Since applicants for the Fulbright Research Grant must establish an affiliation in the country they plan to work in, it's important to make this contact months before the application is due in September. An applicant may affiliate with a university, research institute or other type of organization and must submit a letter of affiliation with the Fulbright application.
Robert advises future Fulbright applicants to "...plan early, contact multiple people and then try to meet with them. Also, it's easier if you broaden your research." In addition, he urges current Binghamton students who may be interested in applying to "get involved in research and make contact with your professors". These techniques will make the idea of applying for a Fulbright Research Grant seem less daunting. When asked about the most difficult aspect of the Fulbright Grant application process, Robert calmly stated, "The campus interview, because it's hard to condense your research in a very coherent and understandable way for other people". Despite the challenges of the application process, he succeeded and is able to carry out research in his field of interest.
After spending almost two months abroad as a part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Robert is enjoying conducting his research. His project involves developing drugs for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis through the use of Computational Biology and Chemistry. He has "begun to perform some initial simulations to test the drug's conformational dependence in different solvents. Robert has a strong passion for the value of his research and believes that "computational techniques in Biology and Chemistry are essential to push the current limitations in drug discovery."
Robert also enjoys being back in Florence and immersing himself in Italian Culture. He "walk(s) by the Duomo and Piazza della Repubblica everyday on the way to and from work and just marvel(s) at their size and degree of detail". The food is also just as amazing as he remembers.