Fulbright scholar will travel to England

By Andrew Shull

Procrastination did not stop a Pitt neuroscience student from winning a prestigious summer… Procrastination did not stop a Pitt neuroscience student from winning a prestigious summer scholarship.

Sophomore Tim Ohlsen was awarded a place in one of the Fulbright Commission’s Summer Institutes, which will take him all the way to Newcastle, in Northeast England. He will leave later this month to take science classes at Newcastle University for five weeks.

“When I found out I got in, I really freaked out,” said Ohlsen, who will be going to England for the first time.

The application process involved an initial application that the Fulbright Commission described as  “rigorous” that takes into account “not just academic excellence but a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, a desire to further the Fulbright Programme and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning,” according to the press release issued by the Fulbright commission.

The Fulbright program is a bilateral exchange program between the U.S. and the U.K., established in 1948 as a way to build a special cultural bond between the two countries.

Ohlsen said that the point of the Fulbright program is to foster cross-cultural understanding, and he said he is looking forward to learning more about English culture.

“When you get into more specialized fields, people in that field are not going to just be from Pitt, or just from America. They are going to be from all over,” he said.

Ohlsen said that cross-cultural understanding is an important tool for scientists, pointing to one global neuroscience study that encompassed 400 scientists from all across the world as an example of collaboration across cultures.

“I only see more of that sort of thing happening in the future,” he said.

Ohlsen’s former mentor, A. Chandan Khandai, a graduate neuroscience student who worked with Ohlsen in J. Patrick Card’s lab, said that Ohlsen stood out from other students he has mentored.

“Tim stood out because of his tenacity,” Khandai said. “If there is a setback, he will keep working at it until it becomes successful.”

Khandai also praised Ohlsen for his pragmatic vision for the future.

“He understands that if things don’t work out for you, you need to make them work,” said Khandai. He said this is an attribute that he thinks will make Ohlsen successful abroad.

Even with that drive, Ohlsen still said he fell into the same trap as a lot of college students do: procrastination. He said he had yet to make summer plans when he came across the summer program in an email from the University Honors College.

After the initial application, Ohlsen also completed an interview before receiving the position during Finals week last month.

He said he sent his application in on the day it was due and had to spend extra money to make sure the Fulbright program got it on time.

“They got it two hours before it was due,” he said.

Ohlsen was one of 50 students from both countries selected to participate in this summer program.

The program will cover all of his costs and allow him entrance into the program’s alumni network, which includes notable politicians, Nobel Prize winners, judges and other professionals.

The Fulbright program selected Ohlsen for his academics as well as his extra-curricular activities. Ohlsen taught a chemistry recitation for Michael Golde and does research studying neuroanatomy under J. Patrick Card.

Ohlsen said he is a big sports fan and coaches basketball in his free time. As a native of the Seattle area, he said he observed a subtle change in culture between the West Coast and East Coast and wanted to continue to keep an eye out for that while learning about English culture.

But for Ohlsen, this trip won’t just be about studying science and culture. He says he plans on traveling throughout England and Scotland, and he wants to spend time learning about history as well.

“I don’t know if I’m a history buff, but I enjoy it,” he said.

Despite his interest in science, Ohlsen is looking forward to learning about English history more than the formal science classes he will take.

“This might sound bad, but I’m most excited to see the castles,” Ohlsen said.