KU doctoral candidates earn Fulbright-Hays awards to conduct research abroad

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Two University of Kansas doctoral candidates have earned prestigious honors and awards that will allow them to conduct research in South America.

Pere DeRoy, a doctoral candidate in women, gender and sexuality studies, and Micah Unruh, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology, have been selected for Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Awards.

The fellowship program “provides opportunities for doctoral candidates to engage in full-time dissertation research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies,” according to a recent KU news release.

DeRoy was awarded $51,000 to travel to Guyana for 10 months to study reproductive health. She will examine the gaps between high maternal death rates and reproductive policies that aim to reduce such deaths, according to the release.

“The research will position Guyana as a case study for how international reproductive policies address high pregnancy-related death rates in the Global South and across non-white populations,” according to the release.

DeRoy, from Georgetown, Guyana, will research pregnancy and birthing experience and maternal mortality in state-sanctioned and traditional health care settings, according to the release. She’ll conduct interviews and focus groups “exploring how pregnancy and birthing stories, beliefs and politics intersect with interpretations of pregnancy-related deaths.”

“Being named a Fulbright-Hays scholar strengthens and inspires my belief in the purpose and potential of my research as it removes financial constraints that can limit research quality and provides the resources to assist me to delve deeper into my research,” DeRoy said in the release.

Unruh received $41,000 to travel to Chile to research soil carbon storage. He will collect soil samples near the base of the Llaima Volcano in Conguillio National Park.

“This unique soil spans different time periods but was formed with the same volcanic material under the same climatic conditions,” according to the release.

Unruh, from Lewis, Kansas, will study how soil development over time alters the interaction between plant roots and the soil structure, which changes the distribution of carbon in the earth’s deep subsurface, according to the release. “Ultimately, his work will allow scientists to better understand what regulates carbon stored in the soil and the effect that carbon released from soils has on climate change.”

Unruh said North American and European ecosystems are overrepresented in the field of earth science, which contributes to uncertainty in climate models.

“The Global North sets the international scientific agenda, and this arrangement does not give enough space for contributions from scientists working elsewhere,” Unruh said in the release. “This project will strengthen ties between South American and U.S. scientists, and the diversity of perspectives emerging from these collaborations will advance both U.S. and international science.”

Almost 500 KU students — 494, including DeRoy and Unruh — have earned Fulbright and Fulbright-Hays grants since the Fulbright program’s inception in 1946, according to the release.

“Pere and Micah’s projects, as well as their focal languages of Guyanese Creole and Spanish, respectively, reflect the disciplinary and linguistic breadth of scholarly work that is supported by the Fulbright-Hays program,” Rachel Sherman Johnson, director of internationalization and partnerships at KU International Affairs, said in the release. “The training and language study they have undertaken at KU has prepared them well for their fieldwork abroad, where they will continue to advance their research and language skills.”

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