Tech Student Wins Institute's Second Fulbright Fellowship This Year

Stewart Jenkins' love affair with science began in outer space. From his early dreams of being an astronaut, Jenkins has turned his fascination inward to the realm of quantum mechanics, where light and matter behave in unpredictable ways. As Georgia Tech's second recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship this year, the doctoral candidate will take his passion for science to Como, Italy, to study light bullets at Universita dell'Insubria.

"I'm looking forward to the experience of traveling and working with an international research group," said Jenkins.

The Fulbright program was created in 1946 with legislation sponsored by Sen. J. William Fulbright. A fervent believer in cultural exchange, he reasoned that nations would be less likely to go to war against each other if people could study abroad and learn about each other's cultures.

Except for a 30-minute excursion into Mexico, this will be Jenkins' first international experience. In Como, he'll study how to produce light bullets, which are intense pulses of laser light that can go through some transparent materials without spreading out like most laser pulses do. The result is a spherical pulse of light that can travel large distances intact.

"If one could generate and transmit these light bullets over large distances, we could have faster communications because there is no dispersion," said Jenkins. "Since there is no diffraction, we could have communications over longer distances."

But it's not the applications of his research that get him excited; he's interested in research for research's sake.

"I have an inherent curiosity as to how and why things work," he said, explaining his interest in science. "And I suppose my parents introducing me to Star Trek at an early age had something to do with it."

Jenkins is Tech's second Fulbright Fellow this year. Computer Science and Mathematics major David Eger won a Fulbright to study math in Budapest, Hungary this fall.

The Fulbright Fellowship covers the cost of travel, tuition, books, as well as room and board for a year of study. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the domestic component of the international program awards about 1,000 grants for American students to pursue international research. More than 140 countries participated in the program this year.