Professor, alumna representing WMU abroad through Fulbright awards

Contact: Raine Kuch

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Time in Japan researching the universe's formation and a stint in Spain teaching English are on the agenda for a Western Michigan University faculty member and a recent graduate of the University.

The two received Core Fulbright Scholar Program awards to conduct research or work abroad during the 2018-19 academic year. Dr. Michael Famiano, associate professor of physics, was selected to travel to Japan and Kelsey Dovico, a 2015 WMU alumna from Royal Oak, earned a trip to Spain.

Stellar research for Famiano

Michael Famiano working on a computer in an office.

Dr. Michael Famiano at work in Japan

Through his Fulbright Award, Famiano is spending January through June in Japan with the National Astronomical Observatory's Department of Theoretical Astronomy.

Famiano's research project is to evaluate the effects of relativistic electron-positron plasmas on astronomical observables and also includes outreach activities with students as well as the public in both Japan and the United States.

He will be conducting research on how the universe was formed, in particular, how matter behaves at extremes in density and temperature. This work is important because many stellar environments exist at high densities and temperatures, and elements, such as those found in a cellphone or gold jewelry, were created in violent events involving stars.

"International research is a foundation of WMU. This award allows WMU to be represented overseas," Famiano says. "In addition, it provides opportunities for more collaborative efforts in science on an international scale. Of course, I'm biased, but I think that scientists are the best international ambassadors."

A nuclear astrophysicist, Famiano primarily researches stellar nucleosynthesis. This includes the formation of heavy elements in stellar explosions, and how this formation relates to the properties of the nuclei involved.

Back to school for Dovico

Kelsey Dovico posing in front of a banner for the meeting.

Kelsey Dovico at a Gypsy Secretariat Foundation meeting

Dovico traveled to Spain in September and will remain there until June. She's working as an English teaching assistant in Madrid at the Gypsy Secretariat Foundation, a resource and advocacy center for the marginalized Gitano community. Dovico teaches students ranging in age from 3 to 52 who are attending a variety of the foundation's after-school and vocational training programs.

"My experience of the Gitano community has been unerringly positive," she says. "This is in part because I'm working at a center known to the community as a place of safety, personal advancement, assistance and togetherness, and thus is a location where systemic inequity and negative responses to that inequity do not operate."

Dovico got her first experience working with marginalized populations during her last year at WMU assisting Dr. Chien-Juh Gu, professor of sociology, as Gu researched Michigan's South Asian refugee and migrant populations.

"My experiences learning from and connecting with this community brought to life the skills and aptitudes I had developed over the course of my studies relating to intercultural leadership, cultural influences on family life, and the importance of positive cross-cultural connection," she says. "Having then decided to pursue a career in intercultural education and socio-emotional learning, I realized that I needed to spend significant time living, studying, working and experiencing life outside of the United States."

Fulbright at WMU

Western Michigan University is one of the nation's top producers of domestic Fulbright Scholars, according to the U.S. Department of State's annual ranking of this flagship international educational exchange program. Sponsored by the federal government since 1946, the overall Fulbright Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between people in the United States and other countries.

Fulbright Scholars are given the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. They are selected from students as well as teachers, researchers, artists and other professionals based on their academic merit and leadership potential.

At WMU, a Fulbright program advisor in the Haenicke Institute for Global Education helps students, faculty and staff apply for the various individual programs available under the Fulbright umbrella.

Learn more about Fulbright at WMU online or by contacting Dr. Michelle Metro-Roland, Fulbright program advisor, at

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