Three Claremont Colleges seniors received Watson Fellowships last week. The $25,000 grant will allow Jeep Srisuknimit HM ‘12, Dean Pospisil PZ ‘12 and Gabe Loewinger PZ ‘12 to work on independent projects abroad.
Srisuknimit plans to study the physics and cultural impact of unicycling in Italy, Ghana, India, Brazil and Japan. He is a chemistry major and plans to go to graduate school after his year overseas before returning to Thailand, where he is from.
“I’d like to see how people react to unicycling,” he said. “Eventually I want to be a professor and that one year in the Watson will teach me a lot of things that I won’t learn in grad school.”
Pospisil will study the neurological impacts of different styles of drawing and painting in Italy, Nepal, India and Bhutan. He said that he will research “this idea that art can make you aware of different aspects of reality or get you even closer to reality” through methods of visual processing.
Loewinger will study alternative methods of addiction rehabilitation in Vietnam, Peru and the United Kingdom. He is mainly interested in two methods, one that uses other drugs in order to fight drug addiction, and another that focuses on policy.
“After this I’ll probably go on to do a Ph.D. in neuroscience, so this would be one of the few opportunities that I’ll have to get a real-world experience and connect with addicts,” he said.
The fellows are prohibited from returning to the United States for the 12 months they spend completing the fellowship, regardless of what may happen during their travels.
Harvey Mudd College History Professor Hal Barron, the Watson liaison for the school, said that the program is “not for everyone.”
“They want extraordinary people who will take risks and will get out of their comfort zone, but they’re also interested in fellowships for individuals where it will really make a difference,” Barrows said.
The Watson directors “say really often that they want to invest in a person, not a project,” Srisuknimit said.
“It has to all come together with the Watson, in having this idea that you are truly passionate about that you can communicate effectively,” said Professor Carina Johnson, the Pitzer College liaison.
“[The] entire process of applying for a Watson or a Fulbright or a Rhodes can truly change a persons life,” Scripps College liason Susan Renkaitis wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “People learn how to stretch themselves and often gain a form of self knowledge that pivots their future plans in different directions than they otherwise would have imagined.”
After receiving applications from students, each of the 40 home colleges nominate a limited number of students to the national applicant pool to compete for 40 Watson Fellowships. A Watson director comes to each college to personally interview each nominee for a full hour.
In some cases more than one nominee from a college will receive a Watson and in others none will. This year Scripps and Pomona College, the two other eligible Claremont Colleges, do not have any Watson fellows.
There are currently two Pomona graduates abroad on the Watson Fellowship, Afshin Khan PO ’11 and Sam Gold PO ’11.