Monday, April 3, 2023
Student poses for photo on UI campus

Ashley Lie-Atjam, who will receive a BS in neuroscience from the University of Iowa in May 2023, is the winner of a Graduate Study Fulbright/Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Award for 2023-24. 

Hometown: Bettendorf, Iowa 
Degree: BS, neuroscience; certificate in writing; psychology minor 

Could you give us a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright? 

While abroad, I will pursue a master’s degree in neurosciences at Vrije Universiteit. I will follow the fundamental neurosciences track, a degree course that will allow me to hone my skills in cell-level research and neurobiological techniques. During this two-year program, I will have the opportunity to complete two research internships, the first of which I hope to complete with Dr. Taco de Vries. Though my second internship is yet to be determined, I aim to find an experience looking at the neurobiological mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease. 

What drew you to the field of neuroscience? 

As a child, watching my grandfather struggle with Alzheimer’s led me to ask many difficult questions about how memories are consolidated, rewritten, and lost. Though I initially attempted to answer these questions through psychology courses, my interest in hard sciences eventually led me to neuroscience. After taking my first neurobiology course, which showed me how misfolded proteins were the basis for Alzheimer's pathology, I was hooked. 

How do you envision this will influence your life/future career? 

Through my academic studies, I hope to gain a host of new lab skills while confirming my passion for my current research interests. Beyond improving my skills as a researcher, I know the Fulbright will help me improve in both networking and communication. On a more personal level, I look forward to my journey to the Netherlands, both as a way to refine my heritage Dutch speaking skills and recontextualize my relationship with my Surinamese heritage. 

Upon completing my Fulbright, I plan to return to the United States to earn a PhD in neurobiology. Ultimately, I hope to become an academic scientist investigating the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the onset of Alzheimer's disease.   

What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright? 

  • Save the early drafts of your essays. They're nice to look back at to help remind you how your work has evolved. 

  • Get as many people involved with the editing process as possible. 

  • Be bold! Choose a country you’re excited to visit and make sure the degree program is something you truly want to pursue. It’s okay to try something that no one's done before. 

  • Build a strong support team. Professors and mentors provide invaluable help through the application process, but you'll want to have family and friends there to cheer you on too. 

Were there experiences at the UI that inspired you to pursue a Fulbright? 

Early in my studies, I attended a study abroad fair and was immediately interested in finding a position abroad. Unfortunately, there weren’t many programs available to neuroscience majors, especially after the slew of travel restrictions caused by the pandemic. After hearing about Fulbright, I realized it was the opportunity I had been searching for and immediately attended one of the information sessions. 

Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process? 

I’d like to thank Kate Karacay, Professor Will Jennings, and Dr. Ryan LaLumiere for writing letters of recommendation for my Fulbright application. In addition to his letter, I would also like to thank Dr. LaLumiere for welcoming me into his lab, which uses optogenetics to study the neurobiology of learning and memory. Thank you to Dr. Daniel Summers for writing me a letter of recommendation for my application to Vrije Universiteit. I would also like to thank Dr. Taco de Vries for writing me a letter of affiliation. The Fulbright mentors at the university are absolutely amazing, and I’d like to thank Dr. Ari Natarina, Dr. Karen Wachsmuth, and Dr. Christopher Squier for reading my essays, providing critiques, and advising me throughout the application process. Finally, I would like to thank Bess Glickman for providing early advice on how to apply for a grant and for helping me prepare for my interviews. 



International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.