Jessica Wahi ('12C)

Award: Fulbright Research/ Study Grant - Spain

Award Funded: One year of independent research in epigenetics

Undergraduate major(s): Biology; Spanish (highest honors)

Currently: Pursuing an MD/PhD at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine

During her time at Emory, Jessica was highly involved in research, including working with the Atlanta Vascular Research Foundation. She also volunteered with Children’s Hospital of Atlanta and Project SHINE, and served on the executive board of Emory’s Latino Student Association. She spent a semester in Spain, where she volunteered with the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer and the Hospital Universitario de Salamanca.

Q: What experiences at Emory prepared you for the Fulbright?

A: Being actively engaged in research prepared me for the Fulbright experience. Once I found the right mentor and lab whose interests coincided with my own, I discovered my passion for research. During my junior year, I joined the Corces lab, where I later completed my honors thesis. Working in the lab provided an excellent balance between receiving the mentorship necessary to learn and grow as a researcher while helping me become a more independent thinker and scientist. Those skills were critical in helping me achieve success during my Fulbright year.

Q: What memorable or interesting things happened during your Fulbright year?

A: The year I spent in Barcelona through the Fulbright program was absolutely incredible and filled with so many great memories. Highlights include running my first half-marathon with my lab mates, performing in a Salsa dance show during Christmas, presenting my research findings at a conference, traveling throughout Europe, and being integrated into the community and learning about the local traditions and customs.

Q: How did the Fulbright impact your academic/ career path?

A: After graduating from Emory, I was unsure of whether medical school or a research career was the right choice for me. I decided to defer my enrollment in medical school in order to pursue research through the Fulbright grant. That year solidified my passion for research and I decided that a MD/ PhD was more aligned with my goals and interests. When I returned to the US after completing the Fulbright, I changed my degree path and transferred from the MD to the combined degree program.

Q: What advice would you give current Fulbright applicants?

A: If you are interested in the Research/ Study grant, establishing a concrete plan of the goals that you have for your Fulbright year is absolutely critical. Although your research project may change once you arrive in your host country, the committee wants to see that you have specific aims that you want to accomplish and that are feasible to complete in one year. It is important to communicate how you plan to accomplish each aim in a language that is understandable to those outside your particular research area. Equally important is explaining how you will integrate yourself into the community and why you need to travel to this country to complete your project. You must think of yourself as a representative of the US and explain why you have chosen your specific country and what that destination has to offer that is not available in the US or anywhere else in the world.