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Doctoral Candidate Wins Fulbright Award

An electron micrograph of a legume root nodule

An electron micrograph of a legume root nodule produced through the infection of white clover by Rhizobium trifolii. Photo by The Centre for Integrative Legume Research (CILR)

Jeanette Simmonds, a doctoral candidate in the department of Science and Technology Studies, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student scholarship to Australia in the field of Cultural and Intellectual History. She will use the grant to travel to Australia to conduct research on biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) — an interdisciplinary field of agricultural science that aims to understand the relationship between legumes and soil bacteria (Rhizobia).

Simmonds will focus on the work of Australian scientists based in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Canberra, and Adelaide. She will interview scientists, attend conferences, visit labs throughout the region, and conduct archival research. Her findings will complement her dissertation that will focus on a 20th century comparative history of BNF research in Australia, Western Europe, the United States, and Mexico.

“A primary aim of BNF research is to improve soil fertility and agricultural productivity without the use of nitrogen fertilizers, which are costly, energy intensive to produce and transport, and have adverse health and environmental effects,” says Simmonds. “This award presents an opportunity to research Australia’s agricultural system that does not depend substantially on nitrogen fertilizers, to better understand localized, historically specific practices, and to study alternative methods of sustainable agricultural development.”

“The Fulbright award is a tremendous honor and validation — for Jeanette, for the field of the history of science, and for the department of Science and Technology Studies, an interdisciplinary field that examines the historical, cultural, and political dimensions of science and technology,” says Mike Fortun, associate professor and Simmonds’ adviser. “Jeanette’s scholarship makes a unique contribution to the history of plant sciences in general, and particularly to the long tradition of Australian research on the scientifically and economically important process of nitrogen fixation.”

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