Washington State University mathematics major Annie Lu and alumna and staff member Amethyst Freibott have received Fulbright awards for research and teaching in Hungary, according to the Distinguished Scholarships Program.
“Both Annie and Amethyst have detailed plans for their Fulbright experiences beginning this fall, and they will be excellent ambassadors in Hungary for both WSU and the US,” said April Seehafer, DSP Director.
“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have Fulbright on this occasion to support me in doing something I love so much,” said Freibott, who received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Award. She is based in Boise as the Associate Director for the Admissions Office’s Top Scholars Initiative.
“I am very happy to receive the Fulbright US Student Award for study and research abroad,” said Lu. “It is very rewarding to see years of hard work pay off in this way. I’m lucky to get this opportunity and to have a platform where I can show my work and contribute more.” Lu is a researcher in Computational Mathematical Biology with mentor Nikos Voulgarakis.
Sixth experience abroad
Freibott (’17 English, Underage Communication, and Comparative Ethnic Studies) never intended to be an educator, but believes that teaching English to people around the world prepares them to “encourage their own narrative, to tell their story more effectively.” share and achieve your goals in return.” With her Fulbright and her work for Educate USA, she will teach English to college students in the cities of Budapest or Veszprem, using methods such as storytelling, films, music, and the translation of American stories.
Freibott said she cultivated a love of language and learning from childhood years spent in her parents’ bookstore. Her mother, Laura, now resides in Deer Park, near Spokane, Washington. Her father Kenneth passed away, but he was a linguist and spoke German, Japanese and Spanish.
“I found my own voice by learning English and I want to help others find theirs,” said the Honors College graduate. She said she hopes her Hungarian students might consider coming to America for an education because she can use her WSU experience with college admissions to help them explore opportunities.
Her time in Hungary will be her sixth international experience. She studied in the UK and previously volunteered teaching English as a Second Language in Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar and the Dominican Republic.
With Hungarian ties from her maternal great-grandmother, Freibott will take her own family on her Fulbright adventure. In May she will marry Garrett Kalt (’18 Strategic Communications and Political Science and Vice President of the ASWSU) and in September they will move to Budapest.
Mathematical and real applications
Lu also values her international connections. The youngest of three children raised in Colorado, she has often traveled to China with her mother, Ping Song, and father, Liangde Lu. They taught her to speak the language as part of the family heritage.
Lu recently worked remotely with experts in theoretical physics in Berlin as part of a German DAAD-RISE scientific internship. She studied neural networks with coupled phase oscillators. Due to this and her bachelor research at Voulgaarikas, she is familiar with the development of algorithms related to stochastic processes. With her Fulbright, she said, she will be able to explore the sampling side of these algorithms as well as Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MTMC) methods in collaboration with faculty mentor Istvan Mikos at the Alfred Rényi Institute of Mathematics in Budapest.
She could apply her findings to genome rearrangements that lead to large-scale mutations, including gene loss, duplication, or acquisitions that can help explain evolutionary processes. For example, applying such information could help fight mutations in the COVID-19 virus and prepare for future pandemics.
Lu, a National Merit Scholar, chose WSU because of the welcoming environment. In addition to the major in mathematics and the minor in physics, she will also complete the minor in music. She plays in WSU’s Flute Choir and Wind Symphony.
Lu has two publications in progress related to her research with Voulgarakis – first author on one, second on the other. While Lu plans to become a future mathematician and professor, she’s keeping her options open for where she could work — maybe in biology or as a data analyst in finance, she said.
Increased aptitude with language studies
As part of their preparation to apply for the Fulbright, Seehafer said both Freibott and Lu received funding from the WSU Distinguished Scholarship Opportunity Fund. This helped them hire tutors to learn about the Hungarian language and culture.
Freibott and Lu bring the number of WSU students and alumni who have received Fulbright honors to study, research or teach abroad to 63.