While completing a fifth-year bachelor’s-to-master’s degree program in biomedical engineering through the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), Santita Ebangwese ’19, G’20 learned that she was selected as one of 13 Syracuse University students awarded a Fulbright U.S. student study grant. Syracuse was one of the top Fulbright Award-producing institutions in the U.S. in 2020-21, and Ebangwese was grateful for the opportunity to return to France, where she had studied through Syracuse Abroad in 2017.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program funds study and research grants in more than 140 countries. Ebangwese chose the Life Sciences and Health program at the Universite Paris-Saclay to fulfill her grant and learn more about stem cell technology and tissue engineering. She started the in-person program in September 2020, when pandemic travel restrictions had been relaxed in France, but two months later restrictions were reinstated due to an increased number of cases in the country. “My classes were a hybrid of online and in-person learning, but things went smoothly and I completed the grant in June 2021,” she says. Ebangwese received a Maitrise, which is a certification of graduate studies in France.
Ebangwese’s classes helped her chart a new course for a future career. “They ranged from epigenetics to biochemistry to tissue cell and gene biotherapies,” she says. “The Fulbright grant helped me realize I’m more passionate about clinical medicine than being purely a researcher. I now know I truly want to be a practicing physician rather than a physician-scientist.” She remains interested in orthopedics and sports rehabilitation but is considering other specializations and has applied to medical schools with a goal of enrolling next year.
I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of professors, advisors and friends.—Santita Ebangwese ’19, G’20
A Sorbonne Internship
While Ebangwese was in France on her Fulbright grant, she seized an opportunity to complete a 5-month internship in the lab of Dr. Christophe Bailey at Sorbonne University. “I worked with another graduate student testing the effect of cold plasma treatments on germination rate of sunflower seeds at various temperatures,” she explains. “Cold plasma can be used in lieu of hydropriming, which uses a large amount of water and energy, to increase the yield of harvested crops.”
Ebangwese has been able to continue pursuing her love for volleyball as well as her mastery of the French language during her stay. She’s currently taking a break from being a student and playing for the Evreux Volleyball Club, a French professional team, for 2021-22. “I can communicate pretty well in French, but I don’t consider myself fluent. Being immersed in the culture has helped immensely.”
At Syracuse, I was never constrained by my major—I was able to learn about topics I chose.—Santita Ebangwese ’19, G’20
Student Outreach and Mentoring
Always eager to give back to the place that shaped her life path, Ebangwese returned to Syracuse University last summer to mentor incoming ECS students. “I listened to their questions and shared advice on how I made the most of my studies as an engineering student,” she explains. “My advice to any undergraduate is to study a topic you are passionate about. If you love what you are doing, it will make everything easier.”
The freedom to explore different areas of interest was central to Ebangwese’s college experience. “At Syracuse, I was never constrained by my major—I was able to learn about topics I chose,” she recalls. “The faculty members love their jobs and always put students first to help them achieve their goals. I learned how to research credible information and improve my presentation skills and report writing. I also gained an understanding of how to create a project and execute experiments that answer pertinent questions.”
My advice to any undergraduate is to study a topic you are passionate about. If you do love what you are doing, it will make everything easier.—Santita Ebangwese ’19, G’20
Ebangwese believes that it’s the people around you who guide your personal growth and make the college experience memorable. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of professors, advisors and friends. It’s not the end of the world to fail an assignment, test or even a midterm—and I’ve done all those things. I found that it is necessary to fail sometimes, because I learned from my mistakes, and then I improved the way I studied and managed my time.” But college isn’t just about the hard work, she points out. “In the end, don’t forget to have fun!”