ND physicist joins Fulbright Specialist Program
Matthew McKenna | Thursday, January 15, 2015
Umesh Garg, professor of experimental nuclear physics, was selected as a Fulbright Specialist in Physics Education, allowing him to travel around the world to other universities and interact with teachers and students to enhance the physics curriculum and impart an enthusiasm for research.
Garg said his first assignment is at the Indian Institute of Technology. He said wants to find a way to provide Indian students with the same research opportunities that undergraduate students in the United States have.
“I have come to believe that undergraduate students should be exposed to research very early in their careers,” Garg said. “As a Fulbright Specialist, I can help various universities around the world develop programs that integrate research into the regular curriculum for undergraduate students.”
Garg said he is mainly interested in raising research awareness because undergraduate research provides students with a new type of learning that is beneficial to students no matter what their eventual career path is.
“When an undergraduate does research, they are exposed to what is beyond to what they are taught in their courses,” Garg said. “Research opens vistas that classrooms simply can’t and it makes them independent thinkers.
“They are not searching for answers that are simply hidden away somewhere like they would be in the classroom,” he said. “You will develop an ability to think beyond what is known.”
Being a Fulbright Specialist will not only be beneficial to the students and teachers with which he will interact, Garg said, but to himself as well.
“Interaction with intellectuals is always an enhancing experience,” Garg said. “Of course I will try to tell them about research and about what I do, but through conversations and interactions with the students, I will learn a lot as well. I may find out a few things that they do that I can use in my own work.”
Garg said interacting with other cultures has been enriching for him over the course of his career and welcomes the continued opportunity to be exposed to new ideas.
“There is also a cultural aspect to all of this,” Garg said. “I do my research all over the world, and I have grown in more ways than just as a physicist.
“You learn that people think differently, and they do the same things you do in different ways,” he said. “We like to think that sometimes we know best, but that’s not always true.
Garg said he always takes pride in representing Notre Dame when he travels to other universities.
“Wherever I go, even though I go as a Fulbright Scholar, I also go as a professor of Notre Dame,” he said.