Humboldt Research Fellowship Alumni
In this section, we will annually feature the collaborations, networks, and global career paths of several US alumni of the Alexander von Humboldt Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship Program.
In 2015-2016, we are recognizing alumni with a demonstrated commitment to: American Friends and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; facilitating German-American collaboration; inspiring the next generation of Humboldtians; and organizing Kollegs, campus visits, and other events. We also recognize those who have contributed innovative research to their field.
For more information about the Humboldt Research Fellowship, please click here.
Humboldt Research Fellow Profiles
Donald Dickson, Ph.D., Humboldt Research Fellow, English (1992-1993)
On The Personal and Professional Rewards of International Research
Donald Dickson first learned of the Humboldt Fellowship through a friend who had recently returned from a year at Freiburg im Breisgau who spoke glowingly of his Humboldt experience. Having spent a number of years in Wiesbaden and Heidelberg as the son of an American soldier, Professor Dickson was eager to experience Germany again on his own. His eighteen months in Erlangen with Professor Karl Josef Höltgen gave him access to archives in Germany and England as well as the time necessary to make a contribution to the intellectual history of early modern Europe with The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods & Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (1998). It was equally rewarding for him to teach and interact with older, more cosmopolitan students in the seminars he co-taught with Höltgen on Hamlet and on Metaphysical Poetry. Professor Dickson found himself fascinated by the culture of the German university. The first department meeting of the semester was followed by lunch in a quaint Gasthaus in a nearby village capped off by a tour of the chapter house of an old Augustinian priory. On another memorable occasion, the dean of the Philosophische Fakultät treated the faculty to a witty address called the “Karpfenrede” at a dinner meeting where they sampled the Franconian delicacy of carp. His research fellowship also afforded him the opportunity to meet a number of German scholars, creating personal and professional linkages which have extended to his participation in numerous conferences in Germany over the years. The experience affected him so greatly that he has remained eager to organize alumni activities, and hosts annual meetings of Humboldtians in Texas in order to draw younger colleagues and graduate students to the foundation.
Host Institute: Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Professor Donald Dickson is a professor of English at Texas A&M University, where he specializes in the literature and culture of the Early Modern Period. His published works cover abroad range of both scientific and literary sixteenth- and seventeenth-century material, and they include the Norton Critical Edition of John Donne’s Poetry. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1981. Dickson was granted the Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship in 1992, and for the following year he researched a book on utopian brotherhoods in the early seventeenth century. He also had the pleasure of team-teaching Hauptseminare at the Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg as a Guest Professor. In addition, Professor Dickson has annually hosted a meeting of the Texas Humboldtians at the International Festival Institute in Round Top, TX, which is equidistant to the college cities of Austin, Houston and College Station. Past meetings have featured such illustrious speakers as Nobel Prize winner Robert Curl, and on such topics as climate change, Roman archeology, and the neurology of the brain. These meetings are almost always accompanied by a performance by students from the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas.
David Featherstone, Ph.D., Humboldt Research Fellow, Molecular Neuroscience, 2009-2011
Facilitating Communication and Understanding
Neuroscientist David Featherstone says that science and art are exactly the same endeavor. Both are byproducts of evolution’s relentless drive to optimize the function of our cortex, which is the part of our brain most enlarged from that of other primates, and required for self-awareness, problem solving, and communication. In other words, we are biologically driven at the deepest levels to understand the world around us and then try to communicate that understanding to others. Dr. Featherstone thinks that the only difference between scientists and artists is that scientists struggle mostly with understanding while artists wrestle with the communication. But successful scientists and artists both ultimately do the same thing: They change how the rest of us see the world. This highlights what Dr. Featherstone (who started his undergraduate studies in art but now does molecular neuroscience research), loves most about the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation: It facilitates understanding and communication within and between academic disciplines, unrestricted by national borders. He thinks there is no better way to promote humankind’s highest ideals.
Host Institute: Freie Universität Berlin and Max-Planck-Institut für Experimentelle Medizin, Göttingen
Professor David Featherstone is a Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research discovers molecular mechanisms regulating the abundance of synaptic glutamate receptors, which control information flow and learning in the brain. Dr. Featherstone’s work utilizes several different types of state-of-the-art biophysical and biochemical techniques, and his lab has named and studied several previously uncharacterized genes. His work has been published in many high-profile scientific journals and is supported by substantial funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, plus prestigious private agencies such as the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and Muscular Dystrophy Association. However, Dr. Featherstone credits the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the most visionary support of his entire career. “To my knowledge there are no other agencies with the same level of wisdom and bravery. Their recognition and support has transformed the way I think about my work, and has allowed me to pursue investigations that would not otherwise have been possible.” During his Humboldt Fellowship (2009-2011), Dr. Featherstone utilized new German-developed super-resolution microscopy techniques that were not yet available in the U.S. with researchers at the Free University and Charité Medical University of Berlin, and also learned advanced mouse molecular neuroscience imaging techniques at the MPI for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen. His time in Germany also taught him that Christmas markets might be the single greatest human invention in history, followed closely by a good Weißbier and Rostbratwurst outside on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Adam Jones, Ph.D., Humboldt Research Fellow, Biochemistry (2011-2013)
Learning Techniques Firsthand from German Scientists
Dr. Adam Jones became interested in conducting research in Germany as a Ph.D. student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. “I was very impressed with the aptitude and skill of my colleagues visiting from Germany,” he said. Inspired by a close collaboration with a colleague who had received her Ph.D. from his host lab in Germany, Dr. Jones spent two years as a Humboldt post-doctoral research fellow expanding his scientific skill set by learning firsthand from German scientists techniques originally developed in Germany at the University of Tübingen. Later, Adam served as a AAAS Fellow on the Germany Desk at the U.S. Department of State. There his portfolio included topics both inside and outside of science, spanning the full range of the most pressing foreign policy concerns on which the United States and Germany work closely together (e.g. Ukraine, the Middle East, Ebola, climate change, and other areas). This spring Dr. Jones participated in two American Friends workshops on Strengthening U.S. Participation in International Research Collaborations. The former workshop featured a presentation from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) on the common challenges as well as the differences in the approaches of U.S. and German governments to global science. The latter workshop on the role of universities, academies, and scientific societies in international S&T collaboration allowed Dr. Jones to reflect on his own experience as a Humboldt fellow, during which he met German President Joachim Gauck, attended a microbiology summer school in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and gave science presentations in several European countries. Overall, he feels scientists do a great job working directly with one another to foster collaboration. He notes that U.S. embassies abroad are often willing to host a scientific talk or promote a science-themed event, as they appreciate the opportunity to interact with U.S. scientists who are visiting on travel or engaged in longer term research efforts like those afforded by the Humboldt Foundation. Dr. Jones would love to return to Europe someday for another long-term stay. (Photo credit: Weber Shih)
Host Institute: University of Tübingen, Germany
Dr. Adam Jones is currently a Program Officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California, which believes in ideas that create enduring impact in the areas of science, environmental conservation and patient care. Intel co-founder Gordon and his wife Betty established the foundation to create positive change around the world and at home in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Science Program accounts for approximately 40 percent of the foundation’s annual grantmaking, making the foundation one of the largest private funders of science nationwide. Prior to this position, he served as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow and a Germany Desk Officer at the U.S. Department of State. After receiving his Ph.D. in Oceanography focused on natural products biochemistry at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, Dr. Jones completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the University of Tübingen. His research in Germany focused on genetic engineering in bacteria to make drugs more accessible and cost-effective. Dr. Jones has also spent a significant amount of time in the field – he has conducted over 300 research related dives in tropical and temperate locations and led a research expedition to the Line Islands. He is interested in the intersection of science and technology with public policy and international diplomacy, and is always looking for opportunities to improve his German language skills.
Timothy Moore, Ph.D., Humboldt Research Fellow, Classical Philology (1999-2000)
For a Classical Philologist, Working in Germany is Returning to One’s Roots
Classical Philologist Timothy Moore has recently helped bring two underserved areas to a new Classics Ph.D. program at Washington University in St. Louis- ancient music and ancient performance. His Humboldt research and collaborations, first as Humboldt Research Fellow in Germany, and then as a Lynen and Calder Research Fellow host, have been especially profitable in this regard, resulting in joint conferences and papers. Known for developing in the nineteenth and early twentieth century many of the central methodologies still used by philologists, “Germany has remained a ‘powerhouse’ in the study of ancient Greece and Rome,” he said. At Universität Freiburg, Professor Moore joined one of the most dynamic centers for the study of Roman comic theater; in Berlin, as a Renewed Research Fellow he gained access to vast resources at the Freie Universität, Humboldt Universität, and the Staatsbibliothek. Professor Moore’s teachings have extended beyond the classroom. For example, Music in Roman Comedy (Cambridge University Press), a book Professor Moore worked on in Berlin and Freiburg, clarifies what it means that Roman comedy was very much musical comedy. “Roman Comedy in Performance,” a 2012 summer institute for university faculty funded by the NEH, which was directed by Professor Moore together with University of North Carolina Classics Professor Sharon James, explored – through productions of scenes from Roman plays (in Latin and English) – how various performance elements affect the interpretation of those plays. Videos of the institute’s performances have been viewed over 16,000 times in 114 countries.
Host Institutes: Freie Universität Berlin and Universität Freiburg
Professor Timothy Moore is the John and Penelope Biggs Distinguished Professor of Classics in Arts and Sciences and Department Chair in the Department of Classics at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his Ph.D. in Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to assuming his current role at Washington University, Dr. Moore was a tenured professor at the University of Texas at Austin (1992-2012) and a DAAD Visiting Professor, Ruhr-Universität Bochum (2011). Aside from his own Humboldt Research Fellowship at the Universität Freiburg (1999-2000) and Renewed Research Fellowships (2004, 2005). Dr. Moore has twice hosted Lynen fellows, Universität Bochum’s Dr. Wolfgang Polleichtner at UT Austin in 2008 and Universität Würzburg’s Dr. Ferdinand Stürner at Washington University in St. Louis in 2012. Since 2010, he has also served on the Selection Committee for the American Friends William M. Calder III Fellowship, which provides additional research support for a Humboldt Research and/or Lynen Fellow to conduct research relating to classical antiquity or to its reception in medieval and modern times.
Sally Sedgwick, Ph.D., Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, Philosophy (1988-1989; 1997-1998)
Collaboration at Home and Abroad
Philosopher Sally Sedgwick knows the value of exposure to academic environments outside of one’s “home” environment. She has organized two Humboldt conferences, “The Aesthetics and German Philosophy” in April 2012 with an American Friends Alumni Council Grant and, “The Norms of Freedom in Kant and Hegel” in April 2013 with a Humboldt Kolleg (Symposia) Grant. These events allowed her and other professionals exchange ideas, to share grant opportunities, and to network with colleagues at institutions in Chicago and further afield. As a specialist in German philosophy, she has become comfortable giving papers and discussing philosophy in German, and feels her exposure to German (and European) research and researchers has greatly shaped and enriched her thinking. Professor Sedgwick counts two recent events among the highlights of her international career: the publication of her 2012 book Hegel’s Critique of Kant (Oxford University Press), the culmination of several research visits abroad and over a decade of work, and a four-hour workshop (in German and English) on one of her papers this past June in Berlin, which brought together graduates and post-docs from the USA, Spain, and Australia. Professor Sedgwick has enjoyed and enjoyed and benefited from not only collaborating with European faculty but with their students. “It is inspiring to interact with young philosophers excited about ideas and eager to find a place in the profession.”
Host Institute(s): Albert-Ludwigs Universität Freiburg and Humboldt Universität Berlin
Professor Sally Sedgwick is an LAS Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Affiliated Professor of Germanic Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Chicago. Prior to receiving her current position at the University of Illinois, Dr. Sedgwick was on the faculty at Dartmouth College. She has also held visiting positions at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and the universities of Bonn, Bern and Luzern. Her main areas of research include the practical and theoretical philosophies of Kant and Hegel, and she has written many publications on the subject. In addition to receiving two fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to conduct research at the Albert-Ludwigs Universität Freiburg from 1988-1989 and later at the Humboldt Universität Berlin from 1997-1998, Dr. Sedgwick has been awarded grants by the National Endowment of the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). From 2009-2010, she was President of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association. Most recently, she traveled to the Freie Universität Berlin with a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research for her upcoming book Fate, Necessity, Contingency: Hegel and the Historical Nature of Reason.
Dave Westenberg, Ph.D., Humboldt Research Fellow, Microbiology (1991-1993; 2005)
Collaboration and Communication – Promoting Opportunities Abroad
Dr. David Westenberg was first attracted to research in Germany as an opportunity to work in one of the top microbiology labs in the world. His time in Goettingen had a profound impact on his career that led to successes in both his personal and professional life. As a young Humboldt Research Fellow, Dr. Westenberg was impressed by a more applied view on which problems were important to study as well as communicating the benefits of research to the public. He experienced a much stronger collaborative environment among his colleagues across different research groups and saw graduate students benefit greatly from strong departmental support. These collaborative traditions have stuck with him, and he has made a concerted effort to implement them into his own independent research programs since.
Dr. Westenberg’s research stay inspired him to give back by promoting awareness of the advantages of international experience and encouraging his students and colleagues to pursue various opportunities abroad. Most recently, he was named a DAAD research ambassador, acting as a liaison for international research partnerships between German and U.S. academics. He finds that he is most successful in stimulating interest when he and others share personal stories about their experiences as faculty or students. While he focuses on the academic advantages of an international research experience, he makes sure to elaborate on the personal rewards of his experiences abroad as well. In Dr. Westenberg’s case, his daughter had a remarkable experience during his second research stay in Germany, making new friends and learning the German language—a shared experience that strengthened their family bonds and is a source of fond memories ten years later.
Host Institute(s): Universitaet Goettingen and Philipps-Universitaet Marburg
Dr. Dave Westenberg is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Missouri University of Science and Technology. His laboratory primarily focuses on the role of rhizosphere microorganisms on plant nutrition and bioremediation. The goal of this research is to utilize the synergistic interaction between bacteria and their host plants to enhance crop yield, plant nutrition, and removal of toxic materials. His lab has additional projects studying the antimicrobial properties of bioactive glass and oil smoke vapors. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and Public Health from Michigan State University and his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from the University of California, Los Angeles. He then spent two years in Germany as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Gerhardt Gottschalk and four years as a USDA post-doctoral fellow at Dartmouth College in the laboratory of Dr. Mary Lou Guerinot. He also completed a six-month sabbatical in Marburg, Germany, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Currently, he co-directs the Missouri S&T Science Education and Quantitative Literacy professional development program for K-12 teachers. He has been active in microbiology education as an American Society for Microbiology Scholar-in-Residence (now called Biology Scholars), which provides training and guidance for faculty interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning and is chair of the ASM Committee on K-12 Education and Outreach. In addition to his research and teaching, he is the Missouri S&T Faculty Athletics Representative and is co-advisor of the Missouri S&T IGEM, synthetic biology student design team. He has received numerous awards for teaching and advising including the Class of ’42 Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award, Alumni Outstanding Advisor Award from the Missouri S&T Alumni Association, and the Distinguished Advisor Award from the Missouri S&T Office of Student Life. He was named a Missouri S&T Dean’s Teaching Scholar and a National Academy of Science Education Fellow in Life Sciences. He has received funding to develop and assess innovative teaching strategies and has presented his findings through local, regional, and national education conferences.