Two Doctoral Students Receive International Fellowships from American Association for University Women

Two doctoral students in the College of Arts and Sciences received International Fellowships from the American Association for University Women. Chen Wang in the Department of Biological Sciences and Mwaka Nachilongo of the Department of Anthropology will both receive $20,000 in support from the AAUW for the 2012-13 academic year.

Chen Wang is from the Ningxia region of northwest China. The only child of two teachers, Chen attended China Agricultural University where she studied biology and spent two years as an undergraduate research assistant in a large immunology lab learning basic molecular biology techniques. Encouraged by the faculty member in charge of her lab, Chen applied for graduate work in the United States and is now a doctoral student and research assistant in Professor Ben Szaro’s lab.

She says that girls are at a disadvantage when it comes to graduate education in China as families tend to favor boys. In 2009 she returned to China to give a talk to encourage set an example for undergraduate women at her alma mater. She plans to complete her Ph.D. in 2014 and then pursue post-doctoral research and eventually return to China, where she says there is a need for talented scientists.

Maka Nachilongo hails from Zambia’s capital of Lusaka and attended the University of Namibia where she studied biology. Upon graduation, Mwaka began working for a government agency charged with the conservation of cultural and national artifacts as well as supervision of heritage sites and museum preservation procedures. It was through this work that Mwaka became interested in anthropology. Mwaka says very few women have college or advanced degrees in the agency she worked for and when the Norwegian government was looking to fund a program in her agency, it made the funding contingent on providing opportunities to recruit or advance women. Mwaka says she is one of only two or three women that the agency funded to pursue more education and the only one at the doctoral level.

Although she spent her first two years studying fossils, her focus has shifted to cultural anthropology and specifically the experience of refugees. One of the foci of her research is the extent to which women who are refugees are restricted from accessing resources because of the cultural stereotypes of the sending and receiving countries. She successfully defended her dissertation proposal on September 4, 2012, and will return to Zambia in a few short weeks to continue her research.