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NMSU professor receives Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research in Portugal

Robert Smits, a New Mexico State University associate professor in the department of mathematical sciences, hadn't planned on applying for a Fulbright fellowship. However, after encouragement from a research colleague from Nancy, France, he is packing his bags for Lisbon, Portugal to conduct research May 1 through July 31as a Fulbright Scholar.



New Mexico State University mathematics professor Robert Smits has received his first Fulbright Fellowship, which will allow him to travel to Portugal this summer to conduct research. (NMSU courtesy photo)

Smits will be conducting research on numerical approaches to spectral gaps and nonlinear analogues at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Investigations at the University of Lisbon. Working with other researchers, Smits will explore insulation and how fast heat escapes closed spaces.

"In prior research, I've looked at the theoretical side of this subject," Smits said. "Through the research I'll be doing on the trip, I'm hoping to learn a lot about numerical predictions and finding techniques to make these predictions."

Smits has spent time overseas for both teaching and research. In 2008 and 2009 he was a visiting research professor at the University of Rome in Italy. He has spoken at conferences in Germany and conducted research at the Institut Elie Cartan in Nancy, France.

It was in France that Smits worked alongside professor Antoine Henrot, the professor who would refer Smits to Pedro Freitas, a mathematics professor from the University of Lisbon, who was looking for an American professor in mathematics to help conduct research. It was then that Smits decided to apply to for a Fulbright Fellowship.

"It's difficult to find American mathematics professors who focus on physics; it was really by chance this worked out," Smits said. "Part of the Fulbright I'm most looking forward to is the cultural immersion. I don't really know anything about Portugal so I'm pretty excited to learn about the language, country and culture."

Smits hopes to continue his research when he returns to New Mexico and is looking into collaborating with colleagues on research projects, as well as the possibility of including graduate students in continuing research.

The Fulbright Program operates in 155 countries worldwide and is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.