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NMSU professor uses 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 found himself in Lisbon, Portugal this past summer conducting research as a Fulbright Scholar.



Robert Smits, a New Mexico State University associate professor in the department of mathematical sciences, conducted research in Lisbon, Portugal as a Fulbright Scholar (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips).

"The experience was fantastic and productive, both professionally and culturally," Smits said.

Smits carried out 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 explored insulation and how fast heat escapes closed spaces.

"This summer, I learned sophisticated numerical techniques for dealing with eigenvalue problems and I hope to have a graduate student do computer simulations in differential equations in addition to theoretical work," Smits said. "I also learned a great bit of nonlinear differential equations which has cleared up the role of independence for linear partial differential equations. The person I am working with and I have started outlining an article that will summarize our efforts for this summer. We have been able to show that an estimate which arises in mass transport can not be improved and extended other estimates to a non-Euclidean setting."

Smits has spent time overseas in the past 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.

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.