URI engineering students win scholarships to study in Germany

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Cherish Prickett, Anne Reisch and Montara Erickson. Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.
Zachary Davies. Photo courtesy of Zachary Davies

KINGSTON, R.I., May 22, 2017—Three engineering students at the University of Rhode Island are traveling to Germany soon to study and do internships thanks to scholarships from the German government.

Anne Reisch and Cherish Prickett are recipients of undergraduate awards from the German Academic Exchange Service, or Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, also known as DAAD. Montara Erickson won a DAAD award to research this summer in Germany.

The three students are enrolled in URI’s five-year International Engineering Program, which offers a dual degree in an engineering field and a language—in their case German. Reisch is studying chemical engineering, Prickett is pursuing industrial and systems engineering, and Erickson’s focus is civil engineering.

“Our students are superstars,” says Sigrid Berka, executive director of the International Engineering Program. “DAAD is pleased with the high number of International Engineering Program students going to Germany, and it is especially encouraging that three outstanding women at URI were selected for this opportunity. Our program seems to attract high-achieving women who want to launch a career in engineering while also mastering a language and studying abroad for an entire year.”

Reisch, of Westerly, is heading in the fall to the Technical University of Braunschweig where she will take German and culture courses along with a research project under Professor Heike Bunjes, head of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology. She’ll research the development and characterization of aqueous colloidal lipid dispersions as drug carriers. A pre-med student, Reisch will go on to do an internship at a medical clinic in Bonn.

Reisch has received many awards at URI, including a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2016 and 2017 to study stimuli-responsive biomaterials to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs that more effectively target cancer cells, reducing the body’s exposure to toxins during treatment. She has presented numerous academic papers and posters and is a regular on the dean’s list.

Community outreach is important to her. She has worked at the Jonnycake Center in Westerly, Save the Bay and Habitat for Humanity. Last summer she worked at a geriatric clinic in Costa Rica, and this year she is teaching English to adults at the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island in Providence.

“The DAAD award is awesome,” says Reisch. “I’m really excited to go to Germany to study—and do research. It’s a great opportunity.”

Germany is also Prickett’s destination in the fall, where she will study and complete a research project with Professor Thomas Spengler at the Institute of Automotive Management and Industrial Production at the same university in Braunschweig. The project will explore ways to reduce the environmental impact of airlines.

Prickett hails from Lilburn, Ga., just outside of Atlanta. She earned her associate’s degree in engineering at a Georgia community college, where she completed four National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates, including one that characterized space debris.

Prickett has distinguished herself academically at URI, with a 3.88 grade point average. Last month, she won a $7,500 award from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, the most prestigious undergraduate national scholarship for students in the fields of mathematics, engineering, computer science and the natural sciences.

The DAAD scholarship is greatly appreciated too. “It’s an incredibly prestigious award,” says Prickett. “I’m thrilled and honored.”

Erickson, of Kingston, is bound June 5 for Ruhr University in Bochum to team up with a doctoral student researching the stability and flow of soil. In the fall, she will continue her studies in Braunschweig and then do an internship at a civil engineering firm for the second semester.

“I’m very excited,” says Erickson, who spent a year at a high school in Germany before enrolling at URI. “There are lots of international students in the lab, so it should be fun and challenging working in that setting. We can learn a lot from each other.”

Reisch, Erickson and Prickett are among 71 International Engineering Program students at URI spending next year in different countries: Chile, China, France, Italy, Japan and Spain—in addition to Germany. In the 30-year history of the program, this is the largest group ever.

“Our students are well prepared for a career in the global economy,” says Berka. “Companies, here and abroad, are looking for graduates with a vast knowledge of the different cultures and languages in the world. These students are unique. They’re bilingual and possess cultural agility, and they know how to approach engineering tasks from a global perspective.”

A fourth award for another program went to Zachary Davies, of Presto, Pa., who received the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship to study and do an internship in Germany next year. Davies is studying mechanical engineering and German in the International Engineering Program. He underwent a tough selection process that focused on his knowledge of German history and politics. A roller coaster enthusiast, Davies hopes to complete his internship at a roller coaster company, such as Maurer in Munich.

Initiated in 1983, Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange was created to strengthen ties between Germany and the United States through citizen diplomacy. The program was founded in celebration of the 300th year anniversary of the first German immigration to the United States. The U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag, or Parliament, pay for the program.