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Max Chapnick – Fulbright Arts Fellowship to New Zealand

Name: Max Laitman Chapnick

Class Year: 2013

Hometown: White Plains, New York

Major(s): Physics, English

Minors or Concentrations: Creative Writing

Opportunity and Year: Fulbright Program for U.S. Students, 2013-14

Project Summary: I will study writing and poetry at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University. I hope to complete a Master’s thesis, which will involve writing a book-length manuscript of poetry. My manuscript will deal with the intersection of physics and poetry. As research I will interview leading New Zealand physicists and writers, including the contributors to Are Angels Ok?, a compilation of poetry and short stories created by a year-long, country-wide collaboration between New Zealand writers and physicists. I will also audit graduate-level physics courses at Victoria University. Finally, I will volunteer in local Wellington middle and high schools, teaching students about how science and writing can complement one another.

How did W&L prepare you for this opportunity? First of all, W&L provided outstanding support through the entire Fulbright application process. Fulbright advisor Professor Ikeda, as well as other fellowship advisors such as Professor Pickett and Dean France, helped guide me through the process, reading drafts of my application essays and advising me about best practices and timelines. My academic advisors and professors also provided tremendous guidance, especially Professor Wheeler, who traveled to New Zealand on a Fulbright grant several years ago, and with whose help I established contacts in New Zealand. Finally, W&L as a complete liberal arts environment helped me prepare generally for this opportunity. In every course I took at W&L I learned the critical thinking and writing skills necessary to creating a compelling application and pursuing graduate study in a foreign country.

Why did you apply for this opportunity? Having studied abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel the during fall semester of 2011, I know first-hand the benefits of living and learning in another country. This time, I wanted to pursue writing, specifically poetry, which necessitated me studying in an English-speaking country. Also, New Zealand poets and writers have a particular interest in the physical sciences, another academic interest of mine. The Fulbright seemed a perfect way to combine all three goals: foreign study, creative writing graduate school, and science research.

Post-graduation Plans: Since New Zealand lies below the equator, the academic calendar operates on a different schedule, from February to November, and the Fulbright grant starts in late January 2014. After graduating in May, I began a six-month AmeriCorps grant at FEGS Health and Human Services in Lower Manhattan. At FEGS I coordinate career services programs for welfare-to-work clients, recruiting volunteers and partnering with student volunteering organizations at NYU Law and Columbia Business School.

Extracurricular Involvement:

At W&L, I was the President of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, a Vice President of W&L Hillel, and I played French horn in the W&L Wind Ensemble, Brass Ensemble, Pit Orchestra, and University-Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra. I worked for the English Department and W&L Hillel and was a tutor at the W&L Writing Center. I was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Pi Sigma, Physics honor societies.

Off-campus Experience:

I spent a summer and fall semester at Tel Aviv University, in Tel Aviv, Israel. There I took classes and volunteered at the African Refugee Development Center, teaching English as a second language to young-adult African refugees. I spent my summers working a variety of jobs, including as a Public Health Intern for Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY (2012), for Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey in White Plains, NY (2011), and for Citizens Campaign for the Environment in White Plains, NY (2010).

Research Experience:

During the academic year 2010-2011, I conducted independent research with Professor Irina Mazilu on quantum mechanics modeling for the spread of epidemic disease, culminating in a pedagogical paper, Susceptible-infected-Susceptible: Analysis and Application. I completed my English capstone with Dean Keen during the winter 2013 semester: Harry Potter and the Elixir of Empathy: A Study in Narrative Pensieveness.

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