Experience of a Visiting Scholar

What began as a scientific collaboration turned into so much more when Prashant Gargava, Ph.D. applied to work with his colleague Judith Chow, Sc.D. through the Fulbright Scholarship Program.

His admiration for the work that Chow and her colleague John Watson, Ph.D. have done in the field of air quality led him to choose DRI as his host institution for a four month stay starting in October 2011. This opportunity included both scientific exploration and discourse with his fellow researchers, as well as a new perspective on the United States and the culture of Reno.

Gargava is a Senior Environmental Engineer at the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in India, which is equivalent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States. His work is focused on researching the future of air quality, with specializations in particle chemical speciation and receptor modeling. The CPCB conducted an experiment similar to one performed by Chow, which led Gargava to choose her as his Faculty Associate in the United States and begin to build a reciprocal relationship with the DRI researchers.

“Air quality problems in India and the United States are very different, but because of the different concerns, we were able to extend ideas, learn, and compare with each other,” Gargava said. “We have these different challenges and by discussing the differences it resulted in many new technological ideas and solutions that can be applied in India.”

During his time in Reno, Gargava said one of his favorite parts was getting to discuss various air quality issues with his colleagues at DRI, especially with Chow and Watson, both of the Division of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS).

The comparison and exchange of ideas among nations is one of the core missions of the Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program, which was introduced in 1945 by Sen. J. William Fulbright. Dr. Gargava’s experience in the United States has allowed him to not only gain new international colleagues at DRI, but he now joins a select group of Fulbright alumni, a respected group of researchers and intellectuals from whom he can learn even more.

Beyond his scientific inquiries, Dr. Gargava was also able to take an extended look at American culture and notice some poignant differences between it and his own. Having previously been to the United States, he had seen both positive and negative aspects of American culture. He was unsure of what to expect from the biggest little city, but Dr. Gargava said he was welcomed by warmth, helpfulness and kindness upon his arrival in the city of Reno.

“Reno is the opposite of what I had imagined, it is much quieter and calmer than I had thought,” Gargava said. “One of my favorite things was riding the bus and getting to engage with other passengers in conversations about their culture and having them ask questions about my own. I also got to see the respect and patience Americans have for each other.”

The road to becoming a Fulbright Scholar is long and competitive, but it is an honor that has offered Dr. Gargava experiences that will help him improve relations between countries, both professionally and culturally.

“The Fulbright program gives the opportunity to students, researchers and scholars of different countries to not only carry out their own research, but also provide help to their host countries, interact, extend ideas, understand a new culture and help make others understand a culture different from their own,” Gargava adds. “It helps bridge the gap between different nations.”

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