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Saskia Ryan

Saskia Ryan is a PhD candidate at TCD. As a  Fulbright-GSI Awardee she undertook research at Harvard University.

“I have spent the last 6 months living in Boston, which has been an incredible academic and cultural experience, enabled by the Fulbright-GSI Geoscience award. My office was located in the building which was also familiar to some of the greats, including Darwin and Agassiz ,and conveniently located just one floor above the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. The Harvard environs exude a sense of academic ambition and optimism. I have been given invaluable advice and guidance, and learned so much; enough to last me a lifetime. Having been a little intimidated moving to a new country and to such a prestigious Institution, I now realise that graduate students everywhere have a lot in common – we all have worries, opinions, defaults and strengths.

I have been collaborating with scientific archaeologists at the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, carrying out research with my supervisor Prof. Noreen Tuross, Landon T. Clay Professor of Scientific Archaeology, whom I met initially at a Stable Isotopes in Archaeology conference in Kiel, Germany. This collaborative relationship with Prof. Tuross and colleagues, being influential experts in the field of isotopes in archaeology, has allowed me to refine my research methodology, and through their enthusiasm and interest in my research, they have been thoroughly affirming, freely exchanging thoughts and ideas on how best to approach the application of isotopes to migration studies in complex environments. Discussion group meetings with members of both the Science of the Human Past (SoHP) initiative and the Celtic Studies Department have also been most productive. This scholarship gave me access to the Biogeochemistry facilities of Harvard and multiple laboratory techniques, plus the invaluable international collaborations and friendship. It gives a timely and significant contribution to my Ph.D. project.

In addition to the academic fulfillment, I have found the Fulbright experience to be incredibly rewarding on a personal level. Three seasons in beautiful Boston and Harvard with the fellowship of the other Fulbrighters, a warm welcome everywhere, especially the spending of Thanksgiving with an American family in New Hampshire. There was a visit to Washington D.C. to attend an Isotope Meeting in the Carnegie Geophysical Institute, where I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the National Mall and Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Also, the all-American cultural experience of going to Celtic’s basketball games in the TD Garden and for contrast, Brahms Requiem at the Symphony Hall. Not to forget, I was also given the amazing opportunity to travel to a seminar on Civil Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.

Photo: The Fulbright Enrichment Seminar on Civil Rights in Atlanta, Georgia was attended by Fulbrighters from more than 50 countries.

Living in Boston during the U.S. Presidential Election was a fascinating experience, which has given me a new perspective on politics and policy making - or unmaking - an unsettling time to be working in the Earth Sciences. This is particularly so at a time when academic mobility and the sharing of knowledge may be curtailed.

The Fulbright scholarship encourages mutual understanding and the flow of innovative ideas that are not bound by borders. I think it is an exciting challenge to stand for these values, having been their beneficiary. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. I have been allowed to connect with other cultures whilst embracing my own. The Fulbright experience can be summed up as developmental, at times challenging but overall truly inspirational. I am grateful for the support provided to me by the Geological Survey of Ireland, the Fulbright Commission and my hosts at Harvard who afforded me this exceptional experience. I thoroughly encourage others to apply for the Geoscience Fulbright award.”

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