by Shawna Carter

SOCORRO, N.M., Sept. 15, 2005 — New Mexico Tech recently welcomed Eric Plum, a Fulbright Scholar from Bad Muenstereifel, Germany, to the state-supported research university in Socorro.

Plum’s home town of Bad Muenstreifel is a small community located in western Germany, near the German-Belgian border. Although his hometown is thousands of miles away, Plum is no stranger to the American Southwest.

As a high school exchange student, Plum spent one year on American soil in Midland, Texas. As an American high school student, Plum excelled in the fields of computer science and astrophysics, receiving several awards in computer science programming and astronomy contests in the state of Texas.

After spending the 11th grade as an American student, Plum returned to Germany to finish his schooling at St. Michael Gymnasium, a preparatory school for college-bound students. In June of 2002, he graduated with an “A+” grade point average (GPA).

Plum continued his education at RWTH Aachen in Germany. He spent two years there and received his Vordiplom, or pre-diploma, in physics with an “A” GPA.

After his stay at RWTH Aachen, he moved to England to attend the University of Southampton. He was a visiting undergraduate student in physics there for one year before being accepted into the Fulbright Scholar Program and moving to Socorro to attend New Mexico Tech.

Plum is an accomplished researcher in many fields. In 2001, he participated in Jugend Forscht, a research contest for young German researchers. His project was a brake energy-fed lighting system for bicycles. This system included brake lights and turning signals. Plum placed first in technology for his region, third in technology for his state, and was awarded a patent for his new machine.

In 2003, he participated in Jugend Forscht again. His project included the analysis and comparison of pulsar stars at different frequencies in the radio band and the development of a software database for pulsar measurements for the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany. His project received first place in Earth and space sciences at the regional level, first place for the best interdisciplinary project at the state level, and the Prize of the Germany Aerospace Center on the national level.

Plum’s research capabilities have followed him into the workplace as well. In the summer of 2002, he worked at the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, focusing on pulsar research and database programming. Currently, Plum works in Socorro for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory with New Mexico Tech astrophysics professor Tim Hankins.

To become a Fulbright Scholar, Plum had to endure a rigorous application process, which included submitting application forms, letters of recommendation, and multiple interviews, in addition to the stringent academic requirements. Furthermore, Fulbright Scholars must be proficient in the politics, language(s), history, and culture of the area where they wish to travel.

When asked why he decided to attend New Mexico Tech, Plum answered, “I asked my supervisor, Axel Jessner, at the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy what American university would be a good place to study astrophysics and, preferentially, research on pulsars. He spontaneously named New Mexico Tech, and recommended I contact Tim Hankins and Jean Eilek in the physics department.”

Every year, approximately 800 scholars from the United States travel to 140 different countries, and 800 foreign scholars travel to the United States as part of the Fulbright Scholar Program. The federally funded scholars exchange program allows students and professionals to conduct research and teach overseas and in the United States as Fulbright Visiting Scholars. The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is one of several international exchange programs in which New Mexico Tech participates. For more information about New Mexico Tech’s various international exchange programs, contact Brandon Samter at bsamter@admin.nmt.edu, or call 835.5022.

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