Fairfield University Fulbright scholarship recipient to conduct heart disease and stroke research in Switzerland



Image: David BrotmanAfter graduating from Fairfield University in May, David Brotman received news that will count among the highlights of his life: He was named a Fulbright Scholar.

His Fairfield studies laid the groundwork for a medical research endeavor that will take him to Switzerland next month. There, the Baltimore, Maryland native will conduct research at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne using two unique Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) methods to explore the blood vessels which exit the heart and supply the brain with oxygen rich blood.

"I will be specifically looking at atherosclerotic plaque in the carotid arteries, which contribute to stroke and heart disease," said Brotman, who was a student in Fairfield's College of Arts & Sciences. "It is my hope that my research will provide information which will contribute to finding new modalities to help decrease stroke and heart attacks among people worldwide."

Brotman and Sarah Borton, who graduated in 2010 and has been awarded a Fulbright to Cyprus, bring Fairfield's number of Fulbright recipients to 59 in the past 18 years. Borton, who played field hockey for the Stags, will research the role of women in conflict resolution through Hands Across the Divide, a bi-communal women's organization, and through the Cyprus Hockey Association. (Visit fairfield.edu/press/pr_index.html?id=3144)

Janie Leatherman, Ph.D., director of the International Studies Program and professor of politics at Fairfield, said Fulbrighters are among "the best and brightest of their generation," with heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, university presidents, and Nobel Prize winners among its alumni. "That so many Fulbrighters have come from Fairfield University speaks highly of the professional development and faculty mentoring of students on campus, and their intellectual and personal commitments to be of service to others that is so much a part of the Fairfield tradition," said Dr. Leatherman, who directs the Fulbright program at the university.

Brotman, 23, graduated cum laude with a degree in physics and a minor in mathematics. An important undergraduate opportunity helped pave the way to the scholarship and whet Brotman's appetite to study abroad. Under Fairfield Professor David Winn's guidance, he was among a group of students who travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to work on a project concerning proton particles and the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator.

While at Fairfield, Brotman also learned the value - and untapped potential - of MRIs to explore the human body. Unlike X-Rays that can do damage inside the body, MRIs are a harmless, non-invasive technique to detect illnesses in people and conduct research, he said. This fascinated him.

It was Matthew Coleman, Ph.D., professor of mathematics, and Jack Beal, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering, who recommended Brotman for the Fulbright. "Instead of taking the undergraduate course in partial differential equations, David happily chose to dive right into the graduate level course," Dr. Coleman remarked. "He was quite successful, and I'm sure that his willingness to be challenged, and his resulting interaction with graduate student classmates from various fields, will serve him well in his research endeavors."

Beal calls Brotman "different than the usual physics major." He explained that Brotman was really interested in how the field of study could extend into biomedical/biophysical topics. "He carried out internships working with a group at Yale in the fields of biophysics and software development for biomedical applications," Beal noted.

In between classes at Fairfield, Brotman performed research on the heart using MRI with Yale School of Medicine faculty member Dr. Smita Sampath. This research led him to further explore other areas of disease concerning the heart.

Brotman didn't have to look far to learn that a life in the sciences could be a fulfilling one. His father, Steven, earned both a M.D. and a J.D. and works in the field of medical imaging. His mother, Patricia, is a retired pathologist.

"Through my experiences and various interactions as a Fulbright grantee, I look forward to making long lasting relationships and forging future opportunities for international collaboration in the near future," shared Brotman, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. "I was very excited upon hearing that I was selected, and can only imagine the experiences and opportunities that this grant affords me. My family was also surprised and thrilled."

For more information, visit fairfield.edu/academic/prest_fulbrights.html. Also see Facebook.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on July 18, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 4