Carnegie Mellon University
June 23, 2021

Physics' Aria Salyapongse Named Fulbright Scholar

By Heidi Opdyke

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

Aria Salyapongse, who graduated this year with a bachelor's of science degree in physics and a concentration in astrophysics, will be teaching English in Thailand. She applied because she enjoys helping people learn.

"I have been a teaching assistant all of my years at CMU, and I really liked it. I've tutored in physics, chemistry, mathematics and English," she said.

Salyapongse's grandfather was born in Thailand and she has visited Thailand for family reunions. Most recently, she accompanied her father on a medical mission trip in 2019.

"It was an opportunity to connect with parts of my culture that I haven't gotten to experience in America," she said, adding that she enjoyed meeting new people, eating foods similar to what she grew up with and practicing her Thai. "I'm really hoping to continue that kind of cultural exploration and connection when I get back to Thailand."

Like her father, Salyapongse plans to become a physician.

"I knew coming into CMU I wanted to do physics and go to medical school," she said. She worked with Jason D'Antonio, director of CMU's Health Professions Program to set her up for success with her application and MCAT preparation.

Salyapongse said that going to Thailand will help her work on her teaching and communication skills, which will be invaluable in medical school. 

“The Fulbright scholarship will allow me to practice working with those of different backgrounds to my own, it will also let me build bridges into the Thai community that will help me work on global health initiatives,” she said.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, aims to improve cultural diplomacy and allow Fulbright scholars and their international hosts to gain an appreciation of different viewpoints and beliefs though engagement in the community. While last year's recipients had to delay travel to their respective countries, the 2021-2022 class of Fulbright scholars are on track to start later this year.

This year, eight Carnegie Mellon students earned Fulbrights.

"From Asia to South America and Europe, this year's CMU Fulbright grantees will be leveraging the vast interdisciplinary and intercultural skills they developed through their Carnegie Mellon education to build mutual understanding with communities abroad," Bernazzoli said. "We are so proud that this cohort — CMU's largest group of Fulbright grantees since 2015 — will be representing our institution and the United States in their respective host countries."

Bernazzoli said that each CMU recipient represents the ethos of the Fulbright Program.

"In each of their stories, you can see not only their extraordinary talents and motivation, but also the ways in which they have been enriched by cross-campus resources, as well as their home departments," she said. "We look forward to following their experiences as they embark on their international teaching, research, and graduate study."