5 Interesting People in STEM Fields Who Studied Abroad

Hey STEM students, think you don’t have time to study abroad? Think again! Our friend Sarah McNitt, a study abroad advisor and trivia whiz, put together this great list of interesting people from the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math who have studied abroad.

Photo credit to anilnow.com

“In producing my Famous People Who Studied Abroad blog series, one of my favorite things is to learn about someone new who has done interesting things in their field but who I was not already familiar with. So while there are plenty of big names in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields who studied abroad (Albert Einstein, Tycho Brahe, etc.), here (in no particular order) are some others you may not be as familiar with!

1. American astronaut Cady Coleman (@Astro_Cady) was a high school exchange student to Norway in 1978-79. On one spaceflight, she brought along a Norwegian flag and then presented it to the Norwegian ambassador to the US, Tom E. Vraalsen, who told her, “I like to think of you as the first Norwegian in space.”

2. Where would you guess that George Washington’s family physician would have gone to school? I would have guessed one of the universities in the American Colonies, or maybe England. Nope, Adam Kuhn was born in the United States, studied medicine and natural history at Uppsala University in Sweden, and ultimately received his M.D. from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

3. American primatologist Dian Fossey completed her PhD in Zoology at Darwin College, University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. She is pretty well known (especially thanks to the Sigourney Weaver film “Gorillas in the Mist”) but one thing I learned about her is that she struggled in science classes in school and her bachelor’s degree was in occupational therapy. There are many paths to STEM careers! Fossey was one of “Leakey’s Angels”, the group of three women who archaeologist Louis Leakey encouraged to become among the foremost primatologists in the world (the other two were Birute Galdikas and Jane Goodall). Louis Leakey’s granddaughter, paleontologist Louise Leakey, also studied abroad!

4. In my experience, it seems more common to find scientists who studied abroad in high school or graduate school, but it is definitely possible (and a great opportunity!) to study abroad as an undergraduate as well. American evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould double-majored in geology and philosophy at Antioch College and studied abroad at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom while pursuing that degree.

5. I had never heard of British civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel until I started seeking out engineers with study abroad experience. Now that I’ve heard of him, he seems to be everywhere, including the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony! In a 2002 poll to determine the “100 Greatest Britons”, Brunel placed second to Winston Churchill, thanks in part to vocal support from Top Gear‘s Jeremy Clarkson. Brunel, who was born and raised in England, went to his father’s native country (France) for his secondary education.

As a bonus, here are a couple of fictional STEM folks who studied abroad: neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory and oncologist Dr. James Wilson from House!”

Are you a STEM student looking to study abroad?  Check out the 2012 Study Abroad Rankings to view the programs rated best for STEM students!