Three Wellesley Seniors Receive Prestigious Watson Fellowships

May 3, 2018
Three Wellesley students who won the Watson Fellowship sit on campus, laughing.

Three Wellesley seniors, Nisreen Abo-Sido ’18, Carol Hundal ’18, and Hans Han ’18, have been awarded 2018 Thomas J. Watson Fellowships, which provide seniors the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world after graduation to pursue a dream project. Abo-Sido, Han, and Hundal will each receive $30,000 for 12 months of purposeful travel outside of the United States, along with college loan assistance as needed.

This year, Watson’s 40 partner institutions nominated 152 finalists to compete at the national level. Abo-Sido, Han, and Hundal are among 40 fellows selected. The Watson program is celebrating its 50th year; Wellesley was invited to be a participating college in 1980-81.

Having three students chosen from this competitive pool is a remarkable honor for Wellesley, said Kate Dailinger, fellowships program director for Wellesley Career Education. She added that schools cannot put forward more than four candidates in any one year. “Those who apply for the Watson have to dare to imagine new ways of pursuing important questions, to take what they’ve learned at Wellesley and apply it far beyond the confines of the classroom,” said Dailinger.

Abo-Sido, an environmental studies major, will travel to destinations that will include Peru, Malawi, Iceland, and Italy to study innovative agro ecological techniques, learning how farmers, ranchers, and gardeners have “creatively maneuvered their landscapes and resources to manage agricultural systems that produce food while fostering the ecological interactions that sustain such systems,” she said.

Han, an economics major, will focus on urban transit systems to study common patterns of discrimination and negligence. As an aspiring academic and community organizer, Han plans to spend their Watson year riding transit systems in Santiago, Dubai, Seoul, Berlin, and Moscow to collect personal and academic stories linked with urban mobility.

Han also plans to create maps for each city’s transportation networks. “I hope to document how human mobility can be a metaphor for vitality and life and how the voices that have historically been left out of the urban planning discourse are now being included for a more equitable future,” they said

Hundal, an astrophysics major, wants to use her fellowship to answer the question: What would it be like to actually live on another planet?

She plans to visit such places as the Kirkjubæjarklaustur Volcano and the Lakager Highlands in Iceland, the Atacama Desert in Chile, the highest dunes in the world in Namibia, and impact craters in Western Australia to explore natural phenomena.

“A lot of what this year is about is going to these otherworldly places on Earth, and saying to myself, ‘What would it be like to be on Mars?’” she said. “To look at a landscape that is totally devoid of life, of water, of vegetation. What does it feel like to be in that all-encompassing solitude?’” After her fellowship, Hundal plans to pursue a Ph.D. in planetary science at Brown University.

Abo-Sido, Han, and Hundal will be honored May 3 at President Paula A. Johnson’s reception celebrating fellowship recipients, along with the other nominees, finalists, and winners of significant external and Wellesley-funded awards.