Engineering student's Fulbright Scholarship takes her to Greece

image of Lynn Secondo in Greece

Photo above taken by Lynn Secondo

By Leila Ugincius
University Public Affairs
(804) 828-2725

Lynn Secondo grew up in Ohio and stayed in the Midwest for her undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemical engineering, from Trine University and University of Michigan, respectively. But when it was time for her Ph.D., the 26-year-old decided to head east. She chose the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering because of the opportunities it offered within a smaller department in a large university.

“I could still get to know my professors, yet interdisciplinary collaboration would be easy and encouraged,” she said about VCU. “Being with a department that is expanding and actively searching for new ideas not only from the faculty is exciting and a fantastic opportunity for the students involved.”

That decision would end up sending Secondo even further east — all the way to Europe — as a Fulbright Scholar. Secondo hadn’t considered applying for the Fulbright Scholarship until her Ph.D. adviser in the VCU Department of Chemical and Life Sciences Engineering, Nastassja Lewinski, Ph.D., approached her with the idea.

“Honestly, it took me a while to decide that I wanted it,” she said.

In the end, the opportunities to experience her field in a new country, eat some great Greek food — “Let’s be real,” she said, “who doesn’t want to eat gyros and tzatziki nearly every day?” — expand her world view and share knowledge persuaded her to apply. The process wasn’t easy, she said, but the VCU National Scholarship Office did a great job guiding her through what the review committee would want to see from an applicant.

Secondo is studying what happens in your lungs when you breathe in nanoscale particles emitted by a diesel fuel additive designed to produce a cleaner exhaust. She works with the Aerosol Particle Technology Lab within the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas in Thermi.

“Over the nine months that I am here, I am hoping to expose lung cells to the exhaust and observe biological changes in a set-up that has not yet been performed,” she said.

My real

Follow the @thisismyreal Instagram account next week, April 15 to 22, for a glimpse into Secondo's life in Greece. Interested in sharing your Make it real story? Email VCU at and tell us a little about yourself and we may arrange for you to take over the Instagram account for a week.

At the end of her Fulbright term, Secondo will return to VCU to finish her Ph.D. She will continue the project at VCU as part of her dissertation.

The opportunities have been abundant, Secondo said. In Greece, she has met many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador and the U.S. consul generals.

“Each month, I seem to have an invitation to an event due to my affiliation with Fulbright. And when President Obama came to visit, we were all provided with the opportunity to see his speech. I don’t expect that this treatment will transfer when I return to the U.S., however, I do know that this scholarship is a big addition to my CV and I am grateful to VCU for helping me achieve it.

“Fulbright is not only an amazing opportunity to live in another country and experience their culture, but to meet other people from America within the Fulbright program, to understand how the world views our country, and to really start to connect with yourself.”