Spotlight on Scholars is a quarterly feature created to acknowledge the many talented individuals in our international student and scholar community. Our international population plays a significant role in research and development, as well as culturally enhancing our institution.
Department: Computer Science
Home country: Vietnam
Home town: Hue
Dr. Phu H. Phung is currently working in the Department of Computer Science as a Visiting Research Associate. One of his favorite things about the research he does at UIC is working and collaborating with well-known researchers in the field.
Phu is the oldest in his family and has a younger sister and brother. His family is originally from Hue, Vietnam. Hue was the old imperial capital of Vietnam before 1945. It is located in central Vietnam on the Perfume River. What Phu misses most about home is the food. His favorite dishes to cook are Bun Bo Hue, a style of noodle specifically to Hue and dumpling dish called Banh Bot Loc.
Prior to coming to the University of Illinois at Chicago though, he was at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, which is also where Phu did is Ph.D in Computer Science. Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden and is on the west coast on the North Sea. Outside of work, Phu loves to sing and play guitar, and he prefers pop music. His favorite sport to play is Badminton, however since he has been here he hasn’t had the opportunity to play. His favorite book is Anger: The Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, by Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Zen Master. Anger is a Buddhist philosophical text on dealing with one’s anger and Phu has read it several times as well as listened to the audio version.
When visiting Chicago, Phu recommends visiting his favorite going to the Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue, for shopping and dining. He also suggests visiting Navy Pier, the Sears Tower, and Chicago’s lake front.
Department: Criminology, Law and Justice
Home country: Australia
Home town: Brisbane
Kathryn Wenham is a Ph.D. student studying Public Health from Griffith University in Australia. She is currently here at the University of Illinois at Chicago as a student intern conducting research for her dissertation in the Department of Criminology, Law and Justice.
The focus of her research is a comparative analysis on health, wellbeing, education, and cultural constructions of gender interaction in the African immigrant community in Brisbane, Australia and Chicago. Her research looks at changes in food and diet, socioeconomics, education, gender and gender roles. Initially when she started it was by making a correlation between traditional diet and long term health versus adapting to a Western diet. Gender is looked at and how relationships are affected during the process of adapting to a new culture and environment. Kathryn was drawn to this because it is fascinating to her and there has not been a lot of research done on this topic.
Kathryn’s home town is Brisbane, Australia. Brisbane is the capital city of Queensland, and is the third largest city in Australia. Brisbane is a city that has many immigrants which influences many of the cuisines there. Kathryn’s favorite foods derive from Mediterranean and Thai cooking. However when cooking, her favorite dish to make is a dessert called “Pavlova.” Pavlova is a meringue based dessert topped with fresh fruit and cream. There is a friendly argument between Australians and New Zealanders though as to where the origins of Pavlova have come from, Australia or New Zealand?
What Kathryn misses most about home are her friends and summer activities. For example, she misses going to the beach, picnics in the park, and African and Brazilian dancing. Kathryn has been doing both types of dance for 10 years. Her favorite style though is “Samba de Gafieira,” a Brazilian form of dance that she performed with her dance school in Rio De Janiero at a dance congress there. Kathryn recommends any form dance to meet new people and one does not even need to speak the same language.
Kathryn’s favorite film is based on the book by Yann Martel, Life of Pi. It is a story about a boy and a tiger that are dependent on each other for survival while stranded on the ocean on a small boat after their ship has sank. What Kathryn found most appealing about the film besides imagery was how dissociation can be used in surviving trauma. For books, she prefers biographies about ordinary people who survive extraordinary difficulties and circumstances. Kathryn, not putting fiction completely aside though, recommends, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson. It is a story about growing up in the Midwest during the 1950s. The story and the characters made her laugh out loud.
For local activities in Chicago, Kathryn recommends visiting her favorite, the Field Museum. She is a self-proclaimed geek regarding all things related to anthropology. She loves the cultural display at the Field Museum, specifically the African exhibit. Other Chicago activities and places Kathryn suggests are taking the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour, visiting The Old Town School of Folk Music, for a show or a class in music or dance. It recently featured Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and an Australian favorite, singer and songwriter Paul Kelly. She also recommends doing some shopping, visit the summer festivals, and explore different neighborhoods like Hyde Park.
Ignacio Garcia Gomez
Department: Medicine - Section of Nephology
Home Country: Spain
Home Town: Madrid
Ignacio Garcia Gomez is a Visiting Research Scholar in the Section of Nephrology in the Department of Medicine. His background is in the field of adult stem cells and how they are used in regenerative medicine. His focus at the University of Illinois at Chicago is in two areas: one, the peripheral model of nervy injury and the second model in acute kidney failure. Ignacio states that in the last decade knowledge of mesenchymal stem cells has evolved rapidly, and it is amazing to him to be able to do this research and study immunomodulatory properties and paracrine interactions with specific cells in damaged tissues at UIC.
Ignacio is originally from Madrid, Spain, a city that is known for its architecture, culture, food, and the Real Madrid football (soccer) club. He recommends when visiting Madrid, that one should go to a football game, the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia Museum, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. One should also go for a walk past the Royal Palace and Theater, and Gran Via Street. Along the way passed these sites, stop for tapas or café for a small break. During the winter, Ignacio enjoys skiing in the Pyrenees Mountains, or in the French or Swiss Alps. He looks forward to comparing these to the skiing in the U.S. and Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Despite Ignacio's love for Madrid, he has found many great things he loves about Chicago. He enjoys taking walks downtown and other parts of the city while studying the architecture of Mies van der Rohe, Burnham, and Frank Lloyd Wright. WHile going on runs along the lakefront, Ignacio admires Millennium Park, The Pritzker Pavillion, Grant Park, Buckingham Fountain, Tiffany's Garden, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. Ignacio also recommends visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring works by Picasso, Kandinsky, Rothko, and Pollock. Ignacio points out American modernism pieces are difficult to find in Europe. He also emphasizes that the Art Institute in Chicago should not by any means be envious of the MOMA in New York City. Ignacio also raves about the gastronomy of Chicago from American pubs, hamburgers, deep dish pizze, to the variety of Asian cuisines, and European style restaurants. As a fan of performance, Ignacio recommends the Theater District and the musicals. Neighborhoods that Ignacio recommends visiting are Wicker Park, Greek Town, and China Town. If the opportunity presents itself, he also recommends visiting Oak Park, the home town of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and author Ernest Hemmingway.
On a more intimate level, one of Ignacio's favorite books is A Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. He finds it particularly interesting how the future is described and how Huxley uses this to criticize the modern world. Ignacio also loves film. His favorite films range from comedy to drama, such as Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001), It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946), The Godfather (1972, 1974, 1990), to 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai).
Department: Community Health Sciences in the School of Public Health
Home country: Panama
Home town: Panama City
Originally from Panama City, Panama, Roger Night Madrid has been working as a Visiting Research Specialist in the Department of Community Health and Development at UIC since July 2010. His focus is with the Community Outreach and Engagement team with the National Children’s Study, a longitudinal study on children’s health from birth to age 21. The National Children’s Study has allowed Roger to meet new people across the Chicagoland area, and promoting and developing partnerships with a multitude of organizations that benefit the communities.
Traversing Chicago has afforded Roger the opportunity to take in some of the cultural aspects of Chicago. Roger recommends the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour. Recently, his parents were visiting him and they took part in this tour. It is a great way to see more of the Chicago skyline, and to get some of the historical details. While on the tour, Roger’s mother remembered a scene from the comedy film “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” starring Julia Roberts. This is one of many films done in Chicago that uses the landscape and architecture, creating more than scenery or a backdrop, but creating another character outside of the actors in these films.
Roger’s current favorite book series is the Hunger Games Trilogy. He describes it as transporting the reader to a “future dystopia,” or an anti-utopia where the inhabitants fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. A new film based on the novels is scheduled for release in March 2012 so you can check out what the Hunger Game really are.
Chicago’s restaurants and comedy clubs are high on Roger’s list of Chicago’s treasures. His most recent find is the new restaurant Morso, in Lincoln Park, from the creator of Gaztro-Wagon Food Truck, Chef Matt Maroni. Roger highly recommends Morso for the food, excellent service, and laid back atmosphere. For comedy, Roger’s favorite recent find is the troupe “Neo-futurists” and their show, “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind,” in the Andersonville neighborhood. Audience participation is sought after and encouraged during this production. The Neo-futurists attempt to do 30 plays in one hour with this show!
Sports entertainment is also something Roger finds time for. Prior to Roger’s work at UIC, he studied at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. During his studies there he learned about American football, became a self- proclaimed “avid Notre Dame Fan,” and he continues to follow the Fighting Irish. Sometimes he is able to attend the games in South Bend through the Alumni Club. If he is unable to make it, he knows of a few Chicago locales with televisions that also follow Notre Dame, where he can watch the game with friends, almost as if he were there in person.
Living in Chicago has made Roger somewhat nostalgic for Panama at times. There are also some things from Panama that cannot be replaced or replicated. The food he misses most from home is the Panamanian version of the tortilla, which he will eat with his favorite, the Panamanian breakfast of steak, fried eggs, onions, with queso fresco, served with Panamanian style tortillas. The tortillas he describes as, “…thick corn cakes that are fried…” When he travels home he brings these delicious corn cake tortilla delights back to Chicago frozen so he can make this traditional Panamanian breakfast anytime.
Louise Flensted-Jensen Rønberg
Department: Curriculum and Instruction
Home country: Denmark
Home town: Skovlunde, suburb of the capital city Copenhagen
Ms. Louise Flensted-Jensen Rønberg, is currently working as a student intern and doing research for her dissertation in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. Louise’s dissertation titled ”Components of Children’s Reading Comprehension,” is part of her Ph.D. studies a the University of Aarhus. Her research focuses on learning new techniques with an emphasis on learning to read, reading comprehension and vocabulary.
By being a parent of three children attending public schools in the Chicagoland area, Louise will also gain further insight of the education system of the United States through her own children’s perspectives that will inform her research. This experience allows her to compare the differences in the teaching styles and methods used in the United States and Denmark.
When it’s time to relax, Louise enjoys a wide range range of music from Classical, to Jazz, Rock and Blues. Her favorites include Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and the Beatles, to Scandinavian artists such as Swedish jazzists Lisa Nilsson and Real Group. For culinary treats, Louise also enjoys a wide array of cuisines, two of her favorites are Italian and Thai. When she has leisure time for reading, she looks to both fiction and non-fiction genres, including books by author John Irving. Among her favorites is Immaculee Ilibagiza’s, ”Left to Tell,” a autobiographical tale of survival during the Rwandan genocide. For inspiration for life and learning, she looks to the Bible, which she refers to as ”the big book.”
Louise’s entire family shares her love for learning, travel, and the arts. In addition to her family with her here in Chicago, she keeps in close touch with her siblings back home and their wonderful accomplishments. Her brother is a pianist and her sister is currently working on her master’s thesis in film and media studies.
Since coming to Chicago, Louise has found time to visit the John Hancock Restaurant and Observatory on the 95th floor, one of the most recommended sites in the city. The skyscraper’s views are impressive and do not disappoint. Never forgetting her civic responsibilities back home, Louise voted in a recent election at the Danish Consulate.
As Louise is getting acclimated to life in Chicago she finds she misses the Danish bakeries from home, particularly the Danish rye bread, but she found that IKEA sells a comparable Swedish Rye Bread mix that she is able to use for the time being. Avid animal enthusiasts (Louise’s nickname is Misser, which means ”cat” in Danish), she and her family miss their Australian Parrot, a Blue Budgeriagar. As a temporary replacement for the beautiful bird is a Lego lizard that the family purchased from the Lego store in Schaumburg to keep them company while Louise completes her dissertation research.
Department: Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Home country: India
Home town: Mumbai
Dr. Shweta Chaudhary has been a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences since December 2009. She describes her research in Lead Corneal Neovascularization in which she studies the cornea in mice eyes as “innovating, and cutting edge.” Prior to her work at UIC, she worked at an eye hospital and research center in Chennai, India, and as a Fellow in Cambridge, England, at the International Council of Ophthalmology. She completed her studies, including a specialization in Ophthalmology, in Mumbai and Chennai, India.
Although she is very happy in Chicago, she misses her family and friends back home, as well as the flavorful local food, and riding her motorbike. One of Shweta’s favorite dishes to cook and is stuffed eggplant curry. She also enjoys Thai cuisine. The best gift that Shweta has ever received is her one year old nephew. She says that he is the cutest.
When she is not working, Shweta is also an artist, and enjoys painting. After she is done with a piece, she likes to give her artwork to her friends. Her favorite book is “Not Without My Daughter,” by Betty Mahmoody. The book describes a broad range of emotions of the female protagonists. Shweta describes the book as, “A mother’s struggle to free herself and more importantly, her daughter from her oppressive and conservative father.” Of the book, Shweta says “All in all it is a heartwarming, inspirational, and eye opening book.”
On the lighter side of things, Shweta has plenty of ideas for anyone new to Chicago. A self described “veggie fan,” she enjoys going to the Celtic Knot for their excellent Veggie Burgers, great ambience and live music. During Chicago’s warmer seasons, Shweta recommends taking the Chicago Architectural Tour. After the tour, one should walk from Navy Pier to North Beach along the lake front. This is a great way to enjoy the Chicago skyline. Other great things to do during any time of year she recommends are driving along Lake Shore Drive from Hyde Park, to Wilmette. On the way, one can visit the Adler Planetarium, Foster beach, Pratt Beach, Northwestern University in Evanston, and the Bahai Temple in Wilmette.
Department: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Major: Electrical Engineering (Solid-State Devices)
Home country: India
Home town: Kolkata
Koushik Banerjee is a PhD student in Electrical Engineering with a focus on solid-state devices. Solid state devices are a contrast to older devices such as hard drives found in your computer. Koushik explains, “In my research, I get a chance to deal with all aspects of solid-state devices, starting from (the) design of the device to its fabrication, characterization and data analysis. That gives me an all-around experience and expertise”. Koushik’s next project may end up in your laptop!
Although he is a master with electronics, Koushik admits he cannot cook but that does not stop him from enjoying a variety of cuisines. Some of his favorite cuisines are Indian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Middle-Eastern, Ethiopian, and Italian just to name a few. With Koushik’s never-ending list of favorite foods, he feels that Chicago is the right place to be to try out all the different cuisines.
In his spare time, Koushik enjoys exploring the Museum Campus located on the lakefront. The Museum Campus includes the Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Koushik recommends everyone to visit the Museum Campus because it gives a splendid view of the Chicago skyline. Koushik says, “You immediately realize that you are in a great city. At the same time, you can experience the lake, the vast waterbody stretching up to the horizon. It is relaxing.”
One of his favorite books is a Bengali classic called “Chander Pahar” (Mountain of Moon) by Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay. In the adventure novel, Shankar, a young man that recently graduated from college goes to Africa in pursuit of a hidden treasure. In Koushik’s words, “The adventure in the book is extraordinary and I can so easily relate to the main character in the story.” For UIC’s international students coming to the U.S. in search of education (and hidden treasure), they can definitely relate to Shankar’s journey except that they will have to survive pop quizzes and papers rather than poisonous snakes and man-eating lions.
Koushik’s Awards and Recognitions:
- Received Provost’s Award, Fall 2010, for outstanding graduate research work at UIC
- Received the Chancellor’s Student Service Award 2009-10 for accomplishments in a leadership role within student organizations at UIC
- Received the Chicago Consular Corps Scholarship 2007-08 for Excellency in research and academic standing; Awarded to ten graduate/undergraduate students at UIC
- Ranked 20th in the state of West Bengal, India in the Higher Secondary Examination, 2001 among approx 0.2million students
Dr. Leslie Deane
Job title: Assistant Professor of Urology
Home country: Barbados
Home town: Bridgetown
Dr. Leslie “Les” Deane joined UIC’s Department of Urology in August 2007. His favorite part of his research at UIC is “it is new, exciting and innovative.” Prior to his arrival to the UIC community, he was an Assistant Professor of Urology at the University of California Irvine, and an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Department of Urology at Long Beach Veterans Affairs Hospital. He has also co-authored many peer reviewed publications, and has done many video presentations.
Even though Les puts in a lot of hours in the Urology department, he is still able to enjoy the city of Chicago. The lake front is a favorite spot for him to relax and enjoy the scenery. His favorite Chicago restaurant is “Japonais,” for the atmosphere and Asian fusion cuisine. This does not take away from his favorite food though, a traditional Barbados dish of flying fish and macaroni pie. Macaroni pie is similar to Mac’ and Cheese and is baked. Macaroni and Cheese also happens to be Dr. Deane’s favorite food to cook at home. When he is not cooking Macaroni and Cheese, he enjoys tennis, Hip Hop/Reggae/Caribbean rhythms and watching thorough bred horse racing. His favorite movie is “The Rock.”
For those who are visiting Chicago, he recommends that you visit in the summer for a number of art and street festivals that take place. In the morning you should visit the Lake Shore walking and bike path. Visit the Signature Room at the 95th floor of the John Hancock building for brunch or go to Cafe Orange for breakfast. For dinner try one of Chicago’s eateries or relax on a rooftop lounge to see the Chicago Skyline. Also recommended are Gino’s East or Giordano’s for Chicago deep dish pizza, or have a polish dog at Maxwell Street. These are all a part of the Chicago experience.
Dept: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Job title: Assistant Professor
Home country: China
Home town: Zhuzhou, Hunan
Since completing her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the College of William and Mary, Zhichun has worked in the Department of Electrical Engineering at UIC as an Assistant Professor, specializing and publishing many articles in the field of Computer Science. Her favorite part of her research is searching for solutions to intellectually challenging questions.
Personally, although her favorite thing to do in Chicago is visiting the lakefront and finding a great place to relax, she does miss her family, friends, and food back home. For a little taste of home, she prepares her favorite dish, “Pork Rib Soup” and listens to Chinese folk music. If a friend were to visit Chicago, she would recommend that they pay a visit to Navy Pier. When Zhichun is not working on the next generation of computers, she knits as a hobby and takes care of her pet fish.
To find out more about the work and research Zhichun is doing and see a list of her selected publications. You may also have seen Dr. Zhu featured in the March 17, 2010 Edition of UICNews.
Interested in Being Spotlighted?
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