Kevin Doxzen Jr. applied last summer for a Fulbright scholarship to do cancer research in Singapore, and by December he was told he was a finalist. For about five months, he heard nothing, even as many of his classmates were notified of their status.
The Johns Hopkins University graduate put together a backup plan that on the surface sounded equally enticing: working at a lab at Yale University studying cancer genes. In May, the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board notified him that he had been awarded the nine-month study grant, and Doxzen was relieved he didn't have to resort to Plan B.
"The pay [to study at Yale] was such that I would have been eating ramen noodles for a year," said Doxzen. Fulbright officials say that he is among more than 1,600 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the coming academic year through the U.S. government-funded, educational exchange program.
The Mount Hebron graduate will study prostate cancer metastasis in the Nano Biomechanics Laboratory at the National University of Singapore.
"The big reason I chose Singapore is that those countries are out-accelerating America in science right now," said Doxzen, who is to leave for Singapore on Monday. "The funding they have in Singapore is extraordinary; a large part of their government spending is on science."
Doxzen, 21, said he was lured to the university because of its use of microfluidics, which is "using the flow of water over the cell membrane to study the cancer and to diagnose patients. I am interested in the physics of that." He added that his grandfather died of cancer last winter and "that definitely factored in a little bit."
"He's very humble and he's a hard worker; he thinks about other people first," said Doxzen's mother, Alexa, who lives in Ellicott City. "He works very hard education-wise, and he deserves" the Fulbright award.
"On one hand, he is so intelligent and his brain is constantly figuring out a solution to some problem. On the other hand he has a fantastic sense of humor and a great relationship with the children," said Rachel Williams, minister to children at Bethany Lane Baptist Church, where Doxzen worked in the summer program for youngsters.
A drum major for the marching band at Mount Hebron, Doxzen was on the ultimate Frisbee club at Johns Hopkins and said he hopes to play in Singapore so he can travel to compete in other countries. So far, he has been only to Toronto and the Bahamas.
Doxzen said he took to the sciences because of high school physics and never looked back.
"I really enjoyed the ways to get the right answer, and it's all formulaic," he said. "As I expanded and learned about quantum mechanics, it was very interesting."
Doxzen said he will have to figure out some of the details about the venture once he arrives in Singapore — most notably housing for much of the time he's there. At first, he will stay with his Hopkins suite mate's family.
"The Fulbright covers living expenses, food and air travel; definitely enough to live off of, but not enough to splurge," said Doxzen, who will conduct research but probably will not take classes.
"Part of my scholarship proposal was to incorporate community service, so I will be going to a retirement home with a group at the university," Doxzen said. "In that way I will get to learn the history of Singapore. And I will teach kids English once a week with students at the university."
Doxzen said he will apply to graduate school while in Singapore and that he ultimately hopes to forge partnerships between the United States and countries that he says are outpacing it in the sciences.
"Just the way everything is going with American science and how the Asian countries are developing quickly, if this all goes well, I would like to create a liaison for science between America and Asia," he said. "That would be great."