Elizabeth “Liz” Oliphant (B.S. Earth and Environmental Sciences ’18) is in Indonesia for one year researching geothermal energy. The bulk of her time will be spent in Bandung, located about 110 miles southeast of Jakarta and home to her host university Institut Teknologi Bandung. Her research focuses on how the surface chemistry of a specific type of volcano differs from the type of volcanic system typically used for geothermal energy. Having a better understanding of the surface chemistry can help geothermal companies identify and map potential sites for geothermal power plants—reducing the overall cost to consumers.

Although she’s been in country less than a month, Liz is excited to start her language classes. “Once I understand more of the local language, it will open me up to making so many more friends.” And she anticipates that her research will lead to notable results, and eventually a published paper.  

Liz is also using her fellowship to see if a career focused on independent research is a good fit. “Fulbright gives me a really good opportunity to try out this industry and see if this is what I want to do in the future. Taking part in the Fulbright Program will really influence my future.” In her off time, she’d like to see as much of the country as possible. “I love hiking and being in nature, and I know Indonesia has some really beautiful sites.”

The Emerald City, California, native was drawn to the Fulbright Program because of the freedom to design her own project. “I’ve known for a while that I want to go into the renewable energy industry, but I've struggled with deciding which energy source to focus on.” This will be her first geothermal research project; her past work has focused on solar and biofuels. “I think this project will show me if I want to pursue hard geology and geothermal energy in the future, or if I want to focus strictly on solar.”

After completing her Fulbright in 2020, grad school is in her future. “I might look into summer field work in South America,” she says, “and in the fall [of 2020] I hope to be starting a masters or Ph.D. program.” Her advice for anyone interested in applying: start early. Liz recommends finding an in-country sponsor sooner rather than later, and encourages applicants to embrace networking to gain insight, advice, and feedback.

For more on our #UMFulbright cohorts, please visit our website.