Jim Westwood, a professor in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to France where he will study the interaction of sunflower broomrape, a parasitic plant species, with sunflower.

Westwood will conduct research in the Laboratory of Plant-Microbe Interactions at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Toulouse as part of a collaborative project with colleagues who have unique resources for parasitic plant research. He will also share his extensive experience with these organisms and work to raise awareness of plants as sophisticated organisms that perceive and manipulate their environment.

Westwood, a professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, is one of over 800 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research, and/or provide expertise abroad for the 2019-2020 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

“My career has centered on parasitic plants, and this Fulbright represents a valuable opportunity to expand my research, update my knowledge of research methods, and gain a fresh outlook,” Westwood said. “It's actually quite challenging to work on these parasite species in the U.S. because they are non-native, and we must operate under federal quarantine conditions. However, parasitic plants are an important agricultural problem in the Mediterranean region, Africa, and Europe, including France, so this experience will put me near the geographical center of parasitic plant research.

"I will have easy access to many other parasitic plant researchers in the region. In addition, I will use this opportunity to expand my skills in bioinformatics,” Westwood said.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the Program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide. 

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 380,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Fulbrighters address critical global in all disciplines, while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 59 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 82 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.

At Virginia Tech, the program is administered through the Global Education Office. For further information about the Fulbright Program, please visit http://eca.state.gov/fulbright