January 26, 2017

Far North Fulbright

UMass grad Adam Pepi studies moths in Norway

Thanks to a Fulbright scholarship, UMass Amherst alumnus Adam Pepi ’14, ’15G is spending nearly a year in an international hub of ecological research—the University of Tromsø, Norway, more than 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Pepi received one of the 16 prestigious Fulbright scholarships awarded this year to University of Massachusetts Amherst students to study, research, or teach English in other countries. UMass Amherst has earned recognition as a “Top Producing Institution” from the Fulbright Program for the past two years. This year’s sweet 16 is a campus record.

Pepi is grateful to the UMass Amherst Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA) for this special personal and professional opportunity: “The ONSA staff was enormously helpful during the entire Fulbright application process,” he says. “They helped me choose between alternative countries and research groups, weigh ideas, and they read and commented on my draft grant applications as I wrote them. I would have had a hard time doing it without them.”

ONSA director and professor of psychology Susan Whitbourne says that Pepi’s application universally impressed the campus evaluation committee, as did his potential to be an outstanding “ambassador” of the United States in Norway. The Fulbright Program values these qualities, and Pepi was a perfect fit.

Pepi built his foundation as a scientist at UMass. He says he benefited from excellent teaching, mentoring, and research opportunities as he earned his bachelor’s degree in forestry and his master’s degree in organismic and evolutionary biology. His master’s thesis, which focused on the population dynamics of winter moths in New England (where they are a serious invasive pest), is directly connected to his Fulbright studies in Norway. In the forests of mountain birch near the University of Tromsø, he is working with a research group to help gain an extensive understanding of the dynamics of these moths in their native range.

Although Pepi’s base in Tromsø is the world’s northernmost university, it has a surprisingly mild coastal climate because of the Gulf Stream. “It actually gets colder in Amherst in the winter than it does here,” he says. He began his Fulbright stint in time to enjoy three months of summer daylight and is now in the midst of the three-month polar night. “Being in a place with such extremes is something extraordinary to add to the experiences of my life,” he says.

Pepi will begin PhD studies at the University of California Davis in the spring.