A Postdoctoral Fulbright in Israel

Adam Gamzon
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Israel, 2012-2013

My family's Fulbright experience has been fantastic, and everything that we hoped would happen has happened. When I applied to Fulbright, I was just finishing my Ph.D. and we knew that the natural next stage in my academic career would be to get a non-tenure track/postdoctoral position for about two or three years. Knowing that this would be temporary, my wife and I decided that we would be open to traveling to a foreign country, so I started looking at all of the different options. One of my top choices was the Hebrew University of Jerusalem because of their strong faculty in mathematics. Having already made contact and spoken with one of the professors from Hebrew University about my research, this made Israel and Hebrew University a logical choice for my Fulbright application.

Besides completing the proposed research project, we had broader goals that included creating new or stronger collaborations, building lasting friendships with our neighbors, and having a baby. My research interests are in number theory, in particular, the project that I proposed for Fulbright was to investigate the unobstructedness of Hilbert modular deformation problems. In addition to carrying out this research, I regularly attended the Jerusalem number theory seminar, frequently spoke with my sponsoring scientist Udi de Shalit, and gave an informal seminar on introductory algebraic geometry. As it turns out, I was able to complete my original project within the first year of the grant. While it is somewhat disappointing that the project wasn't as involved as we thought, in the end, it is good that it is coming to a close since I now have two new projects waiting to begin. The first will be a collaborative effort with Udi and the second is a project with a colleague from the U.S.

One of our biggest concerns in coming to Israel was that my wife was giving up her job and didn't have a clear idea of what she was going to do to stay active during the grant.  As I mentioned before, we were hoping that at some point during the 20 months in Israel we would have our first child, but hoping to get pregnant is not exactly a concrete plan. Again, everything worked out more perfectly than we had hoped.  My wife found work babysitting part-time three days a week. She also started volunteering for an Israeli NGO, advocating for greywater recycling. Both activities however, were part-time, so she was also able to fit in another part-time job teaching high school science (her chosen profession in the U.S.) for Americans studying abroad. Currently she is six months pregnant, so she’s stepping back from these activities, but she plans on returning to teaching next spring.

While in Jerusalem, we have made an effort to integrate and to participate in communal activities with people in our neighborhood.  This includes participating in holiday celebrations by joining with our neighbors for meals, participating in various running activities (e.g., the Jerusalem 10k/half marathon/marathon), and taking ulpan (Hebrew language classes). Because of this, we have been fortunate to begin to form those friendships that we wanted. For example, one evening we held a memorial service for my mom in our apartment and the room was full of people that we had met while in Israel. We are excited that we have another year to deepen these relationships.