Fulbright US Scholar Ryan Kerrigan shares with us how Fulbright was important to him and his family:

«My name is Ryan Kerrigan and I was a 2023-24 Fulbright Scholar in All Disciplines at the Universidade de Lisboa. My project entitled, “Examining islands of rock to understand how mountains are built: the Braganca & Morais Massifs, Portugal” explored a group of enigmatic rocks located in the northeast corner of Portugal which have had a long and tumultuous geologic history. These rocks slid across the Iberian Peninsula along large-scale faults initiated during the building of supercontinent Pangea. The signatures in the rocks record the collisional event between North America and Iberia, and they now rest as an isolated island of rock as much of the surrounding materials has eroded away. While much is known about these units located in Braganca and Morais, little work had been done to characterize the geochemistry of these units.

To organize this research, I reached out to geology colleagues at the Universidade de Lisboa who were very receptive to helping me develop this project. My counterparts at Universidade de Lisboa, namely Dr. Antonio Mateus, graciously provided critical evaluation of my proposal and offered insight on the best approaches. Upon arrival in Lisbon, Dr. Mateus was a generous host, providing me with access to all of his labs and valued discussion about the project. Further support from the University of Pittsburgh allowed me to bring to undergraduate researchers to assist with field work in Northeast Portugal.

In October of 2023, Dr. Mateus, my two undergraduate researchers, and I completed a week of field work collecting rocks with the aim of fully geochemically characterizing the rocks of Braganca and Morais. While very rainy, the field work was an enormous success. Dr. Mateus’s keen understanding of the region and encyclopedic knowledge of the locations of quality exposures allowed us to make the best of our time in the field. We were able to collect all necessary samples and learned a better understanding of the geologic context for emplacement of these rocks. Upon returning to Universidade de Lisboa, I was given full access to the labs of the Geology Department at Universidade de Lisboa which allowed me to process the samples and begin characterization.

Examination and characterization of the samples is an ongoing project, and I will continue to collaborate with my colleagues at Universidade de Lisboa well into the future. This may not have been possible without the aid of Fulbright. Fulbright provided the support for myself and my family to spend time in Portugal; time that was invaluable when considering the level of collaboration and communication to make a project like this successful.

I cannot say enough positive things about my Fulbright experience, it was one of the best periods during my career. Fulbright provided support for my family to accompany me during this amazing adventure. In the down time, in between research, we were able to travel around Portugal and Europe. We all had an amazing time, and we all feel so fortunate to be involved in such a wonderful program.»

Dr. Ryan Kerrigan is Associate Professor in the Energy and Earth Resources (Geology) Department at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in Johnstown, PA.