For almost ten years now the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission has offered grants for non-degree research for doctoral students at US universities. These visiting researchers are Bulgarian PhD students who seek to enhance the quality of their dissertation by spending six months at top US academic institutions and conducting research at libraries, archives, laboratories and consulting with faculty. The program continues to yield outstanding results, encouraging Bulgarian researchers in their doctoral studies and opening avenues for global academic collaboration and achievement.  

The program is open to all Bulgarian doctoral students currently enrolled in a PhD program. Given its focus on research, the Visiting Researcher program often fosters continuity and collaboration with Bulgarian Fulbright Scholar alumni, creating clusters of Fulbrighters in different academic institutions who spread knowledge, attract institutional and academic cooperation from US counterparts, and involve colleagues in these academic networks with cutting-edge discoveries.  

One such young Fulbrighter in the field of data science, who recently returned from her study in the US, is Desislava Nikolova from the Technical University of Sofia. Desislava is not only a bright and innovative doctoral researcher but is also a member of a vibrant scientific team that includes her PhD thesis supervisor, Dr. Agatha Manolova, who was a Fulbright scholar in 2013, and her supervisor at Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Stanislav Panev, a Fulbright scholar in 2015. Desislava, Agata and Stanislav illustriously represent the Technical University of Sofia, helping to build bridges to one of the world’s leading technology and innovation institutions: Carnegie Mellon University.  

Here is what Dessi has to say:  

My name is Desislava Nikolova, and I am a Fulbrighter from the 2022-2023 academic year. I’m studying for a PhD in the Faculty of Telecommunications in Technical University of Sofia with my supervisor Associate Professor Agata Manolova. My exchange program was in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My work concerns Human Activity Recognition from video sources, and for my exchange I worked with synthetic data, analyzing the advantages this type of data brings to the field. During my stay there I had the pleasure of working with Professor Jessica K. Hodgins and her team. We managed to create and analyze synthetic human activities and publish the results in a scientific paper. All of this brings me closer to finishing my PhD, which should happen by the end of 2023. 

Since it was my first time in the US, my visit there was the adventure of a lifetime. From the lively streets and bridges of Pittsburgh to the vibrant energy of New York City, to the historical significance of Washington, D.C. and the beautiful beaches of California, each destination offered a unique and captivating experience. The memories created during this exchange program and the people I met there will forever hold a special place in my heart. 

Embarking on a Fulbright exchange in the United States was a dream come true for me, and the opportunity to study at Carnegie Mellon University made it even more special, as it is the best school for robotics in the world. I will be forever thankful to everyone who helped me before, during and after this Fulbright experience!  

To apply for the 2024-25 competition for Bulgarian Visiting Scholars (PhD holders), Visiting Researchers (PhD students), and Civil Society Researchers (NGO representatives), please visit:  

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