SPECTRUM – Dr. Mandal’s Fulbright Journey: From Goa, India, to Cairo, Egypt

March 11, 2024 By Jason Roth

In the realm of academic pursuits, few experiences match the richness and diversity offered by the prestigious Fulbright Program. Five years ago, Manas Mandal, PhD, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences for Roseman University’s College of Pharmacy, embarked on an extraordinary Fulbright journey taking him from Roseman University’s Henderson campus to vibrant campuses in India and Egypt. His Fulbright experience is a blend of intellectual enrichment, global collaboration, and a deep commitment to advancing knowledge.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Mandal reflected on his first Fulbright Specialist appointment in September 2019, a pivotal moment that set the stage for his globetrotting academic venture. “Little did I know that this would be the prelude to a remarkable expedition spanning continents,” he mused. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 brought the world to a standstill, forcing a recalibration of academic norms and delaying the start of his teaching abroad. “As travel restrictions took hold, the landscape of education underwent a paradigm shift. Remote teaching and learning became the norm, and the prospect of international Fulbright projects dimmed temporarily,” Dr. Mandal remarked.

Undeterred, he saw a silver lining in the challenges. In Spring 2022, Dr. Mandal officially received the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board’s nod for a Nehru-Fulbright Award, taking him to the Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS) Pilani in Goa, India to teach molecular immunology to master’s students in the Biological Sciences Department “Teaching and interacting with students, faculty, and administrators at BITS were immensely fulfilling,” said Dr. Mandal.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Mandal helped organize a two-day symposium titled “COVID-19: The Lessons Learned,” bringing together leading scientists from industry and academia, and clinicians to reexamine and disseminate our understanding of the pandemic. The symposium garnered tremendous enthusiasm among participants, including students, faculty, and staff.

What distinguishes Dr. Mandal’s Fulbright narrative is not only his teaching prowess but also his commitment to fostering enduring collaborations. His association with BITS burgeoned into an adjunct faculty appointment, paving the way for research mentorship and a unique startup venture by his students in India. “My objective was not just to impart knowledge but to instill a learning model. The success of my students in the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Summer Workshop in Brunswick, Germany in 2023 and their subsequent startup is a testament to the ripple effect of quality education,” he said.

Before venturing to Goa, Dr. Mandal sought another opportunity with the Fulbright program, applying for a full Fulbright Scholarship for Egypt. Titled “Infection and Immunity: COVID-19 and Beyond,” it earned recognition as a top-tier Fulbright award. The rigorous evaluation process, including a personal interview with the Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt, culminated in a grant award letter from the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in August 2023 to teach in the Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy at Helwan University outside of Cairo. Dr. Mandal’s reflections on the accolade were poignant: “To be told that ‘your grant is a reflection of your leadership and contributions to society’ is truly humbling and gratifying.”

Touching down in Cairo on October 5, Dr. Mandal found himself navigating the rhythm of daily life on Zamalek, an island neighborhood located in middle of the Nile River. His tenure at Helwan University, Cairo, involved teaching microbiology and immunology to enthusiastic students. The challenges of commuting and resource disparities didn’t dampen his spirits. “The students’ eagerness to learn from a U.S. faculty was palpable. My teaching model aimed at exposing them to the objective based Roseman pedagogy, and the positive response was overwhelming,” he recounted.

Beyond the lecture halls, Dr. Mandal left his mark at Helwan by organizing seminars and symposiums. Collaborating with Professor Haidy Khalil at the Helwan’s Faculty of Medicine, their “COVID-19 Symposium” brought together minds from basic and science faculties, and clinicians. Dr. Mandal’s talk on “COVID-19 Variants, Vaccines, and Immune Protection” resonated with the audience. His engagement was ultimately extended to a 3-hour seminar with the Fulbright Commission and the Ministry of Health, addressing Clinical Pathologists of the Central Laboratories of Egypt at the Princess Fatma Academy of Cairo.

While in Egypt, Dr. Mandal received an invitation to the first Mediterranean Fulbright Symposium in Alicante, Spain. Among 40 Fulbrighters from Mediterranean countries, he presented on the “Importance of Science Communication and Health Equity in COVID-19.” The symposium provided a relaxed setting to exchange ideas and experiences.

Reflecting on his overall impression of Cairo, Dr. Mandal underscored the kindness of common people and observed a striking facet of Egyptian society—Women Empowerment. “Over 95 percent of the faculty I worked with at Helwan University are women, holding diverse academic ranks. This “woman” face of Egypt deserves recognition beyond its borders,” he emphasized.

As he traversed the historical landscapes of Cairo and beyond, exploring museums, pyramids, and temples, Dr. Mandal’s Fulbright journey was a dream come true. He shares his gratitude for Roseman’s College of Pharmacy and the U.S.-Egypt Binational Fulbright Commission, recognizing that none of his experiences would have been possible without their support.

As a result of Dr. Mandal’s Fulbright endeavors, on February 13 the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recognized Roseman for being a Top Producer of Fulbright U.S. Scholars among Special Focus institutions. Roseman was one of only 11 Special Focus institutions recognized.