Being a Fulbright VSR Creates Opportunities

Fulbright Iceland

Fulbright Iceland

Orri Smárason, Visiting Student Researcher 2023

During the spring semester of 2023, I was a Visiting Student Researcher at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. The stay was part of my doctoral studies at the Department of Psychology at the University of Iceland. My main supervisor during my PhD, Professor Guðmundur Skarphéðinsson, encouraged me to look at opportunities to study abroad for part of my doctoral studies. When I came across an advertisement for a Fulbright event, I jumped at the chance to attend, which led to my application. My doctoral committee included Dr. Eric A. Storch, Professor and Chief of Psychology at Baylor College of Medicine, who immediately liked the idea of me coming to Baylor. Originally the plan was for my family to accompany me to Houston, but in the end, we decided it would be easier for me to go alone for a little over a four-month long stay.

When I arrived at Baylor College of Medicine, I was immediately shown a lot of trust and from the first day I had the opportunity to participate in large and important projects. I believe that Fulbright grantees enjoy a certain reputation as such, and therefore I was trusted without hesitation to take responsibility. I joined a large research team that leads many large studies in the field of child psychology, both on its own and within international collaborations. A lot of data is collected in the team’s work, and my role was primarily to do statistical analysis of the available data and write scientific articles, in collaboration with others, for publication in academic journals. During my four-month stay, eight scientific articles were submitted for peer review. In addition, 11 other articles are still in progress. I also participated in the planning of future research projects and the preparation and writing of large grant applications to finance them. This was, therefore, an extremely productive, exciting, and informative time in my academic career.

My stay in Houston made it clear to me that I want to do academic work in the future and aim to continue to do research work in my field of study. Primarily, my research focuses on improving the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders, which are often highly debilitating conditions, in children and adolescents. I have now finished my PhD and currently work as a researcher and clinician at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Landspitali University Hospital. I also continue to work on research projects with the team in Houston and my collaboration with the people I met there is only just beginning.