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Leung Receives Fulbright Award to Continue Studies Abroad

two photos of a women's track and field athlete jumping into sand with a portrait image of her framed in the middle

Carnegie Mellon University women's track and field athlete Francine Leung has her post-graduation plans set thanks to a Fulbright award she earned from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Leung is the fifth women's track and field athlete to earn a Fulbright award to continue her studies abroad.

The Fulbright Program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others' viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.

Leung has chosen to work and study a field she's been a participant in for the past four years at Carnegie Mellon – athletics, and most specifically, the effects of running shoes and track spikes.

"My own difficulties with finding comfortable shoes, especially given the narrow and unsupportive nature of track spikes, is what led me to want to pursue research related to shoes," said Leung.

A mechanical engineering student who primarily competes in the long jump and triple jump for the Tartans, Leung will start a three-year program at Loughborough University in England in October, to pursue a Ph.D. in Sports Biomechanics.

Under the joint supervision of Dr. Sam Allen in the Sports Biomechanics and Motor Control group and Dr. Steph Forrester in the Sports Technology Institute, she will investigate the effects of running shoes and surface properties on running performance using forward dynamics musculoskeletal simulation.

"I first found Loughborough because it was ranked first in the world for sports-related subjects for six (now seven) years in a row," said Leung. "My dream is to work at a sports equipment or shoe manufacturing company and use my knowledge of computer simulation technologies from my PhD research to improve equipment for athletes in a way that enhances both safety and performance."

Through her mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering programs, Leung has learned that computer simulation allows researchers to analyze the effect of changing parameters without having to subject athletes to potentially unfavorable or fatiguing conditions.

"I would love to design track spikes for jumping to reduce the impact forces on athletes' joints, but I know that is a very niche job position," added Leung. "Another one of my interests is in the design of prosthetics for sports. Disability should not be a barrier to participating in sports, and if engineers can use technology to reduce these barriers, then we should."

Leung has enjoyed her track and field career and recognizes everyone should have an opportunity to find joy in playing sports stating, "Some of my best memories are from practicing with my teammates and competing together."

Although her research won't be in prosthetics, she believes her program will provide her with the ability to apply my biomechanics knowledge to other topics of research, should her career take her in that direction.

"One of the things that drew me to CMU was how well the mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering programs integrate with each other because I knew I wanted to study biomechanics in sports," said Leung. "I have always loved being active and I also have a passion for using creativity to solve problems."

Leung is looking forward to a return stay in England, as she attended a summer camp at Oxford for a month in 2016 studying Latin and physics.

"During my time there, I knew I wanted to return to England for school at some point in the future," said Leung. "I also have some relatives who recently moved to England from Hong Kong, so it will be nice to get to know them better since I haven't had many opportunities to see them growing up."

Leung also has plans to explore England and immerse herself in the community by joining Loughborough's climbing team and volunteering as a track coach in the local community through the university's Coach and Volunteer Academy.

"I'm very grateful for everyone who has supported me through the application process," said Leung. "I can't wait to see what comes next!"