At least 13 Yale seniors accepted Fulbright Scholarships this year, International Education and Fellowships Program administrators said this week.

Five of the 18 members of the class of 2007 originally offered grants have declined the awards for other offers, IEFP Fellowships Program Director Linda De Laurentis said. But since the awards are announced on a rolling basis by country, applicants are still waiting to hear from Syria, Italy, France and Chile. A record number of Yale students applied for the scholarship this year, increasing the number of Yale applicants to 62 from last year’s record of 58. The Fulbright is the largest American program offering opportunities to study, research and teach abroad.

Yale winners will be traveling to at least 12 different countries, pursuing projects that range from historical and sociological research to teaching English.

De Laurentis said Yale is always among the top five institutions nationwide in the number of Fulbright winners, in part because of the University’s emphasis on international exposure.

“I think the increase [in applicants] is somewhat due to the fact that we have such an international focus at the University and that more and more students are seeking an international experience,” she said. “If they can’t fit it in during the academic year, they’re going to do it in the year after Yale because once they start working or resume graduate study, they’re just not going to have the opportunity to do it in all likelihood.”

Last year Yale had 31 seniors, graduates and graduate students awarded Fulbrights — the highest number of winners among research institutions. That same year, the Fulbright Program bestowed approximately 6,000 grants totaling more than $235 million to American students, teachers, professionals and scholars. Harvard University had the next-highest number of winners with 25.

De Laurentis emphasized that the Fulbright may be used for a variety of activities in foreign countries, including independent study and research, work with a master artist, bench research in a lab, or an internship or teaching assistant position.

Fulbright winner Rachel Criswell ’07 will be working in the Ukraine with a family planning group on reproductive rights. Since abortion is currently one of the main forms of birth control in the Ukraine, she said, she hopes to campaign for the increased and sustained availability of other forms of precoital birth control, as well as the continued legalization of abortion. Criswell said she may also study for a doctorate while in Kiev.

Jess Heyman ’07, who will be living in Buenos Aires, will conduct research on the ways in which Argentinians cope with the legacy of past military dictatorships by establishing a national discourse about the justice system. In particular, she said she will continue her senior essay research by focusing on the transformation of ESMA, an infamous detention and torture center, into a museum for human rights. She said she will study ESMA and other museums by interviewing people involved in the projects and, if she is fortunate, by participating in public forums and weighing in on the plans for developing these institutions.

“I’m hoping I can provide an outside perspective, a very informed one, and give something back to all the people who will be talking to me and sharing their stories with me over the next year,” said Heyman, who hopes eventually to publish a book on the topic.

Erin Lin ’07 said she plans to study the effects of the government and transnational organizations on public health initiatives in Cambodian urban slums. She will combine the fields of environmental studies and political science to examine the environmental conditions and the health system in the country, along with doing survey work and conducting interviews with local officials. Lin said she became interested in this subject while participating in a program in Cambodia last summer pursuing another independent research project.

“It got me thinking about the role of western countries in development and how they pursue policies that may or may not benefit [the local people and infrastructure],” she said.

Yassmin Sadeghi ’07 is planning to live in Qatar next year in order to research a recently-enacted women’s rights law that allows abused women to obtain help, raises the age of marriage for men and women, and allows women to marry without losing custody rights.

“I think this project is important because it can shed some light on whether or not legal reform is in fact an effective strategy for the advancement of women’s rights in the Arab world, and how we can accelerate this process,” said Sadeghi, who said the law is so recent that no major studies have yet been conducted on its implications.

Sadeghi is a former News editor for the News.

Alex White ’07 said he will work in a visual perception lab in the psychology department at the University of Sydney next year, conducting experiments on time perception and visual feature binding. He may also earn a master’s degree from the university concurrent with his research, which he said is similar to the work he has done in Yale professor Brian Scholl’s cognitive science lab.

White is a former photography editor for the News.

Other Fulbright winners’ plans include conducting epilepsy research in a Paris neuroscience lab; studying socioecological conflicts in Ecuador; working in an atomic physics research lab in Mainz, Germany; acting as a teaching assistant in Rostock, Germany; and studying the integration of former child soldiers into El Salvadorian society.

The U.S. Department of State has sponsored the Fulbright Program since 1946.