Last July, James Fallon, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of California, Irvine, traveled on a Fulbright scholarship to the University of Nairobi, Kenya, to build a neuroscience laboratory on the campus from the ground up. "I hadn't taken a sabbatical in 12 years," Fallon says, "and I could have gone to some high-profile place like Cambridge. But I thought, `Why not go to a completely different culture?' And the lure of starting something from scratch and making a lasting impact was absolutely irresistible."

Fallon's enthusiasm for helping his African colleagues build their lab captures the essence of the 43-year-old, federally funded Fulbright Scholar Program, the venerable system of grants bringing together researchers from different countries for scholarly exchanges.

Since the first "Fulbrighters" began their travel in the fall of 1948 in exchanges with China, Burma, and the Philippines, the Fulbright program has mushroomed into a globe-girdling...

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