URI oceanography professor selected for Fulbright Award to advance ocean renewable energy

KINGSTON, R.I. – Jan. 10, 2022 — Stephan Grilli, distinguished professor of ocean engineering and oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, has received the Fulbright Tocqueville Distinguished Chair Award to conduct research and teach in France.

Grilli will lecture at SeaTech, the engineering school of the University of Toulon, give seminars and work with colleagues on collaborative research projects related to extreme ocean waves and ocean renewable energy (wind and waves).

Unlike other Fulbright awards that are dedicated to specific disciplines such as engineering or science, the Tocqueville is given to a single recipient at any given time and accepts candidates from any discipline.

“It’s extremely competitive because you’re going against physicists, medical doctors, all the disciplines,” said Grilli.

Fulbright recipients engage in cutting-edge research and expand their professional networks, often continuing research collaborations started abroad and laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions. As Fulbright Scholar alumni, their careers are enriched by joining a network of thousands of esteemed scholars, many of whom are leaders in their fields. Fulbright alumni include 60 Nobel Prize laureates, 88 Pulitzer Prize recipients, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.

It will be Grilli’s fourth sabbatical, so he knows the trip will involve more work than some may think. “My experience is that you end up working almost double schedules because when you get home at 4 p.m. over there, it’s 10 here, and you start getting the U.S. activities.”

Grilli has been a visiting professor in France, Germany, Spain, and Morocco and has lectured in many other countries, including China, Japan and Korea. He is the recipient of 7 international awards, including the 2008 C.H. Kim Award of the International Society of Offshore and Polar Engineers (ISOPE) “in recognition of outstanding technical achievements in and exceptional contribution to floating-body hydrodynamics.”

Grilli is one of over 800 U.S. citizens who will conduct research and/or teach abroad for the 2021-22 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. He will spend much of his time doing ocean engineering.

“SeaTech is exploring a lot of trends for ocean renewable energy, including floating offshore wind turbines,” Grilli said. In addition to the main institution where he will be based, there will be visits to other laboratories, all related to ocean engineering or ocean renewable energy.

“Over the years we have made many connections in France, so it’s sort of going home; there is a feeling of going back to a culture that we know, but at the same time we bring in the American culture. Academia is quite different there, and that’s the whole idea of this Fulbright exchange.”

Grilli has been a member of the URI faculty since 1991. He received a master of science degree in civil engineering, a master of science degree in oceanography, and a Ph.D. from the University of Liège (Belgium).