UMass campus shot Spotlight Scholars

Spotlight Scholars

The Spotlight Scholars initiative shines a light on faculty working for positive social change through research, scholarship, and creative activity. Learn more about the work of these leading minds.

A call for nominations will be issued once a year at the beginning of fall semester. Nominations for the Spotlight Scholar award are currently closed. Find information on the nomination process, eligibility, and recognition.

See an archive of older Spotlight Scholars.

Meet the Spotlight Scholars

David Cort

Combining a passion for equity with expertise in demographics, sociologist David Cort is dedicated to research on public health and residential stratification that can alleviate social problems in the U.S. and South Africa.

Shelly Peyton

Shelly Peyton leads an interdisciplinary and international group of UMass Amherst engineers and molecular cell biologists who bioengineer artificial materials and use them to study breast cancer and traumatic brain injury.

Monideepa Tarafdar

As one of the first scholars to identify and study technostress, Monideepa Tarafdar has influenced other scholars, companies, and governments with her work, from examining the dark and bright sides of social media use to understanding bias in artificial intelligence-based hiring.

Gretchen Gerzina

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina has dedicated her career to illuminating the lives of others in biographies that bring to light unknown facets of the lives of well-known figures as well as the lives of those overlooked by history.

Professor Ramesh Sitaraman

Over the past two decades, Ramesh Sitaraman has helped keep the internet running through major world events and calamities—most recently, COVID-19.

Tatishe Nteta

Tatishe Nteta, director of the UMass Poll, conducts groundbreaking research on the underlying dynamics of political attitudes, opinions, and behaviors.

Laura Balzer

As the primary biostatistician for three cluster randomized trials in East Africa, Laura Balzer's work has had a great impact on the global effort to end HIV.

James Smethurst

A scholar of 20th-century African American literature, culture and intellectual history, James Smethurst's research interests includes the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Jane Kent

For over two decades, kinesiologist Jane Kent has studied muscular decline associated with aging. She is interested in promoting behavioral changes to break the vicious cycle that leads to muscular breakdown.

Sabina Murray

Professor and fiction author Sabina Murray is inspired in her writing by histories, both public and private.

Stephane Willocq

Particle physicist Stephane Willocq is involved in the largest physics collaboration in the world as he works on the very small leads toward revolutionary breakthroughs in science and the search for new phenomena.

Paul Musgrave

Political scientist Paul Musgrave studies how domestic politics shape foreign policy, and frequently shares his research with media outlets such as The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and Slate.

Jamila Lyiscott

As a professor of social justice education, Jamila Lyiscott has devoted her career to challenging the accepted notions of a pedagogy rooted in colonialism, with its emphasis on “civilizing” those from outside the traditional framework.

Britt Rusert

A published scholar of Black literature and culture, Britt Rusert's research addresses unique aspects of the history of racial science in the United States.

Rebecca Spencer

Director of the UMass Amherst Sleep Monitoring Lab Rebecca Spencer is working to solve the mysteries of sleep, with both medical and legislative implications.

Andrew McCallum

As founder and director of the UMass Center for Data Science, Andrew McCallum's pioneering work in machine learning, information extraction, and artificial intelligence has helped steer the center, and the university, to the forefront of data science research and development.

Alasdair Roberts

Alasdair Roberts brings a fascination with complex problem solving and an aptitude for clear-headed analysis to his study of policy making and governance.

Arindrajit Dube

Arindrajit "Arin" Dube is widely considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on the economic effects of minimum wage policies. His landmark research has challenged conventional wisdom on the subject.

Whitney Battle-Baptiste

As a historical archeologist focusing on the African Diaspora through the lens of race, gender, and class, Whitney Battle-Baptiste discovers ways to use archeological interpretation as a tool for social and political change.

Kevin L. Young

Kevin L. Young's innovative use of “big data” and seemingly endless appetite for rigorous analysis has made him one of his generation’s leading scholars of international political economy.