Five From UMass Amherst Receive Prestigious Fellowships from NSF

AMHERST, Mass. - Five current or former University of Massachusetts students have won prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF). One is a senior in physics; three are graduate students in linguistics; and one is a 1997 graduate who majored in linguistics and philosophy. A total of 766 fellowships were awarded this year.

The winners include Elizabeth Lee Foley, of Weston, Mass., a senior majoring in physics and astronomy, who will attend the University of Chicago after she graduates in May. She has received all A’s during her four years at UMass. She was one of 35 students to receive Graduate Research Fellowships in physics.

Also receiving a fellowship was Nathan Vaillette, who received a 1997 B.A. degree from UMass with a joint major in linguistics and philosophy. He is currently a first-year Ph.D. student in linguistics at Ohio State University. The remaining fellowships went to three current Ph.D. students in linguistics: Nancy Hall, who did her undergraduate work at Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Semitic languages; and Meredith Landman and Marcin Morzycki, who both did their undergraduate work at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where their professors included three alumni of the UMass Amherst linguistics department.

Each fellowship winner will receive a stipend of $15,000 in 1998-99. In addition, NSF gives the University an annual cost-of-education allowance of $9,500 for each graduate student receiving the award at UMass.

According to Ellen Woolford, head of the department of linguistics, the Ph.D. program in linguistics at UMass takes five or six years to complete. NSF will support Hall, Landman, and Morzycki for three years, and the department will employ them as teaching or research assistants for the balance of the program. Woolford pointed out that of the nine fellowships awarded in the field of linguistics, four went to current or former students affiliated with the UMass department.

In the 1995 National Research Council (NRC) survey of graduate programs, the linguistics department was ranked first nationally in quality of graduate education and fourth in the quality of program faculty.

Lee Edwards, dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, said: "It’s always great to have the quality of our programs recognized and to add these awards from the NSF to the accolades from the NRC. With our new undergraduate major approved by the trustees, we’re truly in an excellent position to make research and teaching in linguistics a seamless whole."

The physics and astronomy department is the only University department to boast a Nobel Prize. The 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to former department professor Joseph Taylor Jr. and his student Russell Hulse for their discovery of a binary pulsar system while at UMass in the mid-1970s. Hulse earned a doctorate degree in physics at UMass in 1972.