Chancellor Nicholas Dirks convened an intimate celebration at University House with campus leaders and distinguished faculty and graduate students in mid-October to mark twenty years of Berkeley’s participation in the Hellman Fellows Program which, since 1995, has helped over 300 early career faculty at Berkeley gain critical funding support to advance their scholarship and careers. In addition, the gathering welcomed the first cohort of Hellman Graduate Award recipients. These fourteen doctoral students receive up to $35,000 over 5 years to help advance their research and scholarly activities. Nominations are accepted only from Hellman Fellows faculty.
Susan Muller, Associate Dean of the Graduate Division, attended the reception and remarked on her own experience as a Hellman Faculty Fellow from 1995, and on her enthusiasm for seeing a similar model of crucial research funding made available now to graduate students. “My own career has been buoyed by the foundation of support I received as a Hellman Fellow, and the graduate awards program is a wonderful addition that will help us attract, retain, and support graduate students.”
“The response to the new Hellman Graduate Awards program at UC Berkeley has been extraordinary. We met an impressive group of Hellman Graduate Awardees at the Chancellor’s event and we look forward to learning more about their academic endeavors over time,” says Susan Hirsch, Officer of the Hellman Fellows Fund.
Chelsea Specht, an Associate Professor in the Departments of Plant and Microbial Biology & Integrative Biology who nominated Susan Hepp — a Ph.D. student in Microbiology — says that the Hellman Graduate Award granted Hepp the “ability to work on her own project and develop her own ideas outside of my funded research.” The Hellman Graduate Award allowed Hepp to continue her research in studying how viruses effectively replicate. “It’s a fantastic award, and one of the most brilliant and insightful ways to simultaneously support both graduate students and PIs/mentors that I can imagine,” Specht says.
A third-year graduate student in the Department of Linguistics and a recipient of the Hellman Graduate Award, Zachary O’Hagan says that the additional funding will allow him to pursue the three research projects in which he is currently involved. “My research interests center on the languages, people, and history of Amazonia, and the linguistic theory that falls out from that work,” O’Hagan says. He is particularly interested in studying how the evolution of these languages can reveal population distributions and language contact in the pre-Columbian and early colonial periods. Over the past four years he has also conducted fieldwork on endangered languages in Peru that have less than 10 known speakers.
Sonia Hart — another recipient of the Hellman Graduate Award and a doctoral student in Comparative Ethnic Studies — agrees that the award will allow her to delve into her research, which investigates the divide between mind and body in biomedical approaches to public health. She is currently analyzing non-western healing practices and the influence of race and gender in medical and behavioral science in her studies. “I think becoming a graduate Hellman fellow will insert me into a community of researchers who will help to see my ideas off and create opportunities for academic development that I would not be able to access anywhere else,” Hart says.