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Four UMD Graduate Students Win Big 10 Academic Alliance/ Smithsonian Fellowships

April 5, 2017

Four University of Maryland graduate students have been awarded the Big 10 Academic Alliance/Smithsonian Institution Fellowship for 2017. These one-year fellowships are offered by the Graduate Deans of the Big 10 Academic Alliance in partnership with the Smithsonian’s Office of Fellowships and Internships and are awarded to outstanding doctoral candidates from Big 10 institutions who intend to conduct research using Smithsonian collections, facilities or experts in cooperation with at least one Smithsonian advisor. UMD had more Fellows this year than any other institution.Dean Franke with BTAA-Smithsonian Fellows

The students awarded fellowships are:

Leann Biancani, Biological Sciences Graduate Program
​Dr. ​Michael Cummings, Advisor

​In ​order to sense light in the deep sea, hyperiid amphipods, a group of pelagic crustaceans, have developed a wide array of unique eye types. In order to study this extreme diversity, Leann is using an integrative approach that includes analyses of hyperiid phylogeny, morphology, and ecology. Leann​'s​ research aims​ to understand the origin and diversification of hyperiid visual strategies by reconstructing the evolutionary history of these complex traits.

Miriam Hiebert, Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Dr. Raymond Phaneuf, Advisor

Miriam's research focuses on developing novel methods of preserving glass cultural heritage objects. The current options available for conserving glass objects are very limited, so my work is intended to determine if applied coatings can slow, stop, or prevent degradation.  She will be working with the Smithsonian at the Museum Conservation Institute to analyze and understand natural and artificial glass degradation mechanisms, and the effect that our applied coatings have on degradation progression.  

Danielle O'Steen, Department of Art History and Archaeology
Dr. Joshua Shannon, Advisor

Danielle is currently writing her dissertation on a history of plastics in American sculpture of the 1960s and 1970s. For her Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Institution Pre-doctoral Fellowship, she will be in residence at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, starting this summer. There she will be researching artworks relevant to her dissertation in Smithsonian collections, under the guidance of Karen Lemmey, SAAM's curator of sculpture.

Rachel Walker, Department of History
Dr. Clare Lyons, Advisor

Rachel's research is an interdisciplinary exploration of beauty, science, and social hierarchy in early America. It focuses on physiognomy: a popular transatlantic science, rooted in the premise that individuals could empirically analyze facial features to discern the internal character of others. By unearthing how people used and abused physiognomy, Rachel's dissertation reveals how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Americans crafted a science of beauty to rationalize the racial, class, and gender hierarchies that defined their worlds. 

The fellowships carry a stipend of $32,700 (plus tuition and health benefits) which is shared on a 50/50 basis by the Smithsonian Institution and the Fellow’s university. UMD students also won this fellowship in 2016 and 2015.

Pictured, from left to right: Rachel Walker, Miriam Hiebert, Jeffrey Franke, interim dean of the Graduate School, Leann Biancani, Danielle O'Steen

Contact Information

The Graduate School
University of Maryland

2123 Lee Building
7809 Regents Drive
College Park, MD 20742

301-405-3644
gradschool@umd.edu