UA Students Earn NSF Fellowships

Three University of Arizona graduate students have earned National Science Foundation fellowships.

Jose Manuel Alvarez and Joshua Holst, both anthropology students, along with linguisitics student, Kara Hawthorne, have received the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship, which provides $90,000 over a three-year period.

"Winning the award was an overwhelming surprise -- it was like wining the academic lottery," Alvarez said.

The foundation's Web site notes that its program "recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in the relevant science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees."

Those who are awarded NSF fellowships are expected "to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching and innovations in science and engineering," according to the foundation.

"I am extremely grateful for this award, and at the same time, there is a great sense of responsibility to fulfill. It is an honor to see that my personal sacrifices, hard work and perseverance continue to be acknowledged," Alvarez said.

With his grant, Alvarez wil examine multicrafting within households by analyzing the variability in flaked stone tools from floor and trash mound contexts at the Marana Mound site in the Tortolita Mountains.

The project will contribute to the understanding of the Marana Mound site and Hohokam prehistory and shed light on the relationship between domestic and external trade activities.

Holst has worked in five countries, speaks four languages and has five years of experience designing programs for nonprofits.

The NSF fellowship will enable Holst to conduct an ethnography on the "resource curse," a phenomenon where countries that are exporting primary commodities face an increased risk of armed conflict.

He will collaborate with the Jungle Quichua communities inhabiting the Ecuadorian-Colombian border to do a dual ethnology. During his research, he will work with decision-makers within the petroleum industry impacting the region.

The ethnology will include participant observation, key informant interviews, focus groups and video analysis.

Hawthorne, a doctoral degree candidate, will conduct three research projects to study language acquisition in children between the ages of 2 and 7.

"It's quite an honor, and it has motivated me to get an early start to my research career," Hawthorse said. "Research in language acquisition is a crucial step in understanding normal development, so that we are better able to help those with developmental problems."