Dancy awarded Sloan fellowship for under-represented students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As a fourth-year doctoral candidate at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) specializing in cognitive science and artificial intelligence, Chris Dancy pursues interdisciplinary scientific study of the human mind and its processes. As a recent recipient of a Sloan Scholar fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which provides funding for underrepresented students to pursue doctorates in mathematics, science and engineering, he now has resources that will enable him to take his research in directions that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

“The scholarship means a lot to me,” Dancy said. “I’ve gotten a lot of academic points due to this scholarship.”

The Sloan Scholars Program specifically targets African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Native Americans. Students receiving Sloan Foundation grants may use the money to pay for professional travel, research, equipment, books and to cover many other needs during their doctoral studies.

Dancy, who is originally from York, Pa., is currently working on his thesis project, which involves running experiments that use a computer model to look at how people’s stress responses change in relation to different choices they make. He is interested in “looking at how physiology and emotion change the way we think.” The Sloan scholarship has enabled him to upgrade his computer, he said, as well as given him the funds to travel to Kiev, Ukraine, in September to attend the Annual Meeting of Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures.

“Being able to travel and present my research is the most important (benefit of the scholarship) because I get to meet more people than I would otherwise,” he said.

Dancy, who majored in computer science as an undergraduate at Penn State, said that he doesn’t think African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Native Americans are discouraged from pursuing graduate degrees in science, engineering and math, but many members of those groups may not be aware of the opportunities that are available to them.

“It’s difficult to see yourself as a grad student if there aren’t a lot of other minorities in grad school,” he said.

In order to raise awareness among minority groups about opportunities for graduate study in science and technology, Dancy said, he gives talks to undergraduate groups such as the National Society of Black Engineers chapter at Penn State.

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Last Updated August 02, 2013