Nancy Nersessian Awarded NEH Fellowship

February 7, 2005

Cognitive Science Professor Recognized for Her Research on Human Creativity in Science and Engineering

Nancy Nersessian, professor and director of the Cognitive Science Program at the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, has been awarded a year-long fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for academic year 2005-06.

Nersessian’s research focuses on human creativity in science and engineering. A major theme of this research is the model-based reasoning practices through which scientists created novel understandings of nature. She has investigated these practices in historical cases of conceptual change in physics and in ethnographic studies of problem solving in interdisciplinary bio-engineering laboratories (PI, Wendy Newsletter, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Co - PI: "Laboratory Learning: Model-Based Reasoning in Research and Instructional Laboratories," 2004 - 2007 REC0411825, and "Biomedical Engineering Thinking and Learning: The Challenge of Integrating Systems and Analogical Thinking," 2001 - 2004 REC0106773). The award will assist her theoretical work on an integrative account of the complex cognitive and cultural systems which give rise to the physical and computational models researchers construct to simulate biological phenomena in problem solving and in learning.

In addition, Nersessian is currently at work on a book, Creating Concepts: Model-based reasoning in conceptual change, to be published by MIT Press.

Upon receiving the honor, Nersessian said "I am pleased and honored to have the Endowment recognize my contributions as important to the humanities. Although as a interdisciplinary cognitive scientist my research focuses on science and engineering, I strongly believe, based on years of research, that creativity in the humanities, arts, and sciences forms but one spectrum, and this is most visible in the kinds of modeling practices with which I am concerned. The award will enable me to have a sustained period of reflection and writing about the interplay of cognition and culture in these."

This year’s NEH fellowship program is very competitive. Nersessian was among 193 recipients from a pool of 1,470 fellowship applications this year, a success rate of 13 percent. Created in 1965, the National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the US government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities. Proposals are evaluated by a panel of experts outside of NEH and are then submitted to the National Council on the Humanities. The council then makes recommendations to the NEH chairman, who has the final authority over which proposals receive the grant.

Nersessian has an A.B. in Physics and Philosophy from Boston University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Philosophy. She is author of numerous publications, and has been appointed jointly at Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy and the College of Computing since 1993. She has been a Fulbright Research Scholar at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, a Fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, a Senior Fellow of the Pittsburgh Center for the Philosophy of Science, a Senior Fellow of the Dibner Institute at MIT and has taught at several institutions, including the Technical University of Twente, the Netherlands and Princeton University. In 2003-4 she was Chair of the Cognitive Science Society.