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Philosophy professor wins prestigious NSF Scholar's Award

  • Matthew Haug
    Matthew Haug  The assistant professor of philosophy recently received the NSF grant – a Scholar's Award grant -- in the amount of $137,297.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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A recent grant from the National Science Foundation could enable researchers at William & Mary to gain a better understanding of how to properly treat mental disorders.

Matthew Haug, assistant professor of philosophy at the College, recently received the NSF grant - a Scholar's Award grant -- in the amount of $137,297.

Haug's research aims to further investigate the relationship between the mind and body of an individual by researching the trends between philosophic naturalism and metaphysics.

When completed, Haug's research will benefit other philosophers as well as the medical field by helping to better understand the boundary of the physical and mental properties of the human body. According to Haug, the research could solve questions as to how widespread mental disorders should be treated and whether current treatments are deficient in any way.

"My hope is that the project provides the theoretical resources to clarify, and help resolve, public policy debates about the appropriate uses of pharmaceuticals, cognitive enhancement, and genetic therapies," Haug said. "It may reveal limitations of these treatments in a way that is consistent with the view that we are physical creatures. Thus, the results of this project will likely be of interest to neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, psychiatrists, and behavioral geneticists, as well as philosophers."

The NSF, an independent federal agency created in 1950 by the United States Congress, with the ongoing mission of promoting the progress of science, advancing national health, prosperity, and welfare, and securing the national defense, according to their Web site. The foundation, which awards over 10,000 grants every year and has funded over 170 Nobel Prize winners, is generally regarded among scholars as the most prestigious grant organization in the U.S.

In a branch of the NSF in which 75 percent of proposals get rejected initially and first-time proposal rejection rates are even higher, Haug said that the notification of an award was breathtaking.

While NSF grants in philosophy are uncommon, Haug knew it was still a possibility. Haug also received an NSF grant while a graduate student at Cornell University. But this was the first time he applied for a Scholar's Award.

Initially, he thought it was a long shot.

"I'm delighted to have won the grant," Haug said. "I didn't expect it."

Haug intends to use the grant money to fund his research throughout the 2010-2011 academic year. The funding will support his work as well as the hiring of a part-time undergraduate assistant who will assist in a literature review of the research.

Dennis Manos, vice provost for research at the College, said that part of the William and Mary experience is being around wonderful instructors like Haug.

"One of the coolest things about being at William & Mary is being surrounded by superb professors like Matt Haug who can reach out to the National Science Foundation and bring home major funding for research in philosophy," he said.