2008-2009 JREF Scholarship Winners PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Phil Plait   

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is pleased to announce the winners of the academic scholarships for 2008. Each year, a total of $10,000 is awarded to students who have shown extraordinary ability in using critical thinking in their field of study, who will actively pursue building critical thinking skills into their field, and who research the use of critical thinking in their field.

These qualities are judged by how closely they reflect the goals and values of the James Randi Educational Foundation: bringing critical thinking to the public, exposing pseudoscientific frauds, and promoting real science and rationality.

The winners of 2008 academic scholarships are:

James Randi Educational Foundation Press Release

For immediate release

The JREF 2008 Academic Scholarship Winners

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is pleased to announce the winners of the academic scholarships for 2008. Each year, a total of $10,000 is awarded to students who have shown extraordinary ability in using critical thinking in their field of study, who will actively pursue building critical thinking skills into their field, and who research the use of critical thinking in their field.

These qualities are judged by how closely they reflect the goals and values of the James Randi Educational Foundation: bringing critical thinking to the public, exposing pseudoscientific frauds, and promoting real science and rationality.

The winners of 2008 academic scholarships are:

Pavel Petkov ($5000: Top Prize)

Mr. Petkov is a PhD student in literature with a solid history of academic achievement at the University of Veliko Turnovo in Bulgaria. The JREF was very impressed by his outreach activities, including his instigation of a Critical Thinking club on his campus where there has been no history of such skeptical clubs in Bulgaria. The goal of this club is “… to make critical thinkers out of as many students as possible… [to] discuss and illustrate the principles of the scientific method of dealing with the world and explaining reality [and] focus on giving rational explanations to seemingly paranormal phenomena.” Petkov’s passion is to push back against the onslaught of paranormal thinking that has taken over since the fall of communism by initiating a skeptical movement on his campus. His elegant essay was very persuasive in the need for more rationalism in his country.

Tamas Borbely ($2500)

Mr. Borbely is working on a BS degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex in England. Borbely’s goals for the scholarship include producing a presentation to give at the Undergraduate Conference of the British Psychological Society concerning the psychology of irrational belief as well as other forms of skeptical outreach and activism. As he stated in his scholarship application, “Although there has been substantial research into the cognitive fallacies and biases, social influences and personality characteristics that help perpetuate false beliefs, relatively little attention has been focused on how these principles apply to superstition, belief in the paranormal, and religion.” With the help of the scholarship, Borbely will be able to continue his investigation into these topics.

Joseph Meyer ($1500)

Mr. Meyer holds Masters degrees in psychology from The College of William and Mary in Virginia and Columbia University in New York, and he is pursuing his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Boston University. A goal of his doctoral research will be "to apply methodological scrutiny to studies declaring by fiat that religious beliefs are good for mental health." Meyer’s stellar academic history in both his undergraduate and graduate work clearly show that his pursuit of this research will yield interesting insight.

Alan Jern ($1000)

Mr. Jern recently finished a BS degree in computer science with an overall 3.9 GPA from UCLA, and he plans to use the scholarship funds towards graduate school in cognitive science at Carnegie Mellon. He will investigate why logical reasoning seems to be easier for some people rather than others, and investigate educational techniques that can bridge this gap.

James Randi, JREF Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors, is pleased to offer these scholarships to support the winners’ academic endeavors. “Getting people to think critically can be very difficult, but we’re greatly encouraged by the dedication and vision of these young researchers. We’re very glad to be able to support them in their work, and we expect to see great things from them in the future.”

The academic scholarship winners are chosen by a committee consisting of scientific researchers and outreach professionals. This is the second contiguous year of scholarship grants, and over the course of the program well over $20,000 has been given to deserving applicants. More information about the scholarships, including applications for the 2009 awards, can be found at http://www.randi.org/joom/jref-scholarships.html.

The JREF was established in 1996 as a registered 501(c)3 organization under the IRS code, and as such, all donations to the Foundation are tax-exempt to the full extent under the law. For further information and media inquiries, contact the JREF:
Via phone: +1-954-467-1112
Via email: jref@randi.org