Elmhurst Philosophy Professors Win $55,000 Grant

February 8, 2016 | by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Elmhurst College philosophy professors William Hirstein, Katrina Sifferd and Tyler Fagan have won a $55,000 sub-grant from the John Templeton Foundation in support of their research on the philosophy of self-control.

Their sub-grant is part of a major $4 million award given by Templeton to philosopher Al Mele at Florida State University.

The grant, which will provide high-level research opportunities for Elmhurst College undergraduates as well as faculty, supports the professors’ investigations into the determination of criminal guilt and punishment in criminal cases in the light of recent neuroscientific discoveries. The project will culminate in a book entitled The Guilty Brain.

“It’s a real coup for a small liberal arts college to get this type of funding, as philosophy grants are often awarded to faculty in larger research institutions,” said Sifferd.

Five students will work with Hirstein, Sifferd and Fagan on the project, conducting research and helping write up their results for the book. Participating students will also write a piece of publishable research on a related topic, which they will present at the philosophy student symposium this spring. Students will also be asked to submit their work to undergraduate journals and conferences.

Philosophy major Kirsten Rempala ’17 said she applied to participate in the research because of the opportunity to work closely with professionals in the field, and to learn the critical skills required for academic and professional work.

“I’m looking forward to becoming more involved in the philosophical process, and learning what it takes to form thoughts, discuss them in a collaborative environment, put them to paper, and generate work relevant to so many pertinent subjects and fields in today’s world,” she said.

In addition to gaining hands-on experience in the lab, students will be acknowledged in the book for their contributions.

“This experience will make them much more exciting candidates for graduate schools and other opportunities,” Sifferd said.

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