Sara Schaal is a doctoral in marine science at Northweatern, studying the population structure of codfish to enhance the fisheries industry.
Scholarship Years: 2018 – 2019
Ninna Palmadottir is an MFA student in film at New York University, creating and previewing a short film called “Paperboy” and a feature screenplay.
Scholarship Years: 2018 – 2019
Thomas Kennedy is a masters student in civil engineering at Virginia Tech, studying ground wave amplification effects to improve earthquake resistant building structures.
Hrafnhildur Marta Guðmundsdóttir
Scholarship Years: 2018 – 2019
Hrafnhildur Marta Guðmundsdóttir is a masters student in cello performance at Indiana, focusing hon her solo and chamber music performance.
Scholarship Years: 2018 – 2019
Solveig Einarsdottir is a masters student in electrical engineering at Stanford, studying power electronics coordination with renewable energy, plus medical applications.
Scholarship Years: 2018 – 2019
Jodie Childers is a doctoral student in English at Massachusetts, studying how Halldor Laxness represented America as a land of promise and an encroaching threat.
Scholarship Years: 2018 – 2019
Grace Cesario is a doctoral student at CUNY Graduate Center, studying diet changes on Hegranes, 87- to 1300 AD, to reconstruct subsistence pactices.
Kristinn Már Ársælsson
Scholarship Years: 2018 – 2019
Kristinn Már Ársælsson is a doctoral student in sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying the cohesion theory to strengthen political democracies.
Scholarship Years: 2018 – 2019
Roddy Akeel is a masters student in sustainable engineering at Reykjavik University, studying the transition from stable nonrenewable energy sources to renewable fluctuating sources.
Scholarship Years: 2018 – 2019
Christina Anya is a doctoral student in Biology at Oklahoma State, Studying the effects of climate change on parasites in ecosystems in Arctic regions.
Kevin Gibbons is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Anthropology and Archaeoloeaagy at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on understanding patterns of livestock management and landscape change in Iceland from its Viking Age settlement to the early Modern period. Using zooarchaeological methods, Kevin explores variations in the shape and size of animal bones that provide information on sex, breed, climate, nutrition, stalling, and castration. These data thus offer evidence of human decision-making and paleoenvironmental conditions fixed together in a single source. His research aims to link three-dimensional morphometrical data from animal remains excavated from archaeological sites with existing tephrachronological data to investigate how humans decided to manage livestock and natural capital in the face of rapidly shifting vegetation regimes and eroding soils.
Kevin earned his M.Sc. degree in environmental archaeology and palaeoeconomy at the University of Sheffield in 2010 and a B.A. in anthropology at the University of Georgia in 2009. He is currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland while contributing to research for the National Park Service and teaching courses at American University. He lives in Washington, D.C.
David Már Stefánsson
David Mar Stefansson is a master’s degree student at the Columbia University School of the Arts in New York. He’s a part of the Film MFA program and his concentration is screenwriting with emphasis on TV writing. Before Columbia University, David Mar completed a BA degree in philosophy and creative writings from the University of Iceland and worked for a several years as a journalist for Morgunbladid.
David Mar had the honor of being chosen to be the Television Academy’s drama scriptwriting intern for the year 2017. The program brought him to Los Angeles for six months where he worked closely with Josephson Entertainment and got first hand experience of how the industry and Hollywood works. David Mar wrote treatments and script coverage and partook in pitch meetings with Warner Bros. and Sony. Still a student at Columbia University, David Mar is working on his graduation portfolio as well as writing a few student short films for his fellow Film MFA students, one of which recently got awarded the Jack Larson Award. “Rabbits”, a student film he wrote for a director from Kansas also received awards at the Tallgrass Film Festival, the New Hampshire Film Festival and the Asheville Film Festival last year.
Despite still being at school, David Mar has recently had the fortune of a getting exciting professional projects. He has been hired to write a television show based on popular Icelandic crime fiction, translate feature scripts and give script consulting. Most recently, David Mar is working on a script which bridges the gap between North America and Iceland. The script, which is a close collaboration with a couple of artists, is going to be pitched for a handful of prestigious productions companies in Los Angeles in July and August.
Adam Netzer Zimmer is a biocultural anthropologist pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a member of the Violence & Conflict Laboratory run by Dr. Ventura Pérez, where he manages the Taphonomic Research Facility and acts as the Visual/Digital Content Editor for the peer-reviewed journal, Landscapes of Violence. He is also the lead instructor for the UMass Amherst Bioarchaeology & Forensic Anthropology Field School.
Adam’s research interests focus on the intersections of identity, policy, violence, and health in bioarchaeology, forensic anthropology, and medicine. His dissertation project is on cadaver recruitment policies that enabled anatomical dissections in medical schools, focusing on the differences between Iceland and the United States in the late 1800s. This project has been funded by the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation and the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. As a part of this research, Adam has been examining human remains in both Iceland and the U.S. that were used for anatomical teaching. His goal is to ascertain who these individuals were in life and how their bodies have been transformed in death.
Funding from the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation enabled Adam to conduct research on human remains housed in the National Museum of Iceland, as well as at Læknagarður Medical School. It also enabled him to collaborate with Icelandic scholars at the University of Iceland who are looking at more modern manifestations of inequalities in Nordic states and the subsequent health outcomes of these inequalities.
Kari Hólmar Ragnarsson
Kári Hólmar Ragnarsson received his B.A. and M.A. law degrees from the University of Iceland. After graduating he practiced law at Réttur – Aðalsteinsson & Partners, a litigation-focused firm in Reykjavík, with particular strengths in the fields of constitutional and human rights law. Kári became a partner at the firm in 2011. In 2014-2015 he completed the LLM program at Harvard Law School with a concentration in international human rights.
Kári was awarded the support of the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation in relation to his ongoing pursuit of a doctorate (SJD) at Harvard Law School. The title of his dissertation project is “Socio-economic Rights and Neoliberalism After the 2008 Financial Crisis” and his main academic interests are law and political economy, comparative constitutional law and international and European human rights. The project focuses on the political-economic and distributional impact of different approaches to economic and social rights protections in constitutional and international law, with particular focus on European case-law on post-2008 austerity measures. Additionally, Kári teaches international human rights law at the University of Iceland.
Sant Mukh Khalsa
Sant Mukh Khalsa had an international and multicultural childhood. She also spent her teenage summers working as a gardener. So naturally, as an adult, she decided that the only career for her was the travel and outdoors lifestyle of archaeology. Sant Mukh is a PhD candidate in Archaeology at The City University of New York’s Graduate Center, where she also received her MA and MPhil. Her research focuses on Icelandic and North Atlantic interactions with Europe during the development of Late Medieval political economies. Her primary research site, the Late Medieval Icelandic fishing station of Gufuskálar, is a collaboration between archaeologists and other scientists from the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization and Fornleifastofnun Íslands.
She specializes in metal artifacts and her dissertation investigates artifacts from Gufuskálar and the role of preindustrial European trade goods in Medieval Iceland. Gufuskálar has nearly three thousand excavated artifacts. Funding from the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation has enabled Sant Mukh to work in Reykjavik, Iceland at Fornleifastofnun Íslands to catalogue metal artifacts from Gufuskálar, which make up more than half of the collection. This artifact catalogue will be the basis of her dissertation research data and will also provide a broader picture of Late Medieval Iceland and its interconnections with trading partners to the east.
Helga Kristín Auðunsdóttir
Helga holds an LL.M. in US and Transactional Law from the University of Miami where she was the recipient of the Cobb-Family Fellowship. Prior to that she obtained a Masters of Laws degree and a B.Sc. degree in Business and Law from Bifrost University. She has also studied law in Greece at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Helga is an Assistant Professor at Bifrost University in Iceland where her main academic fields to date have been company law, legal methods and legal innovation. She worked as Head of the department of law in the years 2012 to 2015. Previously she worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Miami School of Law where she taught European company law and European competition law. Prior to that she worked as an in-house lawyer for an investment company. Helga is currently leading a project funded by the EU on the developing of the blended learning approach in legal education, focusing on the intersection of law and business as well as developing the way universities cooperate and communicate with students. She is also an academic mentor and a judge in the Law Without Walls program, a global multidisciplinary consortium of law and business professionals, focusing on encouraging innovation in legal education and practice. Helga’s dissertation focuses on a comparative analysis of hedge fund activism in the United States and Europe.
Lauren Hamm graduated from the University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus in 2016 with a BA specializing in medieval linguistics. Her studies focused on Anglo-Saxon poetry and grammar and she was awarded the 2014 Magellan Scholarship to complete an article on emotionality in the Anglo-Saxon poem “Deor”. She will be receiving her MA in Old Nordic Religion in Winter of 2018 under the supervision of Dr. Terry Gunnell at the University of Iceland. Her thesis focuses on the special connection between the female gender and prophetic magic in Viking Age religious practices. It will incorporate a heavy focus on medieval Icelandic literature as well as pre-Christian religion and gender studies. It will pay special attention to the role of fate and the accessibility which both female seeresses and beings such as the Nornir appeared to have access to.
The Leifur Eiriksson Foundation Fellowship allowed her to complete her studies at the University of Iceland and attain this MA. It also facilitated travel costs as a lecturer at the 2017 Southeastern Medievalists Association conference in Charleston, SC where she gave a lecture on the connection between music, chanting, and possible ecstatic states in Viking Age magical practices.
Eirik received his joint MA/MPhil degree in Viking & Medieval Norse Studies from the University of Iceland and the University of Oslo, having completed a master’s thesis on the figure of the Old Norse poet as seen in the probable works of Snorri Sturluson.
With funding from the Leifur Eiríksson Fellowship, he continued his research into Icelandic poetic culture in his first year of study and research in a four-year doctoral program in Icelandic Literature at the University of Iceland. He is researching the kraftaskáld (‘power-poet’), an Icelandic folktale figure from primarily the 16th through 20th centuries. These poets were reputed to perform magic by means of extemporaneous poetic verses, for a variety of ends: vengeance against enemies, chanting down walking-corpses, influencing natural phenomena (such as wind and weather), and occasionally obtaining some of life’s necessities. Only a few of their many widely-scattered tales have ever been translated into English. Eirik will continue his PhD research at the University Of Iceland with a three-year doctoral studies grant from the university’s Research Fund.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Eirk also writes and recites poetry inspired by Old Norse mythology and religion, having self-published his first book of such poetry, Viking Poetry for Heathen Rites, in 2017.
Agnes Eva Þórarinsdóttir
Scholarship Years: 2017 – 2018
Agnes Eva Þórarinsdóttir received a B.Sc. degree in chemistry from the University of Iceland in 2015. Upon graduation she moved to Evanston, Illinois to pursue a PhD in inorganic chemistry at Northwestern University. The inorganic chemistry program at Northwestern is one of the best in the world and Agnes’s dissertation research project focuses on the design and synthesis of transition metal compounds that function as temperature and pH sensors in physiological environments, and can be detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. The ability to accurately quantitate physiological biomarkers such as temperature and pH is of great importance for improving the diagnosis and treatment of many pathologies since changes in the cellular microenvironment are closely associated with diseases. The development of responsive chemical probes that are able to detect and spatially map physiological abnormalities with high sensitivity through noninvasive MRI techniques is therefore an attractive way to aid in the early detection of diseases, including cancer and ischemia, and enhance treatment efficiency.
Funds from the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation enabled Agnes to continue to work on her thesis project, in particular start collaborations with MRI experts at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Florida and research scientists in pharmacology at Northwestern University to conduct biologically relevant imaging experiments and animal studies. Additionally, the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship supported Agnes in attending a national conference on inorganic chemistry where she presented a component of her research project and got the opportunity to interact with leading experts in her field.
Agnes is an awardee of the 2017 Chemistry Department’s Joseph Lambert Award for excellence in junior graduate research, serves on the chemistry graduate student board, and is heavily involved in improving the safety culture in chemical laboratories at Northwestern University through a student-led organization, RSSI, which she co-founded. Agnes will continue her PhD research at Northwestern University with Prof. Dave Harris, where she will be starting her 4th year in September 2018.
Krystal Mannion received a B.Sc. in 2015 from the University of New England (UNE) in Biddeford, ME as the first student to complete a double major in Marine Biology and Animal Behavior. While attending UNE she worked as a research assistant in the Animal Behavior Laboratory, where she conducted research on topics exploring the influence of social environment on communication networks, female preference to male behavioral types, and the effects of pharmaceutical exposure on the behavior of Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) and used behavioral assays to study the effect of stimulus context on behavioral consistency in three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). She worked as a laboratory assistant in the Research and Evaluation Lab at DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery in Juneau, Alaska where she sampled and dissected Pacific chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) for scale and otolith collection and analysis.
Krystal is pursuing her master’s degree in Fish Biology at Hólar University College in Northwest, Iceland. Her research focuses on the effect of food availability on diel activity patterns and foraging of juvenile Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) in an Icelandic stream, and the relationship between phenotypic differences (i.e. behavioral variation) among individuals found in the laboratory. The Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship enabled Krystal to travel to Iceland and conduct field and laboratory research in Skagafjörður, Iceland.
Pálína Jónsdóttir was awarded the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Directing by the School of the Arts, Columbia University in May 2017. Upon her entry into the highly competitive three years program, Pálína was granted a generous scholarship and awarded a Student Fellowship in Directing for her outstanding achievement.
Pálína was honored with the Leifur Eiríksson Fellowship during her thesis year at Columbia University, enabling her to fulfill all requirements for her degree. During that year, Pálína interned with Robert Lepage and Kaija Saariaho at the Metropolitan Opera for their production L’Amour de Loin. Pálína’s thesis production, a stage creation of Isak Dinesen’s story Babette’s Feast ran successfully in the Connelly Theater in New York City in March 2017.
Pálína is a theatre director, actor and writer who started her performing career at a young age in The National Theater and The Reykjavík City Theater. Her alchemic compositions of audio-visual and physical theatre work draws from her expansive background in drama, dance, opera and music. Pálína holds a PGDip in Contemporary Dancing from the Conservatoire National Superior of Music and Dance in Lyon, France and she studied literature and philosophy in the University of Iceland. Pálína graduated from the Acting Program at The Icelandic Academy of the Arts and studied opera singing in The Reykjavík Academy of Singing and Vocal Arts and she holds a Diploma in Arts Education in Drama from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts.
Throughout her years of studies and professional work, Pálína has pushed the boundaries of artistic disciplines and sculpted her voice and vision as a theatre artist. With a critical point of view and vivid imagination, Pálína orchestrates her material to reach its highest artistic and intellectual potential to institute the subconscious reality of what compels human behavior.
Pálína has performed in artistically diverse projects for stage, films and performance art in Iceland, Europe and the US. Among Pálína’s theatre productions is Völva, commissioned by the Prologus Fund co-produced and performed at the National Theatre in Iceland, earning the Icelandic Gríma, Performing Arts Award and her production The Secret Face was curated and performed at the Here Arts Center in NYC. Pálína was commissioned by The Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art to create The SeaMare – Tableau Vivant for Origins and she collaborated and performed in Still Life with Commentator commissoned for BAM in NYC. For Columbia Stages she directed A Dream Play by August Strindberg, The Three Sisters by Anton Checkhov and The Seven Deadly Sins by Bertolt Brecht. Her stage roles include Miss Julie in Miss Julie by August Strindberg, Solveg in Peer Gynt by Ibsen, and Snæfriður in The Icelandic Clock by Laxness. Her film credits include Devil´s Island, The Dance, In His Life – The John Lennon Story and Wildlife.
Kathryn Catlin is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at Northwestern University, with a subfield specialization in Archaeology. Her dissertation investigates how anthropogenic environmental change was related to social and economic changes that occurred in Iceland between the 9th and 19th centuries. In particular, she focuses on the archaeology of marginal medieval settlements in Hegranes in Skagafjörður, changes in the landscape around those sites, and the agricultural uses to which the sites were put in later centuries after habitation ceased. Her works has implications for the way modern human societies address the social and ecological challenges of climate change. She is part of the Skagafjörður Church and Settlement Survey, a team of Icelandic and American archaeologists investigating changes in society, religion, economy, and environment in medieval Skagafjörður. Kathryn has also carried out archaeological work in the eastern United States and in the southeastern United Kingdom. Her research in Iceland has been supported by a U.S. Student Fulbright grant and well as a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, and her work has appeared in the journals Anthropocene and Medieval Settlement Research and will soon appear in the Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association.
Thanks to funding from the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation, Kathryn was able to extend her dissertation fieldwork by one additional summer (2017), including the purchase of GPS equipment needed for archaeological survey. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Kathryn lived and worked in Iceland, where she worked closely with archaeologists and historians in Skagafjörður, consulted experts in Reykjavík, and carried out historical and archival research. She used some of her funding to take classes in Icelandic language, archaeology, vegetation and soil, and turf construction, all of which have been invaluable to her research.
Kathryn holds a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park, an M.S. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, an M.A. in Historical Archaeology from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and an M.A. in Anthropology from Northwestern University.
Kari Hreinsson graduated with a B.Sc. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Iceland in 2009. After a brief stop in the IT industry, he moved to Switzerland and finished an M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering with focus on power system from ETH Zurich. With support from the Leifur Eiriksson foundation, Kari could pursue his PhD at Arizona State University, where his research within the field of electric power systems focuses on scheduling and optimization of electric grids. In particular, he is interested in better incorporating renewable resources through so-called “demand response”, which attemps to shape electricity consumption to better balance out fluctuations in other stochastic components of power systems, such as wind and solar generation.
Olivia Houck is a Master’s student in the West Nordic Studies Program at the University of Iceland, where she has also received a Postgraduate Certificate in ‘Small States Studies’ and will be working for the United Nation University’s Gender Equality Studies Program and pursuing a Practical Diploma in the Icelandic Language during the 2017-2018 academic year. She holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Virginia in Architectural History and a Bachelor of Arts from the College of William and Mary. Her master’s thesis investigated a series of British travel narratives to Iceland in the second half of the nineteenth-century, and their representation, or lack thereof, of the built environment on the island.
The Leifur Eiríkisson Foundation has enabled her to continue this research on Icelandic architecture and the political, social, and cultural relationships of the island with the United States, France, and Britain during the twentieth-century. It has also facilitated the advancement of her research in two new and unexpected disciplines, that of international relations and political science, with a particular focus on international organizations. Due to this exposure, she has had the opportunity to intern with the U.S. Mission to UNESCO in Paris during the 2017 summer. She hopes to continue her research on the intersections of geopolitics and architecture, focusing specifically on the modern Icelandic political, cultural, and diplomatic relations with North America and Europe in her doctoral studies.
Helga Guðmundsdóttir received a BA in law from the University of Iceland in 2013, an MA degree in International Law and the Settlement of Disputes from the UN mandated University for Peace in 2014, a Mag.jur. degree from the University of Iceland in 2015, a Rhodes Oceans Scholar Diploma from the Rhodes Academy of Oceans Law and Policy in 2015 and an LL.M. degree from Harvard Law School in 2017. During her studies, Helga has largely focused on international law, in particular the law of the sea.
Receiving the Leifur Eiríksson Fellowship allowed Helga to pursue her studies at Harvard Law School.
Harpa Lind Jónsdóttir
Harpa Lind Jónsdóttir received her B.S. degree in Psychology from the University of Iceland in 2010. In 2011, she received a Fulbright scholarship to attend a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology at the University of North Dakota, where she earned her M.A. degree in Clinical Psychology in 2013, and will be earning her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2017.
Harpa is interested in aging research, neuropsychological assessment, and teaching. Harpa’s dissertation project examined health and well-being among older adults and was a part of a longitudinal research project, which was catalyzed in 2008 by Harpa’s advisor, Dr. Joelle Ruthig. More specifically, Harpa examined the impact of experiencing a fall on health, well-being, and survival among community-living older adults in the Midwest, and the role of protective psychosocial mediators. Harpa completed her internship at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Michigan, where she engaged in various clinical activities, such as neuropsychological assessment with older adults, and general neuropsychological and psychodiagnostic assessments with individuals across the age range. The Leifur Eiriksson scholarship program allowed Harpa to complete her Ph.D. program. More specifically, the scholarship allowed her to continue to work on her dissertation research project, engage in clinical activities, and attend a national conference for psychological sciences where she presented a component of her research project. Harpa will be starting her Postdoctoral Fellowship in Advanced Quantitative Methods in Mental Health and Clinical Neurosciences at Brown University in 2017. She currently lives in Providence, RI, with her fiancé and their cat.
Halla Hrund Logadóttir
Halla Hrund Logadóttir is the former director of the Iceland School of Energy at Reykjavík University, where she continues to lecture on climate change, energy policy, and the Arctic. Previously, Halla worked on economic development in West Africa, on the “Aid for Trade Initiative” at the OECD in Paris and on international relations at Iceland’s Embassy in Brussels. Halla is also a co-founder of the Project Girls 4 Girls initiative which aims to empower girls around the world through a global mentorship network.Halla studied political science, economics and trade at the University of Iceland, at the London School of Economics, and at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. With the support of the Leifur Foundation, Halla earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the Harvard Kennedy School.
Halla is currently an Arctic focused fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School, where she is developing an Arctic Initiative with the Belfer Center’s Environmental and Natural Resource Program, and Science and Technology Program. Her interests are in the Arctic sphere, and include energy policy and land conservation, as well as the social and economic well-being of the Arctic region. Halla serves as an advisor to Iceland’s Minister of Industry and Commerce on the country’s Energy Fund and she leads the Arctic Innovation Lab, which aims to engage more people in dialog around solutions for a sustainable and secure Arctic.
Chihiro Larissa Tsukamoto
Chihiro Larissa Tsukamoto is a linguaphile, musician, and a lover of all things mythology. An avid supporter of human rights, she has a B.A. in Political Science from Columbia University and is a translator for Humanium, a children’s rights NGO founded in Geneva, Switzerland. As a pianist, Chihiro studied at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School, the Manhattan School of Music, and The Juilliard School, and has performed at the Haydn Hall of Esterházy Palace in Austria, the Béla Bartók Conservatory in Hungary, the Schumann House in Germany, and Jordan
Hall in Boston.
Combining her backgrounds in languages and the performing arts, Chihiro researched Viking Age music in Iceland by consulting sources written in Arabic, Greek, Latin, and Old Norse. As early medieval Scandinavians did not leave behind written descriptions of music in their own tongue, it was thus necessary to consult outside sources for contemporary accounts.
Chihiro is grateful for the support of the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation, which allowed her to complete her M.A. in Medieval Icelandic Studies at the University of Iceland. She will continue her research at Yale University, where she has been accepted into the Ph.D. program in Medieval Studies. She is particularly interested in how music was used therapeutically during the Middle Ages, and plans to play medieval harp in hospitals and hospices. It is her hope that medieval music will be studied not just academically, but also as a valid medium with which to foster healing.
Arna Pálsdóttir received her B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Iceland in 2013. She started her PhD work at Cornell University later that fall. Her general interests lie in sustainable energy and mineral extraction and alongside her research she has participated in and assisted with teaching a number of courses on alternative energy and materials at the Cornell Energy Institute. Arna’s research is on sustainable lithium extractions from a range of sources. Lithium is used for rechargeable lithium ion batteries in many applications ranging from small portable electronics like cellphones to batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles. With the increased demand for rechargeable lithium ion batteries, the demand for lithium has risen steadily in the last few years. Extracting lithium can be time consuming and hazardous to the environment. Alternative resources and extraction methods have therefore been sought out and Arna’s research seeks to find ways to meet that demand.
Sara Nassim was born and raised in Iceland, to an Iceland mother and a Persian father. Sara had the opportunity, through her mother who is an independent film producer, to be on film sets from a young age surrounded by talented filmmakers and gained a lot of experience from watching ideas transform into films. She is an aspiring producer who has accumulated an substantial amount of experience in the film industry over the past few years. Between 2011-2012, Sara was a producer at Pegasus Pictures a prestigious production company based in Reykjavik, Iceland. Since then, she has served as a freelance Production Coordinator on various big-budget productions such as HBO’s
GAME OF THRONES and Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH as well as working on many renowned Icelandic feature films.
In 2013 Sara was accepted to the graduate program at The American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles where she studied the Producing Discipline. Throughout her two and a half years as a producing fellow at AFI she produced numerous short films in which her involvement dealt with both the creative as well as the physical side of the productions. Her films have had international success in the festival circuit and have been shown at Palm Springs Short Fest, Nordisk Panorama, Atlanta Film Festival, US BAFTA and Montreal World Film Festival to name a few.
Sara was the Production Manager of the Icelandic/Danish film, SPARROWS, directed by two-time Cannes nominee Rúnar Rúnarsson and the Line Producer of Icelandic / Danish film HEARTSTONE.
As the recipient of the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship Sara was able to continue and finish her studies at AFI. The support has paved the way for her as a film producer in the US. She believes filmmaking is a way to emphasize the importance of specific subject matters and minority groups. Bringing forth situations or events that are often
overlooked such as women’s right, race, and religion. Richness in subtext combined with strong visual language in films can alter people’s views on integral elements of the human condition. Sara resides in Los Angeles and is currently in development on three feature films, one of which is set in Iceland.
Jessica grew up in rural Vermont and spent her childhood exploring the streams and ponds of her home state. She graduated from Colby College (Waterville, ME) with degrees in Biology and STS (Science, Technology, and Society) in 2009, and then worked as a research technician in Idaho at the Stream Ecology Center on research focused on climate change, nutrient cycling, and salmon biology in Idaho’s rivers. She has also worked at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute on projects focused on lobster behavior and also on the effects of closed areas on cod diet. She is currently a Ph.D student in the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University where her research focuses on using the chemical composition in the organic matrix of fish otoliths, also known as ear stones, to obtain information about changes in Atlantic cod prey availability through time. She is using the chemistry of fish otoliths from modern, recent historical, and archaeological samples from commercial fisheries, government fisheries surveys, and from archaeological middens left by historical fisher-farmers, respectively. Going back in time, how have climate events over the last 500 years shaped the cod food web, and has commercial fishing altered the natural variability in trophic level of cod? Information in otolith “time capsules” will provide a treasure trove of knowledge about the past in order to better inform the future of cod in the North Atlantic.
Funds from the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation provided Jessica with the freedom to work with researchers at the Marine Research Institute in Iceland on the modern aspects of this study. Additionally, these funds were used for travel expenses and to collaborate with scientists at the University of Iceland’s Research Center of the Westfjords regarding historical otoliths.
Jennifer Smith received her master’s degree in environmental resource management from the University of Akureyri in 2014. In research for her master’s thesis, Jennifer used a political ecology framework to explore the impacts of fisheries management regulations on Icelandic consumers’ access to fresh local fish.
Jennifer used the Leifur Eiríksson Fellowship to perform her first year of research of a three-year doctoral research project under the guidance of Dr. Catherine Chambers, a former Leifur Eiríksson Fellowship recipient, at Hólar University College and the Blönduós Centre for Research and Collaboration. Her research focuses on the social impacts of aquaculture growth in Iceland, assessing in particular the capacity of small, rural communities to accommodate a growing aquaculture sector and workforce. Jennifer lives in Ísafjörður, Iceland. She has also worked and studied in China and France, and holds a master of arts in international relations from Johns Hopkins University SAIS and a bachelor of arts in French literature from Reed College.
Guðmundur Stefánsson received his B.Sc. degree in Physics from the University of Iceland in 2013. After graduating, Guðmundur received a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the Pennsylvania State University. As a member of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State, Guðmundur works in the field of exoplanet detection and characterization through the development of new and improved astronomical instrumentation.
Guðmundur is a part of a team of astronomers and engineers building the Habitable Zone Planet Finder Spectrograph (HPF), an ultra-stable high-precision near-infrared Doppler spectrograph to be installed at the 10m class Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas in early 2017. The main goal of HPF is to discover and characterize exoplanets orbiting in the habitable zone around stars colder than our Sun. As a part of the HPF team, Guðmundur’s research has focused on fabricating and verifying the performance of various subsystems for the HPF Environmental Control System, responsible for temperature stabilizing HPF at the sub-milli-Kelvin level. Recently, the Penn State-led research team was selected by NASA to build another state-of-the-art spectrograph, NEID, for the 3.5m WIYN telescope in Arizona, to detect and measure the orbits of rocky planets in the habitable zone around Sun-like stars.
Funds from the Leifur Eiríksson Foundations have helped support Guðmundur in buying essential lab equipment, supplies, and specialized software necessary for his research. Additionally, the Leifur Eiríksson funds have have supported Guðmundur in traveling to a number of conferences, specialized research meetings and trainings. Guðmundur will continue his PhD research at Penn State as a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow
Jen K. Hughes is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. She studies Icelandic storytelling and notions of value surrounding the 2008 economic crisis. Jen is interested in how the past in Iceland manifests in thinking about economic and cultural futures through language use and how these ideas have global impacts.
Since October 2015, Jen has been conducting ethnographic research in Reykjavík and Hafnarfjörður and has begun principal photography and production on a feature-length documentary film about her work. In July 2016, Jen will conduct interviews and film in Laugar, Svartárkot farm and Kiðagil in the North before traveling to the Westfjörds to complete her research in Ísafjörður and Flateyri.
Jen is an awardee of the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Foreign Language and Area Studies Summer Fellowship (2015) as well as The Leifur Eiríksson Foundation Fellowship (2015-2016), The American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship (2015-2016), and a University of Minnesota Thesis Research Travel Grant to continue her research in Iceland.
Jen worked as a Video Production Media Fellow for the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts from August 2013 to May 2015 and previously worked on research, digital media, exhibit and video projects for the Discovery Channel, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, The Smithsonian’s National Zoo, The Film/Video Dept. of The Walker Art Center, the Eric Carle Museum for Picture Book Art, Powell’s Books (Portland, OR), and was most recently a researcher for Curiosity Retreats, LLC. Her video footage and interviews have been featured on Bloomberg and Al Jazeera Plus.
Jen earned a B.A. in both Anthropology and Gender Studies from Mount Holyoke College in 2010 and is originally from Portland, Oregon
Margrét Valdimarsdóttir is a doctoral candidate in criminal justice at the City University of New York (CUNY). Margrét came to U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship, and for the last five years has been an Enhanced Chancellor Fellow at the Graduate Center of CUNY. Along with her doctoral studies, Margret has been teaching international criminology and statistics at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Margrét has a BA and MA degree in sociology from the University of Iceland.
Margrét’s research focuses on the contextual effects of police suspicion and the long-term consequences of frequent police interventions. More specifically, Margrét is analyzing the impact of location on police decisions to stop, question and arrest or release pedestrians. As well as if frequent police interventions are associated with future problem behavior through its effects on education and employment. Receiving the Leifur Eiríksson scholarship has allowed Margrét to travel across the United States to present her research at several conferences and to participate at research workshops.
Brenda Prehal is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Archaeology at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. Her research focuses on re-incorporating the medieval Icelandic literature in interpreting Icelandic archaeology. Specifically, her research uses the pagan Scandinavian burial record for case studies, as mortuary practices are the most likely of archaeological remains to reveal belief systems. By using interdisciplinary methods of hard science, such as DNA of animal remains in burials, along with folklore and social studies of Viking Age grave artifacts, she examines how the literature can be a guide in interpreting archaeological sites, particularly in Iceland.
As a recipient of the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship, Brenda continued her research in the Mývatn region of northern Iceland, excavating pagan and medieval Christian burials (in collaboration with Fornleifastofnun Íslands and the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization). She also collaborated with colleagues at Háskoli Íslands to properly navigate the medieval Icelandic literature (i.e. sagas and eddas/mythology). Last, the scholarship enabled her to spend time at the National Museum’s (Þjóðminjasafn Íslands) storage facilities to physically examine relative artifacts from previously excavated graves.
Brenda earned her Master’s degree in Anthropology from Hunter College, CUNY in 2011.
Svanhildur Þorvaldsdóttir is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Rochester in New York, where she studies the United Nations. Her research focuses on the inner workings of the organization; in particular, how UN bureaucrats balance the mandates of the organization, given the heterogeneous preferences and interests of its many member states. The Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship has enabled her to stay in Rochester to continue her dissertation research.
Before she started her doctoral studies, Svanhildur was a Senior Policy Analyst at the International Peace Institute in New York City, where she worked on a project on transnational threats and challenges facing the UN system in the 21st century. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master of International Affairs Degree in International Security Policy, both from Columbia University.
Marissa Mnich is a Ph.D candidate in Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She graduated from Cornell University in 2010 with a B.S. in Science of Earth Systems before completing a master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts in 2013 and continuing on for a Ph.D. Her work focuses on several aspects of volcanology and igneous petrology.
The Leifur Eiríksson Foundation enabled Marissa to complete three weeks of field work in Iceland to sample volcanic rocks from a variety of locations and settings around the country. These samples are analyzed using Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy to quantify the amounts of volatiles, namely water and carbon dioxide, within them. Volatile concentration fundamentally affects the nature of a volcanic eruption. The project aims to better understand the link between volatiles, eruption styles, dynamics of Icelandic volcanism, as well as, subsequent associated hazards.
Kyle Edmunds graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2012 with B.Sc.s in Nuclear Engineering and Medical Physics, with a certificate in International Engineering. He then attended Tufts University until 2014, where he graduated with an M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering, with a focus on cardiac tissue engineering. While at both institutions, Kyle was heavily involved with a variety of international programs – from biophysics in Bangalore, India, to nuclear medicine in Johannesburg, South Africa. However, his passion for both travel and community outreach was best fueled by Engineers Without Borders, wherein he led both a rainwater catchment facility project in Rwanda and a borehole station project in Uganda.
Funding from the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation allowed Kyle to enroll in his doctoral program in Biomedical Engineering at Reykjavík University, where his primary thesis involves studying the use of 3D printing, CT thresholding, and computational modeling for applications in translational myology, aging, and arthroplastic prosthesis assessment. While at RU, he has likewise co-established the Icelandic Center for Neurophysiology where he leads all facets of technical operation: EEG acquisition, protocol development, and evoked potential source localization analyses. Since his arrival, he has published eight peer-reviewed manuscripts in scientific journals and has likewise held an adjunct instructor position in courses including Biomedical Digital Electronics, Cellular Biology, Tissue Engineering, Neurophysiology, and Clinical Engineering.
Rebecca Conway graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014 with B.A.s in English literature and environmental science. While at UVA, she took part in both the Area Program in Poetry Writing and the Distinguished Majors Program, the latter of which afforded her the opportunity to write a thesis concerning prosimetrum in Old Icelandic and early Irish saga narratives. In addition to her literary and environmental studies, she has participated in archaeological excavations of prehistoric sites in interior Alaska.
With the support of the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation and the Robert Kellogg Memorial scholarship, she was able to enroll in the interdisciplinary Medieval Icelandic Studies master’s program at the University of Iceland. Her master’s thesis combines a literary analysis of wood use in the Íslendingasögur with archaeological and paleoenvironmental evidence of such. By combining environmental, archaeological, and literary information, she hopes to explore how realized resource stress, namely that of wood, was acknowledged and treated in the sagas.
Örn Arnaldsson has math degrees from the University of Iceland (BS) and the University of Washington in Seattle (MS). He is a PhD candidate at the math department of University of Minnesota. His research interest is developing, and applying, Lie-group methods (often called symmetry methods) to problems arising in geometry, mathematical physics, computer vision, dynamical systems, numerical analysis and more. This flurry of applications is what makes the underlying theoretical development so exciting. The Leifur Eiríksson Foundation helped bring Örn to Minnesota to work with one of the world’s leading experts in this field, Peter Olver.
Alix Johnson is a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research investigates Icelandic efforts to develop a so-called “data haven” as a project of economic recovery and political reform. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, her work follows the transformation of material infrastructures and popular discourses as Iceland is made a good place for information to “live.” As a recipient of the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation Scholarship, she pursued these questions ethnographically through a year of field research among Icelandic activists, officials, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Her research is also supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.
Jacob Hobson is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Medieval Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. With the generous support of the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation, he spent the academic year 2014-15 as a guest research at the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum.
He specializes in Anglo-Saxon and medieval Scandinavian literature. His dissertation studies the broad application of exegetical theory in late Anglo-Saxon England; past work has focused on identity and the Scandinavian rulership of Anglo-Saxon England. In addition to his dissertation, his recent work has focused on intellectual history and literary theory in medieval England and Iceland
Birna Þorvaldsdóttir graduated with a B.Sc in Biology from the University of Iceland in 2013. The same year she began working towards a Ph.D degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Iceland Cancer Research Laboratory. Her doctoral research focuses on telomere dysfunction in BRCA-related cancer in the Icelandic population. As a Leifur Eiríksson scholar, Birna was able to work on a part of the project at the Blackburn Laboratory at University of California, San Francisco, a leading laboratory in telomere research. The results of the project will shed light on the relationship of telomere dysfunction and cancer risk in BRCA mutation carriers and BRCA-related cancers in the Icelandic population.
Megan Hicks is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Archaeology at the City University of New York while carrying out research in Iceland. She uses zooarchaeology (the study of animal bones) as a medium through which to view pastoral and hunting economies, diets of people, and ecology of Icelandic households in the past. From the Viking age through the mid 20th century, preserved fish, sheep’s wool, dairy products, and meat were central to Iceland’s local and long distance exchange relationships. The archaeological evidence of changing use of animals and making of animal-derived products can illuminate daily life, economic connections, and the ways in which people managed, perceived, and organized and their landscapes. Her work also explores how Iceland’s modernization in the 18th-21st centuries the above practices and relationships.
As a recipient of the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship, she continued her research in the Mývatn region of northern Iceland, excavating and surveying farms in the municipality of Skútustaðir (in collaboration with Fornleifastofnun Íslands and the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization). She also collaborated with colleagues at Háskoli Íslands to develop a method of identifying bird eggshell excavated from archaeological contexts and worked toward the completion of the identification of animal bones excavated from Skútustaðir, which is central to her dissertation. Last, the scholarship enabled her to spend additional time investigating Icelandic written sources on farming, hunting, and landscapes.
Megan earned her B.A. from New York University in Anthropology and Linguistics in 2005 and a Master’s degree in Anthropology from Hunter College (C.U.N.Y) in 2009.
Berglind Hólm Ragnarsdóttir
Berglind Hólm Ragnarsdóttir is a Ph.D candidate in sociology at the Graduate Center City University of New York. She first came to the US on a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue a PhD in sociology and since 2011 has been an Enhanced Chancellor Fellow at the Graduate Center. The Leifur Eiríksson award has enabled her to stay in New York City while in the dissertation writing stage of her doctoral work. Her research generally focuses on cross-national stratification and inequality, gender equality, and family well-being while her doctoral dissertation specifically addresses class inequality among women. Alongside her dissertation work she has been a Research Associate in the Luxembourg Income Study Center as well as an Adjunct Lecturer at Queens College where she has been teaching Statistics.
Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir
Scholarship Years: 2014-2015
Anna Gunndís is an Icelandic filmmaker and an actress who grew up in the professional theater world in Iceland and worked as an actress in theater, film and television in Iceland and abroad until she was accepted at the Graduate Film Department, Tisch School of the Arts at New York University where she studies screenwriting and directing for film.
She was nominated for the Iceland Film Academy Award for “Best Actress in a leading role” for the film Frost. She also starred in Fólkið í blokkinni and Áramótaskaupið. She has worked in different capacities in writing, directing, producing and editing for film and theater. Before she moved to New York she worked as an actress at the Akureyri Theater at the north coast of Iceland.
Anna Gunndís recently directed her first short film I Can’t Be Seen Like This which will premiere next fall. The film is based on real life events when her hair got ripped off by a handheld mixer while making a chocolate cake for her eight year old birthday.
As a recipient of the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship, Anna Gunndís was able to continue her studies at New York University and is currently writing her first feature film called The Monkey Farm as her thesis project.
She claims that the filmmaking industry is a strong medium that can play a large part in affecting the worlds race and gender gap being a medium that needs to fight its own battle from within. It is precisely for this reason that her approach to filmmaking stands to make important and needed contributions to the field. She emphsizes on writing strong female characters, hire women in key positions on her set and make the world a better place for everyone. She is currently living with her husband and two kittens in Brooklyn.
Alyssa Maraj Grahame
Alyssa Maraj Grahame is a doctoral student in political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Previously, she completed her Honours BA in political science and anthropology at the University of Toronto. Early in her graduate career, Alyssa became interested in how the global financial crisis and economic recession prompted people to collectively rethink the meaning, institutions, and practices of democracy.
As a guest researcher at the University of Iceland, Alyssa conducted a study of social mobilization and political change since Iceland’s 2008 financial crisis. Her dissertation research investigates the production of the financial crisis, the Pots and Pans Revolution, and ongoing sources of political tension. The project sheds light on how crisis has transformed ordinary people’s engagement with politics and whether democratic institutions as we know them can withstand 21st-century challenges.
Scholarship Years: 2014
Elizabeth Walgenbach is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University. With the support of a Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship, she is a guest researcher at the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum, where she has been conducting research on manuscripts of Arons saga Hjörleifssonar and the lawcode Jónsbók.
Her academic interests center on legal culture, narrative, manuscript studies, and the antiquarians of the early modern period, who mediate so much of our access to medieval materials. She also has a strong interest in the use of digital tools for the interpretation of medieval manuscripts. Her dissertation “Forms of Community Exclusion in Medieval Iceland” focuses on the Church sanction of excommunication and the secular punishment of outlawry, exploring the intellectual and practical connections between the two in literary and legal sources.
Elizabeth earned a B.A. in History from Cornell University and an M.A. in Medieval Studies from the University of Toronto.
Viktoria Ros Gisladottir
Scholarship Years: 2013-2014
Viktoria Ros Gisladottir studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Iceland. Upon graduation in 2008 she became a Project Manager at Reykjavik Energy Invest. There she was involved in geothermal energy harvesting. This involvement led her to pursue a M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on fluid dynamics at the University of California, San Diego. Upon its completion she continued her studies there working towards a Ph.D. As a Leifur Eiríkisson Scholarship recipient, Viktoria was able to advance to Ph.D. candidacy in Engineering Physics. Her current work is on Transport in Networks of which one of the applications is for geothermal reservoirs. Parallel to completing her degree she interns with the Risk and Decision Science team at the US Army Engineering Research and Development Center.
Sigurður Pétur Magnússon
Scholarship Years: 2013-2014
Sigurður Pétur Magnússon received his doctoral degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in June 2014. His doctoral research work was focused on developing and applying computational fluid dynamics simulations to estimate what key factors determine air qualities in the built urban environments. Alongside with his doctoral research at MIT he worked on a solution for generating electricity from ocean waves.
Sigurður is currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at MIT.
Scholarship Years: 2013-2014
Oliver Organista attended the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). At UCLA, he attended two excavations and developed an interest in how gender was constructed and maintained in past cultures. Oliver took his first class in Old Icelandic taught by Kendra Willson, a previous Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship recipient. He graduated from UCLA in 2012 with a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Scandinavian Studies.
As a recipient of the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship, Oliver was able to enroll and attend the Viking and Medieval Norse Studies Master’s program offered by the University of Iceland. An interdisciplinary program which draws on varied academic fields, Oliver took courses on Viking and Medieval Archaeology alongside Old Icelandic courses. The scholarship also allowed Oliver to participate in an excavation in the summer of 2014 lead by Bjarni Einarsson in the town of Hafnir in Iceland. The excavation seeks to understand habitation and settlement practices in the Early Settlement Period of Iceland. He is currently preparing for the second year of his M.A. program and working on his thesis which deals with spatiality and gender in different longhouses of the Viking Age.
Scholarship Years: 2013-2014
Jörundur Ragnarsson studied acting in The Iceland Academy of the Arts and graduated with a B.F.A. degree in 2006. He worked as an actor and screenwriter for six years in Iceland before applying for the Film M.F.A. program at Columbia University in which he is currently enrolled. He is known for his work in television and film as well as in theatre. He founded two independent theatre companies, VÉR MORÐINGJAR and ÉG OG VINIR MÍNIR and performed in two of the largest theaters in Iceland, appearing in total of 18 theater productions. His most successful and known projects are the feature film, BJARNFREÐARSON and the three television series, NÆTURVAKTIN, DAGVAKTIN, and FANGAVAKTIN all of which he starred in and co-wrote. All of these projects won multiple awards at the Icelandic Film Academy Awards. Jörundur has performed in 4 other Icelandic movies. For VEÐRAMÓT he won the Icelandic Film Academy award for “Best actor in a supporting role”. Also he has performed in numerous television series and short films.
Jörundur directed his first short film HJÓNABANDSSÆLA last summer which was shot in the small Icelandic seaside village, Patreksfjörður. The film will be premiered in The Montreal World Film Festival this fall.
Scholarship Years: 2013-2014
Jennifer Grayburn received her B.A. in History and Art History from Allegheny College and her M.A. in the History of Art and Architecture from the University of Virginia. As a Leifur Eiríksson scholar, Jennifer attended the University of Iceland in Reykjavík in order to pursue an M.A. in Medieval Icelandic Studies and research the context and vocabulary of architectural references in Orkneyinga saga. Currently, Jennifer is a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia and her dissertation uses cultural memory theory and the Icelandic sagas to explore the significance of architecture in the medieval North Sea world. She continues to share her passion for the art, architecture, and literature of the medieval North through her research and the courses she teaches.
Scholarship Years: 2013 -2014
Amy Fingerle received a B.Sc. in 2010 from the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan, where she specialized in aquatic ecology. While at Michigan, Amy conducted research on the population structure of the amphipod Diporeia spp. in the Laurentian Great Lakes and studied sustainable energy development in Chilean Patagonia. After her studies, Amy worked as a research assistant at the United States Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center, studying food web structure and avian botulism in nearshore Lake Michigan, and with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at Oregon State University, studying hypoxia and ocean acidification on the inner continental shelf.
Amy came to Iceland in 2012 to pursue a master’s degree in aquatic biology in the Department of Aquaculture and Fish Biology at Hólar University College. The Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship enabled Amy to conduct field research to study the effect of population density on the diel activity, space use, and growth of stream-dwelling Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) in northern Iceland.
Friðrik Árni Friðriksson Hirst
Scholarship Years: 2013-2014
Friðrik Árni Friðriksson Hirst received his law degree from the University of Iceland in 2011. The Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship enabled Friðrik to study for an additional Master’s degree in law (LL.M.) at Harvard Law School. In his studies at Harvard, Friðrik took courses on subjects including criminal law and procedure, corporate and business law, as well as interdisciplinary perspectives on law from viewpoints of economics, psychology and philosophy. His main research project examines prosecutorial discretion in the U.S. criminal justice system and also includes comments from Icelandic prosecutors whom he interviewed for the purposes of the study.
During his time in the United States, Friðrik lived with his wife, Vigdís, and two young children, Margrét and Friðrik. Subsequently they moved back to Iceland where Friðrik currently works as an associate and district court attorney at the law firm Juris in Reykjavík. Friðrik’s areas of interest include complex commercial matters, strategic planning and litigation. For instance, he was part of the defense team in a renowned case involving criminal charges brought by the parliament against Iceland’s former prime minister in 2010. In addition, Friðrik has taught courses on legal methodology and procedure in the University of Iceland and Reykjavik University.
Dórótea Høeg Sigurðardóttir
Scholarship Years: 2013-2014
Dórótea Høeg Sigurðardóttir received her B.Sc. in civil engineering from University of Iceland in 2009, and M.S.E. from Princeton University in 2012. She is currently a Ph.D. student and works in the Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) lab of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University. Her research is focused on structural analysis, structural identification, condition assessment, and SHM of bridges using universal parameters of beams. She is involved in the following projects: Structural analysis and identification of Streicker Bridge, monitoring and condition assessment of the US202/NJ23 highway overpass, and testing of scale model of a highway overpass. Dórótea is interested in developing methods for damage detection and performance evaluation which focus on using usual traffic loads on bridges and thereby eliminate the need for testing. The Leifur Eiríksson Fellowship has enabled Dórótea to perform testing on a test structure and hold measurement sessions on a real in-service structure as well as develop methods for analysis of the data.
Scholarship Years: 2012-2013
Oddný Helgadóttir is a PhD student in Political Economy at Brown University. Her research centers on international political economy, financial and economic policy, financial crises and economic ideas. Oddný is from Iceland and first came to Brown on a Fulbright scholarship to complete a Master’s in Public Policy. She has a B.F.A. from the Icelandic Academy for the Arts and has worked as a journalist in Iceland before coming to the United States.
Scholarship Years: 2012-2013
Christian Olivera received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in 2011. During his studies, he interned for two geotechnical engineering related firms and agencies, which led him to pursue his M.S. in Civil Engineering (with a focus in Geotechnical Engineering) at Virginia Tech. Under the supervision of Dr. Russell A. Green, Christian applied for the 2012-2013 Leifur Eirkisson Fellowship.
When offered the 2012-2013 Leifur Eiríksson Fellowship by the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation, CHristian spent the 2012-2013 academic year performing research at the University of Iceland’s Earthquake Engineering Research Centre (EERC) in Selfoss, Iceland under the guidance of Dr. Benedikt Halldorsson. His research focused on the use of H/V spectral ratios in site specific seismic hazard analyses. During his free time, Christian enjoys spending time with friends and family, and playing soccer.
Scholarship Years: 2012-2013
Melissa Mayus discovered an interest in medieval language and literature during her undergraduate years at the University of Notre Dame, where she first took a class in Old English. After receiving her B.A. in 2005 with a double major in English and Music History, she went on to complete a M.A. in the English department at Saint Louis University in 2007. It was at St. Louis that she took her first class in Old Norse-Icelandic. She then returned to the University of Notre Dame to pursue her Ph.D. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the English department at Notre Dame writing a dissertation on conceptions of free will in Anglo-Saxon literature.
As a 2012-2013 recipient of the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship, Melissa was able to spend the year at the University of Iceland pursuing a M.A. in Medieval Icelandic Studies. This interdisciplinary program allowed her to take courses on Old Norse-Icelandic language and literature, the History of the Icelandic Language, Old Nordic Religions, the History of the Medieval North, and Manuscript Studies. She is currently completing a thesis on human agency in the Icelandic sagas.
Scholarship Years: 2012-2013
Arnaldur Hjartarson studied law at the University of Iceland. Shortly after his graduation in 2008, Iceland suffered a serious financial crisis which involved a collapse of the country’s banking sector. Subsequently, Arnaldur worked for the Special Investigation Commission of the Icelandic Parliament, which had the task of investigating the causes of the crisis. Later, he also worked for the Financial Supervisory Authority before going on to work as a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Iceland.
The Leifur Eiríksson Foundation Scholarship enabled Arnaldur to pursue graduate studies in law at Yale Law School, where his research was focused mainly on financial regulation and corporate law, but also on international law, European Union law and human rights law. In May 2013, Arnaldur graduated from Yale Law School with the highest grade in every course. He has now returned to Iceland where he works as an adjunct professor at the University of Iceland. In his current research work, Arnaldur explores ways to improve the regulatory framework for the operations of banks and other financial institutions.
Scholarship Years: 2012-2013
Dan Govoni graduated from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 2008 with a BA in zoology. He completed his MSc at Hólar University College in northwest Iceland in 2011. Dan’s master’s research focused on the role of temperature and spring type in structuring macroinvertebrate communities in Icelandic freshwater springs. Upon completion of his master’s, Dan worked as a research technician in Fairbanks, AK and a commercial fisherman in Kodiak, AK. During his time in Alaska, Dan began talking with Mark Wipfli at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and discovered that his research interests overlapped with Mark’s.
In 2012, Dan began his PhD research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The research is taking place entirely in Iceland. The Leifur Eiríksson scholarship enabled Dan to do field work looking at temporal variation in macroinvertebrate community structure in the hyporheic zones of thermally-stable and thermally-variable Icelandic streams.
Eyrún Arna Eyjólfsdóttir
Scholarship Years: 2012-2013
Eyrún Arna Eyjólfsdóttir graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iceland in 2007 where she studied Mathematics with an emphasis on Computer Science. She joined the master’s program at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2008 where she worked on a project/thesis that involved combining inertial sensors and a camera for computer vision applications on mobile phones. In 2010 she completed her master’s degree and started PhD research in Computer Science at California Institute of Technology.
Eyrún’s current research interest is in the field of computer vision and machine learning, particularly the automatic detection and classification of events in video. With cameras ubiquitously found in our environment, one can see the opportunity of using them for applications such as automatically preventing accidents, detecting crimes, or aiding the blind in their interactions. However, in order to realize such systems, improvement in human pose tracking and development of action detection and classification algorithms are needed.
Under the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship, Eyrún has worked on developing tools for detecting actions between pairs of Drosophila (fruit flies). Compared with humans, fruit flies have a more limited span of behaviors, they have several orders of magnitude fewer neurons, and they are easy to track in a video. It is therefore a much more tractable problem. For these same reasons, many neurobiologists focus their research around the Drosophila, which often involves recording thousands of videos of flies interacting. A system that automatically detects actions between flies in a video can therefore greatly benefit research in neurobiology and, together with continuously improving computer vision techniques, can set the ground for developing systems for more complex animals such as humans.
Scholarship Years: 2012-2013
Ásbjörg Kristinsdóttir received her doctoral degree in Engineering and Management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her doctoral research work was focused on risk informed decision making for new power plant development projects. Prior to pursuing her doctoral program, Ásbjörg was a fellow of MIT’s dual degree program, Leaders for Global Operations (LGO), from where she received MBA degree, and MSc degree in Construction Engineering Management. As an LGO fellow, she conducted an internship at Amgen in Puerto Rico, where she researched management of capital development projects through a case study of the biotechnology industry.
As a 2012-2013 recipient of the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship, Ásbjörg worked on a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT Sloan School of Management. She currently works for the National Power Company in Iceland, in addition to teaching at the University of Reykjavik.
Scholarship Years: 2011-2012
Catherine Chambers is an interdisciplinary social scientist who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Fisheries from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Catherine conducts research in both Iceland and Alaska, and her expertise areas include: Arctic marine social ecological systems, fisheries management, coastal communities and human-environment relationships. She has a M.S. in Zoology from the University of Southern Illinois Carbondale and a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from Drake University.
The Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship allowed Catherine to travel to rural coastal communities in Northwest Iceland to conduct participant observation on fishing boats and in fish processing plants to explore small-scale fishing livelihoods and the cultural dimensions important in sustainable fisheries management. Her research uses a political ecology theoretical framework to pair an ethnographic and historical description of small boat fisheries with an analysis of fishermen in small boat fisheries (limited license lumpfish fishery, open access coastal fishery, and small boat privatized fishery) at a time when access to fisheries is decreasing worldwide. Catherine’s work contributes to scholarship on changing human-nature relationships and to efforts in designing equitable, culturally-appropriate fisheries management.
Catherine currently resides in Iceland, working as a coastal culture research specialist for the Blönduós Academic Centre.
Scholarship Years: 2011-2012
Jim Wood began studying Icelandic while fixing helicopters at NAS Keflavík, Iceland in 2003 with the US Air Force. After separating from the Air Force, he pursued a B.A. in Linguistics at the University of New Hampshire. He graduated in 2006, writing his B.A. thesis on Icelandic syntax, specifically focusing on a word order known as “stylistic fronting.” He continued to study Icelandic syntax and syntactic theory as a Ph.D. student at New York University and completed his Ph.D. in May of 2012. His thesis focuses on how the meaning and structure of Icelandic verbs interact with the behavior of those verbs within sentences.
Jim used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to do fieldwork in Iceland for his dissertation, as well as to work with the linguists at the University of Iceland. While Icelandic syntax is extremely interesting in its own right, the ultimate goal is to find out what individual languages like Icelandic can tell us about the human capacity for language and human cognition in general. Jim’s work has pursued the hypothesis that words and affixes in natural language do not have fully formed meanings independent of the syntactic structures in which they are embedded.
Jim has recently accepted a two-year post-doc at the Department of Linguistics at Yale University. In addition to his thesis work, he has also worked on a number of other topics in Icelandic syntax, including case marking; prefixes and prepositions; infinitive clauses; the structure of noun phrases; and long-distance interactions between verbal agreement and pronouns.
Paul Peterson, a native of Minnesota, received his B.A. in 2008 from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a major in Scandinavian Studies and an emphasis in Swedish. His interest and involvement in the Scandinavian program led him to continue studying at the University of Minnesota for his M.A. and Ph.D. in Germanic Medieval Studies, where he has taught Swedish and studied Germanic philology and linguistics, etymology, folklore, Scandinavian mythology, Old Norse, Old Saxon, Gothic, Old English, Middle Dutch, and Middle High German. His research interests include Old Germanic languages and literature, with a specialization in Old Norse. He is currently writing his dissertation on Old Norse nicknames.
He has spent his time as a Leifur Eiríksson scholar at the University of Iceland researching nicknames and pursuing a master’s degree in Medieval Icelandic Studies. In this master’s program he has taken courses in Scandinavian history, Old and Modern Icelandic, paleography and textual editing, and Old Norse-Icelandic literature. His master’s thesis describes the general linguistic features of Old Norse nicknames and the uses of these nicknames in saga narratives. Nicknames in the medieval period played an integral part as a means to identify persons and places and how they are connected to and differentiated from one another. When nicknames occur in the sagas, they may be ancient, formed in the popular imagination at an earlier stage, or fanciful interpretations penned by saga authors, but they all have a story to tell. The corpus of Old Icelandic literature is large, but the language is stylized and the composition is informed intertextually by contemporary oral and written culture, thus the uniquely high-frequency of nicknames in this literature allows us to break through the formulaic mold of these texts and increase our understanding of them.
Scholarship Years: 2011-2012
Brynhildur Guðjónsdóttir is a prominent Icelandic theater artist, known both for her acting and writing. A lover of language and the written word, Brynhildur finished a BA-degree in French and Italian from the University of Iceland and Université Paul Valéry in France before diving into the world of theater. She received her BA-Hons degree in Acting from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1998 and subsequently played her first role on a professional stage at the Royal National Theatre in London. In 1999 she joined the acting ensemble of the National Theater of Iceland, where she has played many important roles, including the title role in Edith Piaf which won her the Icelandic Theater Award, Gríman, as Best Actress in a Leading Role. She has since won the prize on numerous occasions, both for her acting and also for her writing for the stage. Brynhildur is the author of BRÁK, a play about the origin of Icelandic poetry written for The Settlement Centre of Iceland. The play enjoyed an immense success and has been performed some 200 times. Brynhildur’s work also includes acting and writing for film and television.
As a 2011-2012 recipient of the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship, Brynhildur was able to pursue her interest in writing for the stage and complete a residency as a Special Research Fellow affiliated with the Playwriting department of Yale School of Drama. As a fellow she worked, among others, with American playwrights Paula Vogel and Sarah Ruhl, focusing on modern playwriting and the subject of surviving in a modern world. Brynhildur’s plays ask questions about what it is to be an individual in a relentlessly digital age, and what it is to be alive in this very contemporary moment.
Gunnsteinn Hall received B. Sc. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the University of Iceland in 2007.
During his studies in Electrical Engineering he became interested in working on engineering problems with applications in biomedicine, which led to him enrolling into University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Biomedical Engineering department in 2007.
He worked with Prof. John White at the Laboratory of Optical and Computational Engineering (LOCI) on a project involving adaptive optics for microscopy for multiphoton microscopy, earning an M.Sc. degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2010.
Since then he has been working towards his Ph.D. degree with Professor Paul Campagnola and Kevin Eliceiri on a project on second harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy. SHG microscopy is a recent imaging modality that can provide 3D images of collagen (the most abundant protein in humans) with penetration typically of about 100-200 microns. SHG microscopy has shown promise for detecting many diseases such as ovarian cancer and breast cancer. The advantage is that it is sensitive to changes at a small scale so that the hope is to diagnose disease at an earlier stage than currently possible.
He is hopeful that his work on SHG microscopy will help towards finding a solution for diagnosing diseases at earlier stages and monitoring response to therapy.
Scholarship Years: 2011-2012
Ása Hjörleifsdóttir is an Icelandic screenwriter and director, and a 2012 graduate of the Columbia University Film MFA program. She was born in 1984 in Reykjavík, but has spent most of her life outside her native Iceland – in England, France, Canada and the United States. Ása holds a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Iceland and the Sorbonne – Paris IV University. She has worked as guest coordinator for the Reykjavík International Film Festival, a freelance book and film critic for various Icelandic publications, and as a programmer for the Iceland National Radio. She recently taught screenwriting at the Columbia University Undergraduate Film Department.
As a Leifur Eiríksson Foundation 2011-2012 scholarship recipient, Ása wrote, directed and edited her Columbia thesis film Ástarsaga. Ástarsaga is a mystery and a love story set both in Reykjavík and New York. Ása ferried key cast and crew between the two continents in order to make the film. It was completed in May 2012, received Columbia University Faculty Honors and has been pre-sold to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
In 2011 her feature film adaptation of the critically acclaimed Icelandic novel, The Swan, was given the green-light for development by the Iceland Film Fund. Ása is currently in pre-production for this project, to be shot in 2013.
Elmar Hallgrimsson received his Law degree from the University of Iceland in Reykjavik in 2002. After several years working as a lawyer and in the financial sector in Iceland he decided to pursue further study in Law. He finished an LL.M degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 as well as a Business and Law Certificate from Wharton Business School. In his study he focused on corporate law, mediation and negotiation. Besides his legal education Elmar has a Masters degree in Corporate Finance from the University of Iceland.
Elmar is an assistant professor at the Business School at the University of Iceland where he teaches several law courses as well as Business Ethics.
Nicole Pietrantoni is an American artist whose work explores the complex relationship between human beings and nature. Employing both traditional and non-traditional methods of printmaking, she creates installations, works on paper, and public art. As a Leifur Eiríksson Foundation Scholarship recipient for the 2010-11 year, she conducted research and created a series of artworks that explore landscape, ecology, and place. Her artistic investigations were anchored at artist residencies located around the island where she interviewed artists and scientists about the Icelandic landscape; observed the interaction between people and the land; and created several new bodies of work. Nicole was also a visiting artist at the Icelandic Printmakers’ Association in Iceland, where she taught printmaking classes and co-chaired a printmaking conference in Reykjavik.
Nicole has been awarded numerous artist residencies in the US and Iceland including the SÍM Residency, Akureyri Artists Residency, and the Ora Lerman Charitable Trust. She was the recipient of the Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet Award, the Elizabeth Catlett Fellowship, and a public art commission from the University of Iowa Hospital. Her work is in numerous collections and has been in exhibitions across the United States, Iceland, and Croatia.
Nicole received her MFA in Printmaking from the University of Iowa and her BS in Human Organizational Development and Art History from Vanderbilt University. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Montana-Missoula where she teaches printmaking.
Nicole’s artwork can be viewed at www.nicole-pietrantoni.com
Jón Emil Guðmundsson
Scholarship Years: 2010-2011
Jón Emil Guðmundsson was born and raised in Reykjavík, Iceland. He was interested in physics at an early age. He did his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Iceland (UI), with a semester spent at the University of Uppsala. During his years at UI he became interested in cosmology, the study of the Universe at its largest scales during various stages in its development. After graduating in 2008 he went to Princeton University as a Ph.D. student where he works in the field of observational cosmology.
During his early years at Princeton Jón has mainly worked on a balloon-borne experiment called SPIDER. The experiment will launch from McMurdo station on the Antarctic coast in December 2012, with the aim of measuring a relic signal in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background. This signal is predicted by inflationary theories of the early Universe, which describe a brief period of rapid expansion accompanied by gravitational waves, the progenitors of this polarized signal. The Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship has enabled Jón to work on various cryogenic and mechanical qualification of the SPIDER flight cryostat as well as thermal modeling and scientific instrumentation.
Jón has recently become a member of the core team for the High Frequency Instrument on-board the Planck satellite, which launched in May 2009. Together, Planck and SPIDER will help us answer questions about the age of the Universe, the growth of structure, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy while probing fundamental physics at extremely high energy scales.
Camille Leblanc is currently completing a joint doctoral degree in Fisheries from Oregon State University and the University of Iceland. Prior to her PhD study, Camille obtained a Master in Evolution and Animal Behaviour from The Ecole Normale Superieure and AgroParisTech (INA P-G), and a B.Sc. in marine biology from Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France. She also graduated from a two-year program in Aquaculture and marine science from INTECHMER.
Camille came first to Iceland in 2005, for the practical of her M.Sc., where she studied the behaviour of Arctic charr at Hólar University College. She also worked as a research assistant for a few months at Holar and developed a strong interest in intra-specific diversity of fishes.
Camille built her own Ph.D. research project based on her findings from her M.Sc. and from her interest in life cycle diversity of fishes. Especially she is studying how egg size can influence the diversity of Salmonids in terms of early development, behaviour, morphology and physiology. She used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to fund the study on long-term effect of egg size in Steelhead trout. Funding was used for the travel to Oregon (USA), for running the experiments and for the analyses of physiological samples. This study presents novel findings that demonstrate that variability in egg size is an important source of phenotypic variation, which can be related to rapid evolution of fishes.
Valgerður Halldórsdóttir earned her B.Sc. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Iceland in 2005 and her M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering from Drexel University in 2008. During her masters studies she became very interested in ultrasound and its various applications in medicine and therefore decided to further pursue her studies with a focus on the use of contrast agents in ultrasound.
Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University and working with Dr. Flemming Forsberg at Thomas Jefferson University. Her research aims at developing a method to monitor breast cancer response to chemotherapy that is applied before surgery. In some types of breast cancer the pressure in the tumor can be used as a marker for therapy response. Ultrasound contrast agents are sensitive to pressure changes and could potentially be used to measure this pressure thus allowing for a noninvasive monitoring of chemotherapy.
The Leifur Eiríksson scholarship has helped Valgerður optimize the ultrasound parameters needed for pressure estimation within tumors and to implement the technique on a commercial ultrasound scanner. Furthermore, an initial proof of concept was established in vivo. Results from this work were presented at the annual conference of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine in New York in April 2011.
Björg Jóhannsdóttir received her Bachelor’s degree in Education, majoring in Mathematics and Icelandic, from the University of Iceland in 1996. After years of teaching mathematics, she went back to school and graduated with distinction from Reykjavik University where she got her M.Ed. in Mathematics Education. Björg’s interest in Mathematics Education then took her to Teachers College, Columbia University where she is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology.
Björg’s main interest within the field of Mathematics Education is the mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge of elementary teachers, in addition to elementary teachers’ attitude and feelings towards mathematics. Her dissertation topic has to do with this interest of hers, and is the mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge of Icelandic student teachers aiming at the elementary level. Björg used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to develop and adapt measuring tools to assess elementary teachers’ mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.
Björg’s goal is to take part in developing curricula and form mathematical courses designed for student teachers at the elementary level, as well as developing courses for existing elementary teachers to make them more comfortable and qualified to teach mathematics.
Scholarship Years: 2008-2009
Hörður Jóhannsson finished a BSc in Computer Science at the University of Iceland in 2002 and in 2006 completed a MSc in CS from the same institution. During fall of 2008 he started in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program as a PhD student in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology EECS Department. Prior to joining MIT he worked in industry for several years developing the Gavia AUV.
At MIT, as an Eiríksson Scholar, Hörður is working with Prof. John Leonard in the Marine Robotics Laboratory. Currently his research is in underwater navigation around complex structures using imaging and profiling sonars. One application is autonomous ship-hull inspection where a vehicle needs to be able to navigate safely around the ship and get a complete image of the whole ship-hull.
Albína Hulda Pálsdóttir
Scholarship Years: 2006-2007
Albína Hulda Pálsdóttir is an Icelandic archaeologist who is currently working on her Ph.D. in Zooarchaeology (the study of animal bones from archaeological sites) from The Graduate Center, The City University of New York. Archaeology was first taught at the University of Iceland in the fall of 2002 and Albina was among the first students to graduate in the spring of 2005 with a BA in Archaeology. During the last year of her studies at the University she was the president of Kuml, the society of archaeology students.
Albína began working at the Skriðuklaustur medieval monastery excavation site in East-Iceland in 2003 and has, in recent years, worked at various other sites around Iceland.
Albína used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to fund the analysis of the archaeofauna from the medieval monastery of Skriðuklaustur in East Iceland and the Kirkjubæjarklaustur medieval nunnery in the South. Analysis of animal bones from the Vatnsfjörður excavation site in West Iceland was also funded as was travel to the site for field work in the summer of 2007.
Scholarship Years: 2006-2007
Alex Coverdill is currently finishing his fifth year as a graduate student at the University of Washington, working on a doctoral degree in Zoology. He received his bachelor’s of science undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Portland in Oregon where he first began working as a field biologist studying birds. His research interests include migration physiology, the hormonal stress response and circadian/endogenous rhythms of arctic breeding songbirds. While Alex thoroughly enjoys research, his true passion is teaching. As a graduate teaching assistant he has taught courses in animal as well as human physiology, vertebrate biology, introductory biology and comparative vertebrate anatomy. Upon completion of his Ph.D. next year, it is his desire to continue in the academic field as a professor of biology.
Alex used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to study the migratory and resident populations of snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) in Iceland. While most snow buntings around the world migrate to and from breeding grounds in the north each year, most Icelandic birds are resident in the country year-round. Because of Alex’s interests in migration physiology, he collected blood samples from individual birds to compare corticosterone hormone profiles between migrants and residents from winter through the breeding life history stages. His hypothesis is that birds migrating significant distances will have higher levels of corticosterone when compared to residents, as this hormone plays an important role in the regulation and metabolization of fat and other energy stores vital to long distance flight.
Scholarship Years: 2007 – 2008
Asdis Helgadottir received her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Iceland in Reykjavik in 2005. She then went to the United States and completed a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) during the summer of 2007. Her thesis was titled “Cracking in Thin Films With Stress Gradients Grown on Substrates”.
Asdis continued her PhD studies at UCSB and is now working on a project named “Direct Numerical Simulation of Turbulent Stratified Two Phase Flow in a Channel”. The goal is to model the nature of two phase flow numerically, in particular later to estimate pressure drop in two phase flow in pipes. Existing pressure drop models for pipes are all empirical and are only valid for conditions outside the range of conditions in pipes in geothermal power plants. The outcome of the PhD project could, therefore, be of great importance in pressure drop calculations of two phase flow in pipes in geothermal power plants, which could increase the safety and efficiency of geothermal power plants.
Scholarship Years: 2008 – 2009
Carl Olsen received his BA from UC Santa Barbara in 2001 and his Masters in the Department of Scandinavian at UC Berkeley in 2005. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Scandinavian at UC Berkeley, where he is busy finishing his dissertation. He has taught one year of Swedish and several years of Reading and Composition for his department. In 2007 Carl received the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award and the Teaching Effectiveness award. He has presented several times at the annual conference for the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies and has written the entries on Prose Edda and Poetic Edda for The Literary Encyclopedia (online at www.litencyc.com).
Carl’s dissertation is on ekphrasis in Old Norse poetry, focusing particularly on the “shield poems,” in which the poet recounts myths painted on a shield which he has received from his patron. The Leifur Eiríksson scholarship allowed Carl to spend the academic year of 2008-2009 at the Arnamagnaean Institute (Stofnun Árna Magnússonar) in Reykjavik,where he had access to the manuscripts and facsimiles relevant to his research, along with working space and access to the Institute’s library.
Scholarship Years: 2009 – 2010
Christine Schott received her B.A. from Dartmouth College in 2005. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Virginia, working on a dissertation that studies manuscript culture in medieval England—that is, how people produced and valued their books as cultural artifacts. As a complement to her work in English literature, she is also studying book culture in medieval Iceland.
As a Leifur Eiríksson scholar, Christine pursued a master’s degree in Medieval Icelandic Studies at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík. Her master’s thesis explores several medieval manuscripts in which the scribes left collections of notes and comments in the margins. This marginalia helps us not only to reconstruct the experiences of individual scribes (most of whom seemed rather displeased with their work) but also to begin understanding the culture’s attitude toward books and literacy that has left very few other traces in the historical record.
Elisabeth Ida Ward
Scholarship Years: 2009 – 2010
Elisabeth Ida Ward is a PhD Candidate from the University of California, Berkeley Scandinavian Languages and Literature Department. Although much of her expertise is on the medieval Icelandic sagas, her background in archeology and museum studies has influenced both her theoretical and practical understanding of the sagas. She was the assistant curator of the special traveling exhibition Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, produced by the Smithsonian Institution (opened April 2000).
In addition to writing her dissertation, Elisabeth also serves as the exhibition director for Vikingaheimar Museum in Reykjanesbær, Iceland. Of dual American-Icelandic descent, Elisabeth hopes to spend a lifetime making the sagas meaningful to people on both sides of the Atlantic.
Elizabeth M. Swedo
Scholarship Years: 2007 – 2008
Originally hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, Elizabeth M. Swedo received her Bachelor´s degree in History and English at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, in 2003. She began her graduate studies in medieval history at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, earning her Master´s degree in 2006. The similarities between Old Norse and Modern Icelandic led Elizabeth to study both languages and to concentrate on medieval Iceland. She continued her PhD studies at UMN and is now working on a dissertation that explores the late medieval religious culture of Iceland. Specifically, her project seeks to highlight the roles of the laity as participants in a religious culture, which, although not designed for or maintained by them, was fundamentally shaped by their continued involvement throughout the centuries.
The Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship allowed Elizabeth to concentrate on several unpublished manuscripts containing fragments of late vernacular sermons at the Árni Magnússon Institute (Stofnun Árna Magnússonar). Although some details of their composition and delivery are beyond recovery, the Icelandic sermons illuminate expressions of clerical spirituality and religious ideals. They also afford an understanding of the contemporary expectations for the intended audiences.
Upon completion of her Ph.D. next year, Elizabeth intends pursue a career as a history professor. In her five years of graduate school, she has served as an educator in a number of roles: as a teaching assistant, an instructor, a writing tutor, and an assistant editor for an academic journal. She is especially eager to share her knowledge of Iceland with her students when she instructs a course on the Viking world in spring 2009.
Halla Björg Ólafsdóttir
Scholarship Years: 2006-2007
Halla Björg Ólafsdóttir graduated from Menntaskólinn í Reykjavik in 1994 and began studies at the department of Physical Therapy of the University of Iceland in 1995. After approximately two years of studies she took a year leave and worked as a flight attendant for the Icelandic airline, Air Atlanta. She resumed her studies and graduated with a B.Sc degree in 2000. Halla worked as a physical therapist in the pulmonary department of Landspitali, University hospital of Iceland from 2000-2002 where she participated in developing a system of “physical therapy at home” for chronic pulmonary patients. In January 2002 she accepted a position as a sleep research technician at the center for sleep research at the pulmonary department of Landspitali where she worked until the end of the summer that year.
After receiving a Fulbright Fellowship, Halla began graduate studies in Motor Control in the department of Kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University. In 2004, she defended a master’s thesis in Motor Control titled: “Is the thumb a fifth finger? Studies of digit interaction during force production tasks.” After receiving her master’s degree, she continued work on a doctoral degree which she is scheduled to defend in the fall of 2007.
During this past year she has used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to focus on age related differences in hand coordination with specific attention on rotational action, feed-forward adjustments of digit interaction, and the effects of strength training on digit interaction. The goal of this work is to enhance knowledge on the changes that occur with age in coordination of the hand and the processes that drive these changes.
Scholarship Years: 2009 – 2010
Jason Kaiser graduated from the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2008 with a BS in geology and geophysics. He is finishing his MSc from the University of Massachusetts, studying igneous petrology and volcanology with his advisor, Sheila Seaman. His research interests focus on why and how volcanoes erupt as well as how they evolve during and after each eruption. By using chemical characteristics of erupted material he is trying to piece together the history of an extinct Icelandic volcano.
Jason used the Leifur Eiríksson scholarship to do field work in the Oxnadalur Volcanic Complex outside the city of Akureyri in northern Iceland. Samples’ representing each of the lava flows and ashes were collected and analyzed for element trends that describe the history of the magma chamber or chambers beneath the volcanic complex.
Scholarship Years: 2008 – 2009
Jessica Langley graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Painting and Printmaking department at Virginia Commonwealth University in May 2008, and she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2005. Jessica has exhibited nationally across the United States and internationally in Bolivia, and Iceland. She was featured in issue 75 of New American Paintings and has participated in several artist residencies around Iceland.
During her studies, Jessica developed works that utilized tropes of Romantic painting combining them with images and objects from contemporary life, nature photography, and abstract drawing. Her work often teeters between representation and abstraction, blurring the boundary between reality and the imaginary.
The Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship allowed Jessica to travel extensively in Iceland researching the contemporary concept of landscape – looking at how it is represented in art, image, folktale and commerce. Her research brought her to live in unsuspecting places like Skagaströnd in the North and Seydisfjördur in the East. While participating in artist residencies around the country, Jessica developed relationships with international and Icelandic artists.
Jessica hopes to bring these experiences back to the U.S. to develop programs for artists that strengthen the exchange between local and international artists.
Scholarship Years: 2009 – 2010
Kári Helgason became interested in astronomy during his high school years at Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík. He studied Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iceland and later at the University of Copenhagen. He received his B.S. Degree in Physics in 2008 from the University of Iceland. The same year he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and enrolled in the University of Maryland where he is currently working towards his PhD in Astronomy.
Kári is currently working on his thesis in collaboration with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. He has used the Leifur Eiriksson Scholarship to investigate a faint glow in space called the Cosmic Infrared Background radiation. This background light has been suggested to come from the first stars that formed in the Universe. Kári uses computer simulations to explore these early stars and their effects on the apparent infrared signal. His work at NASA focuses on the next generation space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and determining how it can help us understand the first moments of light production shortly after the Big Bang. The JWST will replace the famous Hubble Space Telescope in 2014 and by then Kári hopes to have a clear picture of its capabilities in terms of Cosmic Infrared Background observations.
Scholarship Years: 2006-2007
Kendra Willson was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and raised in Ames, Iowa. After completing an A.B. in Germanic languages and literatures at Harvard in 1993, she spent two years studying Icelandic language and linguistics at the University of Iceland. After working for a year as a cataloguing assistant for the Fiske Icelandic Collection at the Cornell University Library, Kendra began graduate study in the Scandinavian Department at the University of California, Berkeley in 1996. Between completing the M.A. in Scandinavian Languages and Literatures in 1999 and the Ph.D. in 2007, Kendra studied Finnish at the University of Helsinki 2000-2002, taught Icelandic at the University of Manitoba 2003-2004, and spent the academic years 2004-2005 and 2006-2007 continuing her research at the University of Iceland. Kendra filed her Berkeley dissertation, “Icelandic nicknames”, in June 2007.
Kendra has used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to examine how Icelandic nickname formation has changed over recorded history and relate those changes to changes in the linguistic system.
Scholarship Years: 2009 – 2010
Kevin Foster received his B.S. in Civil Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2006. He worked as a staff geotechnical engineer for Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, an engineering design and consulting firm in Manhattan, before returning to school to pursue his master’s degree at Virginia Tech in 2008. When awarded the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation Scholarship, he began a year of thesis research centered on re-calibration of a finite-fault earthquake source model using a recently published earthquake database. He spent one year in Iceland on this project working with his Icelandic co-advisor, Benedikt Halldorsson, an expert on that source model. The research was performed in the town of Selfoss, at the University of Iceland’s Earthquake Engineering Research Centre (www.eerc.hi.is).
After the rewarding research experience in Iceland, Kevin will return to Virginia Tech to begin a Ph.D. under the guidance of his master’s advisor, Dr. Russell Green. Kevin’s doctoral studies will be in the area of soil dynamics, particularly the phenomenon of soil liquefaction under earthquake loading, and will combine his background in geotechnical engineering with the experience gained in strong-motion seismology in his time in Iceland. Kevin enjoys running and travel, and developed a new love for hiking while in Iceland.
Scholarship Years: 2009 – 2010
Pamela Wood obtained a B.A. in Biology with a specialization in marine science from Boston University in 2001, finished her M.S. from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington in 2005, and is now completing a joint doctoral degree from the University of Washington and the University of Iceland. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, she also used a Fulbright Scholarship to study European lake whitefish evolutionary ecology in Switzerland and worked as a research scientist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
Pamela used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to fund a study on food web ecology of Arctic charr in Icelandic lakes using naturally occurring stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to track the long-term dietary habits. This species exhibits a wide range in diet and can become specialized on certain dietary items in many cases, leading to differences in size, shape, and reproductive characteristics among populations. The most extreme differences within this species is found in Iceland, most likely as a result of the extreme variability in Iceland´s volcanic landscape. This study links this biological variability with physical variability to understand how piscivory, or the tendency to consume other fish, develops in different lakes, and how this is dependent on hydrological and terrestrial conditions.
Scholarship Years: 2006-2007
Originally from Vorarlberg, Austria, Ramona Harrison came to the United States at the age of 19 as an Au-pair. After a year, she decided to enroll at Nassau Community College in New York. After completion of her Associate’s degree she enrolled in the Anthropology Department at Hunter College (CUNY) in Manhattan and completed a B.A. in 2001. Following a year of work at the Museum of Natural History, she made the decision to continue college and pursue a M.A. in Anthropology at Hunter.
During the course of her studies, Ramona met Prof. Tom McGovern, a Zooarchaeologist involved in North Atlantic medieval research. Intrigued by his work she decided to apply to do research with him. After a couple of years of training in the NABO and NORSEC labs at Hunter College and Brooklyn College, and upon completion of her M.A. in 2005, she enrolled in the Ph.D. Program at the CUNY Graduation Centre. She was involved in excavation seasons in Iceland and class work in New York, and was also able to work on her faunal collections. She hopes to complete her Ph.D. by the end of 2009.
Ramona used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to investigate the trade relations and subsistence strategies at the medieval trading site of Gásir (NE Iceland). Currently she is working as an excavation supervisor in Vatnsfjördur, Iceland, where the Archaeological Field School is being held.
Sigurður Örn Aðalgeirsson
Scholarship Years: 2007 – 2008
Sigurður Örn Aðalgeirsson’s interest in robotics started at a an early age and his appreciation for complicated autonomous systems grew strong as he began his undergraduate studies as an Electronic and Computer Engineering major. As an undergraduate student he took an active part in his school\’s engineering competitions. The goal in these competitions was to build an autonomous machine that could achieve some goal, a typical goal being traversing through rough terrain and picking up items along the way and depositing them at an end location. It was through these experiences that he became convinced that he wanted to pursue a career in robotics.
At the University of Iceland, Sigurður studied multiple topics ranging from mathematics, physics and electronics to computer science, machine learning and control theory. He had the opportunity of conducting research in control theory with a professor which provided him with a glimpse into the life of a graduate student. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Sigurður’s current research interests lie at the intersection of autonomous robotics and behavioral science. HRI (Human Robot Interaction) is a field that aims to make robots more useful to people in some sense by providing people with an effective interface to control them. This research, at MIT, focuses on pushing towards the making of a sociable robot. People are experts at communicating with other people. This skill is one of the earliest ones to develop for an infant and it continues to be honed throughout an entire life. Sigurður’ research involves leveraging this ability in people by developing robots that use the same social cues as humans do to convey intentions and meaning as well as read people\’s cues whether they be verbal or non-verbal. It is hoped that this will make any layperson an expert in controlling a complicated robot without any specific training as they are able to apply their social models of fellow humans to the robots and interact with them as such.
Scholarship Years: 2008 – 2009
Steinunn Arnardóttir received her B.Sc. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Iceland in 2006 and a M.A. in Music, Science and Technology from Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) in 2008.
She is currently working toward a M.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University and will graduate in Spring 2010. Research interests include Audio Signal Processing and Brainwave Classification of Musical and Auditory Stimuli. Steinunn holds a Research Assistantship at Suppes Brain Laboratory in the Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI) at Stanford University where she works on designing and running Electroencephalogram (EEG) experiments on brainwave classification of musical and visual stimuli. The lab is directed by Professor Patrick
Suppes, and works on analyzing how the brain reacts to speech and music.
Steinunn used the Leifur Eiríksson Scholarship to conduct a research in Audio Signal Processing and emulation of Vintage Audio Equipment. Along with Professors Jonathan Abel and Julius O. Smith she has been working on a digital emulation of the Echoplex tape delay. The Echoplex is a tape delay device commonly used by guitar players in the
1960´s and 70´s, and then later in Ska music and hip hop in the 1980´s. First results were published at the 125th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention in San Francisco in Octorber 2008.
Scholarship Years: 2008 – 2009
Þórhildur Halldórsdóttir graduated from Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík in 2004 and then enrolled in psychology at the University of Iceland. She became interested in disruptive behavior disorders (DBDs), especially ADHD, while working on her BA thesis which she did in cooperation with the Icelandic innovative company, Mentis Cura. The objective of the thesis was to examine whether the electrical activity of the brain can be used to diagnose ADHD. Þórhildur is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in clinical child psychology at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include child and adolescent psychopathology (especially DBDs), evidence-based approaches to assessment, preventive interventions, neuroimaging, cognitive behavior therapy, and behavior modification systems.
During the past year, Þórhildur has used the Leifur Eiríksson funds to research ADHD, specifically behavioral interventions, at the University of Maryland, College Park under the supervision of Dr. Andrea Chronis-Tuscano. Þórhildur was involved in several NIMH funded studies, e.g. a study examining whether an integrated group parenting training and depression treatment program for mothers of children with ADHD can enhance the effects of traditional parent training in mothers who have elevated symptoms of depression.
Scholarship Years: 2007 – 2008
Þrándur Helgason is currently in his second year as a PhD student in Food Science at the University of Massachusetts. The goal of his research is to engineer vesicles that can deliver bioactive ingredients (such as ω-fatty acids and lycopene) into food matrixes and shield them from oxidation and increase bioavailability. During the past 12 months 2 research articles and one review have been published. Also the research was presented orally in May of 2008 at AOCS (American Oil Chemists’ Society) along with one poster. Two posters where presented in June of 2008 at IFT (Institute of Food Technology), one of which received first prize in a poster competition in the Food Chemistry division of IFT. Also 2 posters where presented on The Delivery of Functionality in complex food systems: Physically-inspired approaches from nanoscale to microscale during a conference in the fall of 2007.
Thrandur used the Leifur Eiríksson scholarship to fund the study of solid lipid nanoparticles and how they can be used to deliver bioactive compounds. In the course of the funding period he described in detail instability mechanisms which are driven by a transformation in crystal form of solid lipids. Knowledge about this mechanism has helped in designing a system that has better stability and protects the bioactive compounds better.