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Prestigious Scholarship Will Fund Carnegie Mellon Student’s Study of Neuroscience in Germany


PITTSBURGH—Brian Mathias, a senior in the Bachelor of Humanities and Arts (BHA) program at Carnegie Mellon University, has been selected as a recipient of the exclusive German Chancellor Scholarship. The scholarship will fund a year of study for Mathias at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany.
The scholarship is awarded each year by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to 10 prospective leaders from the United States, under age 35, in the academic, economic and political fields. The foundation also awards 10 such scholarships to recipients in the Russian Federation and China. Beginning in August, Mathias will work for a year at the Max Planck Institute under psychologist Stefan Koelsch, who leads a research group that studies the cognitive neuroscience of music — how the brain perceives and interprets musical sounds. It’s a perfect fit for Mathias who, through Carnegie Mellon’s interdisciplinary BHA program, has studied both piano and psychology.

“I’ve been playing the piano for 14 years. As a musician, I attempt to produce the sounds needed to create a beautiful piece of art. My interest in the art of music production has gradually given way to a fascination with the mental and neural processes implicated in music perception,” said Mathias, who will graduate from Carnegie Mellon in May.

Mathias’ research typifies the work of students in the BHA program. The program is designed for academically and artistically talented students who want to develop their interest in the fine arts, while also pursuing studies in the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences.

“When I was applying for college, I knew that I wanted to study two things, not just one. I wanted to study piano in a conservatory setting, but I also wanted to study psychology,” Mathias said. “And the only place I could do that was Carnegie Mellon.”

In addition to his work at the Max Planck Institute, Mathias will study German language for a month in Bonn and take classes in biological psychology at the University of Leipzig. As part of the German Chancellor Scholarship, he and the other recipients will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. They will also embark on a four-week bus tour of Germany and a visit to Brussels.

Mathias, who is from Ridgefield, Conn., is also earning a minor in German at Carnegie Mellon, and he has worked as an undergraduate research assistant under Lori Holt, associate professor of psychology, who studies speech perception.

“Brian is an excellent example of the kind of interdisciplinary undergraduate training that is possible at Carnegie Mellon. The research Brian will be conducting in Germany integrates the skills he acquired working closely with psychology faculty, his musical expertise and his German language coursework,” Holt said. “Brian’s early focus on research has launched him on a very exciting post-graduate course. We are very proud of his accomplishments.”


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