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​CIS/Psychology Grad Wins Research Fellowship

A recent University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate has been selected to receive a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. 

Brian Hall has the rare distinction of receiving a fellowship for doctoral studies as an undergraduate. The fellowship provides $138,000, or three years of support, and can be used for a graduate program anywhere in the nation. “Selection for a GRFP (Graduate Research Fellowship Program) award as an undergraduate is a significant accomplishment,” said Gisele Muller-Parker, lead program director of the GRFP. 

“There’s no way – I didn’t think it was actually possible,” Hall said after learning of the award. 

Hall (right) completed his bachelor’s degree in computer information systems and psychology in May, graduating with high honors. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in human computer interaction at the University of Michigan.

Hall’s research focuses on the future of work in an increasingly automated, computerized society. He is exploring human values and problems and examining tasks that need human skill and judgment aided with technology vs. those where human involvement is eliminated. “We want to think 10-20 years out. My goal is to pursue dreams we didn’t know existed,” he said. 

NSF considers applicants with experience in research and making a broader positive impact on society. Hall has already won several research grants, working closely with professors and presenting work at local, state and international research conferences. Hall presented his work on drones and augmented reality at the Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems earlier this month, finishing among the top three in student research competition.

Hall described his first research project as “so hard, so challenging, so fascinating and rewarding. It was addictive,” he said. It involved the effect of computer system delays on a user interface, and he presented the results at the same conference in 2016. “I realize only 50 people in the world may care about this, but 40 of them were in that room.”  
Hall, 34, previously worked as a press operator-technician and thought he could make a higher salary if he became a programmer. “Without a degree, the best jobs weren’t available.” 

Discussions with UW-Stevens Point faculty helped Hall discover his chosen field, he said. They helped him realize his potential and think differently about approaching challenges. Tim Krause, chair of Computing and New Media Technologies, is his adviser. “He’s been a wonderful source of support for creative options. ‘If no one’s ever done it, that’s a reason to do it,’” Hall said. 

Hall has supervised and mentored other research assistants, gave numerous presentations and published scientific articles. He was a peer reviewer for a national student publication and a teaching assistant for psychology statistics and geographic information systems. He served in leadership roles in his College of Letters and Science and professional associations. He’s also earned UW-Stevens Point’s highest award, the Albertson Medallion. 

Hall is among 2,000 NSF fellowship winners across many fields of study who competed among 13,000 applicants for the Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship aims to recruit and retain high-potential students to U.S. graduate programs in science, technology, engineering or math training. NSF fellows have made transformative discoveries in science and engineering, become leaders in their chosen careers and been honored as Nobel Prize laureates. 

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