Leifur Eiriksson Foundation Names Six Scholarship Winners

March 23, 2009 — A University of Virginia student is among six recipients of this year's Leifur Eiriksson Foundation Scholarships.

Five students from the United States, including two from Virginia, and one Icelandic student will receive the scholarships, which promote study, research and cultural exchange between the two countries. The scholarships fund up to $25,000 of the students' expenses.

The six winners are:

• Christine Schott, 26, who received her bachelor's degree in English literature and creative writing from Dartmouth College and is currently working on a Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on studying medieval reading practices.

• Kevin Michael Foster, 25, who received his undergraduate degree in geotechnical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. and is currently working toward a master's degree in geotechnical engineering at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on the "scaling laws" of earthquake ground motions from the western U.S., central-eastern U.S. and Iceland.

• Jason Kaizer, 24, who received his undergraduate degree in geology and geophysics from Missouri University of Science and Technology and is currently at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst working on his master of science degree. Through his research, he hopes to determine how volcanic rocks are formed.

• Elisabeth Ward-Hightower, 36, who received a bachelor's degree in Scandinavian studies from the University of California at Berkeley, her master's in science degree in anthropology and museum studies from George Washington University and is currently enrolled at Berkeley. She is researching the complexity of identity formation in early-Commonwealth Iceland.

• Pamela Woods, 29, who received a bachelor's degree in biology with a specialization in marine science from Boston University, a master's degree from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, and is currently working on a Ph.D. at the University of Iceland in conjunction with University of Washington. She is researching the ecological processes by which biodiversity develops in the Northern regions of Iceland.

• Kari Helgasson, 25, who received an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Iceland and is currently working on his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on laying the groundwork for future observations of Cosmic Infrared Background radiation using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble telescope, to be launched in 2013.

The driving force behind the creation of the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation, created in 2000 to mark the 1,000th anniversary of Eiriksson's voyage to North America, was the late Robert Kellogg, a renowned scholar of Icelandic studies at the University of Virginia. Kellogg, who died in 2004, was an English professor, administrator, and mentor. 
Kellogg was the first chairman of the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation board of trustees. He also served as academic consultant to Iceland's Ministry of Education, and was a director of the Iceland Fulbright Commission.

The scholarships are funded from the foundation's $3.5 million endowment, raised from the sale of coins the U.S. Mint pressed in 2000 to celebrate Eiriksson's anniversary, along with matching funds from private donations, many made in memory of Kellogg.

The foundation's board of trustees is appointed by the Central Bank of Iceland, the Icelandic government and the University of Virginia. The U.Va. Foundation is the Eiriksson Foundation's fiscal agent.

More information is available at www.leifureirikssonfoundation.org.