Hannah Pell Named Fulbright Scholar, Will Travel to Austria

Hannah Pell at Commencement ceremony

Accomplished does not even begin to describe Hannah Pell ’16.

A double major in physics and music, as well as a talented oboist, Pell can now add Fulbright Scholar to her list of achievements as she was selected for this prestigious fellowship in March. Pell, from Elizabethtown, Pa., will spend nine months in Graz, Austria combining her two loves of music and science for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Pell, who first decided to apply for the opportunity in June 2015, spent months researching various topics to decide on the perfect fit for her application and corresponding with Dr. Philip Benesch, associate professor of politics and faculty director of external scholarships and fellowships. “I love public speaking, education, and utilizing my scientific background to engage and understand music,” Pell said.

Recognizing Austria’s rich music history, and after talking with an acquaintance who had completed a Fulbright fellowship, it further solidified her drive to experience it for herself. While researching her proposals, Pell said she came across Dr. Richard Parncutt, a physicist and music psychologist who will act as her affiliate at the University of Graz and Centre for Systematic Musicology where she will study.

Pell’s project will include three phases: working with computational music analysis software, designing an undergraduate course, and serving as an English teaching assistant. The undergraduate course will focus on how science and music can be used together to reinforce one another. In her assistantship, Pell plans to focus on the use of music to understand language and culture.

Her Fulbright faculty committee who assisted her through the process includes chair and professor of music Dr. Renee Norris, assistant professor of music Dr. Jeffrey Lovell, professor of physics Dr. Michael Day, and Dr. Benesch. Associate professor of German Dr. Joerg Meindl and associate professor of German and French Dr. Rick Chamberlin also assisted her in completing the application. The Fulbright grant will cover many of her expenses, including lodging and travel, and will also include a stipend.

As another part of the application process, Pell discussed community engagement and mentioned Graz’s annual New Music Festival, which ties back into one of her numerous accomplishments at LVC.

During her junior year, Pell worked with Dr. Norris to establish a New Music Ensemble at the College. The title New Music refers to the fact that the focus is on experimental music written within the last 100 years.

“It was volunteer-based where I selected pieces of music and then found people to play them,” explained Pell, who won the College’s Concerto Aria competition as a sophomore and performed as a featured soloist with the Symphony Orchestra the following spring.

“There was a lot of interest because students wanted something new to experience. Now it’s a class that runs each semester and includes a recital every semester,” said Pell, who received the Presser Foundation Undergraduate Scholar Award for her outstanding music accomplishments.

The creation of the New Music Ensemble was just part of her junior year success.

Pell also completed an interdisciplinary study focused on mathematical applications to music. She examined patterns and symmetry in music, then had to write and defend a thesis. Dr. Lovell and Dr. Droms served as her advisors for the project, which she later presented at the Albright Research and Creativity Conference.

Pell’s independent study, in combination with a senior recital, means she will graduate with departmental honors for music.

After completing her Fulbright, Pell plans to attend graduate school to earn her master’s degree in music theory before pursuing a doctorate. She’d like to teach college courses in music.

She also envisions continuing to participate in science outreach, a skill that really grew after spending last summer as a national Society of Physics intern at the American Institute of Physics in Washington, D.C. Her responsibilities included the development of their Science Outreach Catalyst Kit (SOCK), which is sent to about 25 collegiate Society of Physics chapters around the country.

“The kit is used for demonstrations and activities. The 2015 SOCK focuses on acoustics, the physics aspect of sound,” she said. “It can be used to teach kids all the way through high school age and explain scientific ideas in ways that people of different skill sets can understand.”

Because of her outstanding work at her internship, Pell was invited to speak at two physics conferences: the American Association of Physics Teachers Winter Meeting in New Orleans, and the American Physical Society Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics in Syracuse.

“I’m really passionate about encouraging women in science and other STEM fields as well as gender and minority issues in science,” Pell said.

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