January 26, 1999: A philosophy professor at Simon Fraser University is the recipient of a $1 million (US) research fellowship. Dr. Kathleen Akins, a philosopher of science whose research spans both philosophy and neuroscience, is one of ten early career researchers awarded a James S. McDonnell Centennial Fellowship. The fellowships, which are provided by the McDonnell Foundation, target scientist-scholars whose work promises to contribute substantially to the development of knowledge and its application in the next century.
Dr. Akins, the only Canadian to win an award, will use it to fund research that applies findings in neuroscience to some very traditional philosophical questions about the nature of the mind. "We're interested in the insight various neuroscientific research can provide into questions like 'how do we think and sense the world?' and 'what is it to be an I?'" says Dr. Akins. "These questions are of interest because they are about 'us', and answering these question will help us to understand, or re-conceptualize, ourselves."
McDonnell Centennial Fellowship will free Dr. Akins up to concentrate on her research, and to engage other like-minded researchers around the world in the investigation. She views this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore one of the great unanswered questions.
Research funding of this magnitude in the humanities is extremely rare. "This is almost certainly the largest award to any philosopher of science in the entire history of the subject," says Bruce Clayman, SFU's Vice President, Research.
The James S. McDonnell Centennial Fellowships are being awarded to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of James S. McDonnell, whose company became the McDonnell Douglas Corporation and who founded the McDonnell Foundation in 1950.