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Former FASS Grad gains top US scholarship award

Heather Annan

Researcher Heather Annan, who gained a BA in Philosophy and Psychological Studies with The Open University, is among a select few named as a New Kennedy Scholar for her studies into autism.

Heather, who graduated in 2018, studied with the OU whilst caring for her grandmother. During this time, she volunteered as an adult literacy tutor, working with individuals with additional support needs, including autism. She followed-up her OU degree by completing an MSc in Philosophy of Mind and Psychology and is now studying for the PhD in Philosophy and Psychology – both at the University of Glasgow – funded by the C.K. Marr Educational Trust.

Heather’s research focuses on philosophy of mind, perception, and attention. In her thesis, she is developing a new theory of autism in which attentional differences are a core aspect of autism, that explain the perceptual variation associated with the condition, among other aspects. She is keen to ensure that this work captures how autistic individuals report experiencing the world. She plans to investigate how her theory could provide improved support opportunities for autistic individuals and their families.

Award provides an “incredible opportunity”

Heather’s Kennedy Scholarship will see her conduct research study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 2023-24 academic year. She will be a Visiting Fellow with the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, continuing her doctoral research on autism.

Heather said: ”I am delighted to have been awarded a Kennedy Scholarship which will allow me to attend MIT as a visiting PhD student for one academic year. I am looking forward to working with academics from a wide range of disciplines and further developing my account of autism during this time. I am grateful to the Kennedy Memorial Trust for their support, and I will ensure that I make the most of this incredible opportunity.

The Kennedy Scholarships are prestigious awards which form part of the UK’s official memorial to President John F. Kennedy, and the Trust seeks to promote ideals of intellectual endeavour, leadership, and public service through the Scholars we support. Kennedy alumni have gone on to leading positions in a wide range of professional fields.

Dr Emily J Charnock, Director, Kennedy Memorial Trust, said: “We are delighted that Heather will be joining the Kennedy Scholar community, and look forward to supporting her on the next step of her academic and professional career. We know she has an incredibly bright future ahead.

Heather is currently at the University of Tokyo over the summer, working as a visiting researcher having been awarded a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) scholarship.

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