Baylor Mathematician Receives Fulbright Scholarship for Study in Hungary

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Michael Coons (l) with his advisor, Dr. Klaus Kirsten
April 27, 2005

by Judy Long

Michael Coons, a Baylor University master's student in mathematics, has been named a Fulbright scholar for the 2005-06 academic year, where he will pursue additional study at the Alfred Renyi Institute of the Hungarian Academy of the Sciences in Budapest.

Coons' appointment makes the sixth Fulbright scholarship awarded to Baylor students in the past 10 years. In the same time period, four professors also have received Fulbright awards.

After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Montana, the native of Kalispell, Mont., visited several campuses before selecting Baylor for graduate work. "I was impressed with the professors in the math department, and I felt comfortable here," he said.

He and his wife, Alissa, also from Kalispell, will leave for Hungary in August. "Alissa has Hungarian relatives, so she's excited about the year, too."

While in Hungary, Coons will study number theory, at the institute in Budapest, a city that stands out in the mathematics world. "Hungary has produced many remarkable mathematicians," he said.

"I'd also like to look at history as a minor emphasis. Paul Erdos and John fon Neumann, are two Hungarian mathematicians I'd like to look at while I'm there."

Coons said he also would like to study a number of lesser known mathematicians who have contributed to the scope of mathematics. He will find that task easier since the institute has one of the largest math libraries in Hungary, possibly even in eastern and central Europe.

Having family in Budapest is going to be an advantage for the Coonses. The couple will live in a relative's apartment, though it is not close to the institute. "I'll have to take the metro," Coons said.

The other students receiving Fulbright scholarships since 1995 are Travis Frampton, a religion doctoral student who was selected in 2000-01 to study in the Netherlands; Holley Ewell in history, also selected in 2000-01, to study in Germany; Amy Mathis, selected in 1997-98 to pursue women's studies in Hungary; Alison Hansen from communications, who studied in Spain during the 1996-97 academic year and her sister, Claire Hansen, also selected for 1996-97 to go to Austria to study public relations.

Dr. Lianne Fridriksson, Baylor's Fulbright program director and a professor in the department of journalism, said Baylor's international profile has soared in the past 10 years. Fridriksson herself has received three of the prestigious awards, the first as a student at University of Texas at Austin and two more as a professor at Baylor.

The four Baylor professors who have received the Fulbright award are Fredriksson, who traveled in 2004 to the Ukraine and to Iceland for the 1995-96 academic year; Dr. Joseph McKinney, professor of economics, who has received two Fulbrights, the first in 1996 to study in England, and the second in 2003 to Canada; Dr. Caleb Oladipo, assistant professor in church-state studies, who traveled to South Africa in 2003; and Dr. Wallace Daniel, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who has been awarded a total of three Fulbrights, the most recent in 1997 for travel to Russia.

The Fulbright program, proposed by Sen. William J. Fulbright, was established by Congress in 1946 to promote "mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world." The prestigious federally-funded scholarship sends 800 scholars and professionals to more the 140 countries each year, where they lecture or conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.

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