National Science Foundation awards fellowship to graduate student in College of Science

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 5, 2009 – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship to a Virginia Tech master's degree student in the Virginia Tech College of Science.

Honors student Bradley Shapiro, of Arlington, Texas, is a candidate for an master of science degree in mathematics ( and economics ( He says he will use his fellowship to pursue a Ph.D. in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While there, intends to study the overlap between political economy and microeconomic theory, specifically the mathematical representation of people’s response to incentives to tackle questions of political power.

“For instance,” he said, “I would like to ask variants of these questions: ‘What incentives are the people in power responding to?’ and ‘How can we design systems in which the people in power have an incentive to behave the way we want them to?’”

Shapiro’s research for his master’s degree was about the practice of ability tracking in secondary school mathematics classes. He earned double bachelor’s degrees with honors in mathematics and economics from Virginia Tech. In addition to three papers and two invited lectures, Shapiro has been awarded a number of honors such as Phi Beta Kappa, College of Science Rising Senior Scholar, and the Alumni Presidential Scholarship.

“Brad’s fellowship recognizes his strong background in math and economics, his outstanding work ethic, and his impressive potential for creative contributions to the field of economics,” said Peter Haskell, professor and department chair for mathematics.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship provides three years of support for graduate study leading to research-based master’s or doctoral degrees and is intended for students who are at the early stages of their graduate career. The purpose of the award is to maintain and build a diverse group of researchers and educators across the United States in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.