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W&L’s Elyssa McMaster ’22 Awarded Fulbright to Italy McMaster has been awarded a Fulbright research grant to Italy to complete a hybrid art history and computer science project.

Elyssa-McMaster06-scaled W&L’s Elyssa McMaster ’22 Awarded Fulbright to ItalyElyssa McMaster ’22

Washington and Lee University’s Elyssa McMaster ’22 has been awarded a Fulbright research grant to Italy to complete a hybrid art history and computer science project titled “Computational approaches to Florentine manuscript paintings.” At W&L, McMaster is majoring in computer science and art history and is minoring in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. McMaster is a native of Roanoke, Virginia, and graduated from Cave Spring High School.

The grant will allow McMaster to continue work on her undergraduate thesis project, where she used a deep learning model to assign attributions to medieval paintings from unknown workshops. In Italy, she will work at the National Research Council of Italy in the Florence Research Area, where she will collect chemical data about Florentine liturgical manuscript illuminations and use them to improve her current model’s predictions.

“I am deeply honored that I have been allowed to represent W&L and the United States as a researcher in Italy,” said McMaster. “I am so proud to be a part of this program and its community. I hope to continue Fulbright’s commitment to cultural exchange with my work and personal relationships in Italy.”

McMaster credits George Bent, Sidney Gause Childress Professor of the Arts at W&L, as one of her many mentors.

“I work on Dr. Bent’s digital humanities project, ‘Florence As It Was,’ and he has been an incredible mentor during my time at W&L,” said McMaster. “My Fulbright grant would have been impossible without his guidance and scholarship.”

Bent says the work McMaster will complete is a matter of national importance for Italy.

“Elyssa’s academic interests bridge what is often perceived to be massive gulfs between science and art, technology and the humanities, computational machinery and human ingenuity,” said Bent. “Her expertise in approaches to the uses of artificial intelligence and sophisticated equipment to conduct a non-invasive examination of objects of extraordinarily high cultural sensitivity have distinguished her from the scores of other worthy applicants who applied for the Fulbright to Italy this year. The work she will do in the lab of Dr. Marcello Picollo at the National Research Council of Italy will help that team as it assists Italian museum collections and heritage sites in the restoration of their patrimony, which is a matter of the utmost importance for that nation today.”

On the W&L campus, McMaster is a computer science teaching assistant and a Writing Center peer consultant. She is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, where she served as director of diversity and inclusion as part of a pilot program in 2020. McMaster was a W&L cheerleader, has volunteered as a WLUR disc jockey, is active in Hillel and serves in the university’s Sexual Health Awareness Group.

McMaster will study in Italy for nine months. After completing the Fulbright grant, she plans to pursue her doctorate in a program that will allow her to continue using computational approaches to art history.

The Fulbright Program was established over 75 years ago to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Fulbright is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Washington and Lee University is proud to be included on the list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Students for the fourth consecutive year.

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