Nataliya Stepanova portrait pictureShe will use the scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in speech and language processing at the University of Edinburgh.

University of Maryland senior Nataliya Stepanova has been named one of the 46 Marshall Scholars for 2021. The Marshall Scholarship, which allows American students to pursue graduate study at any university in the United Kingdom, is considered one of the most prestigious academic awards available to college graduates.

“The Marshall Scholarship is not only immensely prestigious, but extraordinarily selective. To be amongst this new class of Britain-bound all-stars is testament to Nataliya’s brilliance, vision, and determination to change the world,” said Richard Bell, a UMD professor of history who serves as UMD’s advisor for U.K. scholarships and fellowships. He also chairs the university’s U.K. awards nomination committee.

Stepanova, a double-degree student in mathematics and computer science with a minor in linguistics, plans to use the scholarship toward a Master of Science degree in speech and language processing at the University of Edinburgh. 

“I am extremely grateful for this amazing opportunity,” said Stepanova, who was born in Russia and moved to the United States when she was 2 years old. “Receiving the Marshall scholarship would not have been possible without the endless guidance I have received from UMD programs, passionate professors and supportive research mentors. I look forward to spending my time in the United Kingdom learning from natural language processing experts and collaborating with a global network of language scientists.” 

UMD’s sixth Marshall Scholar, Stepanova has extensive natural language processing research experience, including several projects related to her career goal of deploying natural language processing techniques to combat the plague of fake news and misinformation circulating on social media.

As a research assistant in the Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS), a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) sponsored by the Department of Defense, she worked on a project investigating the impact of transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation on foreign language learning.

“Nataliya is a gifted student and has become the bar against which all other undergraduate researchers I hire are judged,” said Polly O’Rourke, who was Stepanova’s supervisor and is an associate research scientist at ARLIS. “She excelled at every task we gave her, even when the tasks were difficult or outside her experience.”

In another ongoing ARLIS project in collaboration with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), she is using natural language processing techniques and machine learning to investigate to what extent one can predict the number of shares Eastern European social and political influencers’ Facebook posts would get, based on the topics discussed in the posts.

“By investigating social media campaigns in Eastern Europe, mainly Poland, I quickly learned that deep linguistic and cultural knowledge of the target community is vital for nuanced natural language processing analyses,” Stepanova said. 

She learned a similar lesson through a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, where she spent a summer in South Korea. 

“Interacting with native Koreans allowed me to pick up on slang, emoticons and internet lingo that I could not have learned from a textbook,” she said. “Such informal language constitutes a critical component of social media analyses.”

Back on campus, she is a Banneker/Key Scholar, earned a citation from the University Honors program and participated in the PULSAR interdisciplinary language science program. Stepanova served as a Department of Mathematics Strauss Teaching Assistant for calculus I and II, participated in and served as a teaching fellow for the Global Fellows in Washington, D.C. program, and taught math in Russian to bilingual elementary school students. She also volunteered with the high school Maryland Science Olympiad and the Chesapeake Education, Arts and Research Society.

Stepanova’s long-term plans involve gaining expertise in natural language processing research—either through a Ph.D. program or an industry position—and acquiring legal and policy knowledge that will ensure her research findings are used to inform smart and effective policy.

“I also hope to contribute to the development of policies regulating social media content that endangers public health,” she said. “My time spent at Edinburgh will ensure that my research on misinformation is rooted in an understanding of the global trends in English-language social media propagation and can thus be used to advise social media regulation policies developed both in the U.S. and the U.K.”

Founded by a 1953 Act of Parliament and named in honor of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Marshall Scholarships commemorate the humane ideals of the Marshall Plan and they express the continuing gratitude of the British people to their American counterparts. The first class of 12 Marshall Scholars arrived in the United Kingdom in 1954; those elected today will enter universities in 2021. 

The scholarships, which can be extended up to three years, provide university fees, cost of living expenses, an annual book grant, a thesis grant, research and daily travel grants, fares to and from the United States, and a contribution toward the support of a dependent spouse.

Campus Gateway We proudly recognize members of our community who recently garnered major honors, awards and promotions.


Dmitry Dolgopyat was elected as a foreign member of the Academia Europaea.

Roohollah Ebrahimian received the Provost’s Excellence Award for Professional Track Faculty.

Vadim Kaloshin will receive a gold medal from the International Consortium of Chinese Mathematics (ICCM) for his joint paper with Guam Huang and Alfonso Sorrentino.

Gail Letzter was named a Fellow of the Association for Women in Mathematics.

Sergei Novikov was awarded the 2020 Russian Academy of Sciences Gold Medal.

Konstantina Trivisa was named director of UMD’s Institute for Physical Science and Technology.

Graduate Students

Alexander Prize: Patrick Daniels and Ke Xue

Undergraduate Students

Marshall Scholar: Nataliya Stepanova

Merrill Scholars: Siri Neerchal and Mary Yilma


Sharon Crook (M.A. ’91, Ph.D. ’96, Applied Mathematics) received the 2020 Charles Wexler Teaching Award, the highest honor a faculty member can receive from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Arizona State University.

Susan Ferensic (B.S. '91, Mathematics) was named Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Columbia, South Carolina Field Office.

Robert Hollingshead (B.S. ’92, mathematics; B.S. ’92 electrical engineering) was named a shareholder and chair of Greenberg Traurig, LLP’s Japan Intellectual Property Practice.

Tamara Kolda (M.A. '95, Applied Mathematics), scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, was one of 87 members elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

David Marker (B.S. ’78, Mathematics), senior statistician and associate director at Westat, was named co-chair of the American Statistical Association’s Anti-Racism Task Force.

Richard Palczynski (M.A. '71, Mathematics), founder and president of SeaTower Insurance Consulting Services, LLC was named to the Care Bridge International 2020 Advisory Board.

LaRee Tracy (M.A. '02, Statistics) was named director of biostatistics at PHASTAR.

Professor Koralov teaching a classCourses are taught on weekday evenings to accommodate work schedules and students have the opportunity to earn a master's in less than two years.

The University of Maryland’s Science Academy saw major enrollment growth this fall in its data science and machine learning programs for working professionals.

The programs, which are only in their second year, enrolled 54 new students, including 24 UMD alumni. The incoming class ranged in age from 20 to 54 years old and was 39% female. 

“The growth we’ve seen in our professional programs validates our commitment to diversifying educational offerings that are both of high value and of academic excellence,” said Amy Chester, director of the Science Academy. “As we navigated a new reality this fall, shaped in part by COVID-19, we shifted our programs from in-person to hybrid and online to meet our students’ needs.”

Thirty-eight of the new students enrolled in the data science and analytics master of professional studies and graduate certificate programs. The master of professional studies program in machine learning welcomed 16 new students.

Students in the data science programs learn to design, conduct, interpret, and communicate data analysis tasks and studies using methods and tools of statistics, machine learning, computer science and communications. 

Students in the machine learning program master the methods and techniques of creating models and algorithms that learn from and make decisions or predictions based on data. They also explore advanced topics such as deep learning, optimization, big data analysis and signal/image understanding.

Science Academy courses are taught on weekday evenings to accommodate working professionals. With this schedule, students have the opportunity to earn a master's in less than two years, while continuing to work. Instructors include faculty members in UMD’s Departments of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mathematics. Fall course topics included probability and statistics with Mathematics Professor Leonid Koralov, principles of data science, deep learning, and research methods and study design. 

The application deadline for Fall 2021 enrollment in the data science or machine learning programs is March 12, 2021 for international students and June 30, 2021 for domestic students.

The Science Academy plans to expand its offerings in 2021 with executive education programs on climate finance and quantum computing.

“These new offerings will be short, high-impact experiences where participants can gain skills quickly and then apply what they learn to their professional work,” Chester said.

Written by Abby Robinson

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