The National Endowment for the Humanities named SMU professors Zachary Wallmark and Sabri Ates as fellowship grant recipients in January — the only two recipients in North Texas for the current funding cycle.

Wallmark, assistant professor and chair of music history at SMU Meadows School of the Arts, is using music studies, cognitive sciences and original brain imaging experiments to research the nature of our emotional response to music.

“I am deeply honored to receive this recognition,” Wallmark said. “With the support of the NEH, I hope in my work to help people better understand music’s grip on human emotion and imagination.”

Ates, associate professor in the Clements Department of History, is drawing on a variety of archival sources from different languages to write Sheikh Abdulqadir Nehri (d. 1925) and the Pursuit of an Independent Kurdistan. In the book, Ates will explore the quest for a Kurdish state between 1880-1925, when the creation of such a state emerged as a distinct possibility and then quickly unraveled.

“What this grant tells us is that our work has national relevance,” Ates said. “Recognition of SMU’s faculty work by a prestigious institution like NEH further cements SMU’s standing as a research university. With the support of NEH, I hope to answer one of the enduring questions of the contemporary Middle East: The Kurdish statelessness.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

This is the first time since 2010 that two awards were granted to SMU faculty members within the same funding cycle. More recently, history professor Alexis McCrossen received the fellowship in 2015 and assistant professor of English Timothy Cassedy earned it in 2014.

“NEH fellowships are among the most competitive humanities research opportunities in the nation, with a funding rate of approximately seven percent,” said Meadows Dean Sam Holland. “We are delighted that Zach has won this recognition, which is significant for the Meadows Music Division and reflects the growing visibility and stature of SMU on the national research stage.”

“Recognition from the NEH reinforces that our faculty garner national and international recognition for their research,” said Dedman Dean Thomas DiPiero. “Professor Ates’ work is very timely as the world struggles to determine how best to address our needs for greater intercultural understanding.”

Wallmark teaches courses in American popular music, including opera history and the psychology of music, and serves as director of Meadows’ new MuSci Lab, an interdisciplinary research group and lab facility dedicated to the scientific study of music. His first book, Timbre and Musical Meaning, is under contract with Oxford University Press. He will be combining his NEH support with a sabbatical from Meadows for a full year of dedicated research and writing time.

Ates’ research focuses on Ottoman-Iranian relations, Kurdish history, borderlands and the borderland peoples, and the history of sectarianism in the Middle East. His first book Tunalı Hilmi Bey: Osmanlıdan Cumhuriyet’e Bir Aydın, (Istanbul: Iletişim Yayınları, 2009), examines competing projects of Ottoman intellectuals to keep the disparate parts of the Empire together, as well as their responses to the age of nationalism and the birth of the Turkish Republic. Partially based on his award-winning dissertation, his second book, Ottoman-Iranian Borderlands: Making a Boundary (Cambridge University Press, 2013) discusses the making of the boundaries that modern states of Iraq, Turkey and Iran share.