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The Kroner Family Endowed Fellowship

Ken Kroner, Ph.D.’88 has some advice for graduate students: “Find someone with gray hair, and attach yourself to him or her.”

The economics alumnus knows of what he speaks. While he was a graduate student at UC San Diego, he was mentored by professor emeritus and Nobel laureate Robert Engle. After receiving his Ph.D., Kroner went on to build a successful finance career in both industry and academia. Currently, he oversees multi-asset strategies for Black Rock, the world’s largest asset management firm, and also serves as the company’s chief investment officer of scientific active equity.

Ken Kroner, Ph.D. ’88

Kroner attributes much of his professional success to the foundation of knowledge he gained at UC San Diego.

“UCSD taught me how to think in structured and disciplined ways,” he says. “Economics is a relatively fuzzy science. It’s a lot easier when you go from assumptions to implications to decisions. That practice of scientific thought came straight from UCSD.”

In a gesture of gratitude, Kroner and his wife Jennifer created the Kroner Family Endowed Fellowship in 2011 with a $1 million gift to the Division of Social Sciences. The fellowship is designed to provide stellar students with the opportunity to pursue their research interests at UC San Diego and offer the university a means to attract top graduate students. The endowment is flexible, so that one student may benefit with a larger support package, or multiple students with smaller amounts.

“Graduate students are the lifeblood of a university,” said Kroner. “Excellent students enable the faculty to conduct excellent research. We hope our gift will help build a stronger division of Social Sciences, and a stronger university.”

Kroner Family Fellows

Till Poppels, Linguistics

melissa-troyer.jpgWith his fellowship beginning in 2014, Till Poppels describes his research, path to UC San Diego and impact of the Kroner Family Fellowship: “My research interests revolve around the question of how we use language to communicate our thoughts to others. Understanding what others intend to say may seem trivial and automatic to us, but from a cognitive perspective, language comprehension is a vexing inferential problem that has long fascinated scholars in fields as diverse as philosophy, linguistics, psychology and artificial intelligence. As a Ph.D. student in the Department of Linguistics at UC San Diego, I use a combination of experimentation and computational modeling to study the nature of these inferences.

“Originally from Germany, I have been fascinated since high school with the question of how we learn languages and use them to communicate. After graduating, I spent a year teaching English in Bolivia before moving to the United Kingdom to study cognitive science. After receiving a master’s degree with honours in cognitive science from the University of Edinburgh, the question was not whether I would pursue a Ph.D., but where.

“Knowing that being a Kroner Family Fellow would allow me to devote my time and energy to the research I was so eager to get started on, I chose UC San Diego over offers from Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania. Half way through the Ph.D. program in linguistics, I am happy to report that it has been a tremendously stimulating journey and I am grateful for the support the Kroner fellowship has provided me along the way.”

Melissa Troyer, Cognitive Science


Driven by a fascination with the way the brain understands and stores language, Troyer, who began her fellowship in 2012, seeks to discover the mechanisms that link words and memory. Currently a Ph.D. student in the department of cognitive science at UC San Diego, Troyer is the inaugural Kroner Family Fellow. Her work involves collaboration with researchers in psychology, neuroscience and communications to learn about how humans process language.

Beginning in high school, Troyer began immersing herself in the study of languages both in the classroom and abroad, including studying literature and language in France. Her interest in the scientific methods behind analyzing and capturing data grew as an undergraduate student at Indiana University, where she studied cognitive science and experimental psychology. While at Indiana University, she spent three years as a research assistant exploring audiovisual capabilities of the brain, as well as designing experimental software for students to use in psychology classes. She then received her master’s degree in cognitive science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she researched online language processing and the variances in sentence comprehension.

Troyer’s decision to attend UC San Diego as a Ph.D. student was a direct result of receiving the Kroner Family Endowed Fellowship, an award that has allowed her to immediately commence with her research work and begin teaching.

“After obtaining a master’s degree from MIT, the decision to move across the country to follow my dream of pursuing a Ph.D. was a difficult one,” said Troyer. “Knowing that I had strong financial support at UC San Diego was an important factor in my choice.”