Two Ph.D. students are winning fellowships from the social media company Facebook, an honor that goes to fewer than 2 percent of applicants, supports research for up to two academic years and helps raise Clemson University’s profile in Silicon Valley.

Moses Namara and Samaneh Zamanifard were among 36 Ph.D. candidates from 16 universities selected this year as Facebook Fellows, according to a Facebook Research blog post.

Samaneh Zamanifard and Moses Namara were among 36 Ph.D. candidates from 16 universities selected this year as Facebook Fellows, according to a Facebook Research blog post.

The social media platform reported that it received 1,876 entries from over 100 universities worldwide. 

Namara and Zamanifard, who are students in Clemson’s School of Computing, said the Fellowships will help them advance their research projects.

The Fellowship pays tuition and fees for up to two academic years and provides a $42,000 stipend that funds travel to professional events. 

Among those congratulating Namara and Zamanifard was Amy Apon, the C. Tycho Howle Director of the School of Computing. 

“Facebook Fellowships are highly competitive, and it’s a huge honor to receive one,” Apon said. “Moses and Samanah are highly deserving. Their Fellowships reflect the value of their research as viewed by one of the globe’s most influential companies. Their success helps spread the word about Clemson’s excellence in computing in Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world.”

Namara’s research is focused on understanding people’s perceptions of online privacy, including how they behave as their offline lives transition to online platforms. His research encompasses multiple platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Zamanifard said that her research focuses on social virtual reality, a field characterized by 3D virtual spaces in which multiple users can interact with one another through virtual-reality head-mounted displays. 

Increasingly, real-life social activities such as playing games, watching movies, participating in concerts, and having parties are moving to social virtual reality, she said. The shift makes issues regarding privacy and ethics in social virtual reality emerging concerns, Zamanifard said, and her research is about addressing such concerns.

For Namara, the Facebook Fellowship is his second honor from the company. He was named a Facebook Emerging Scholar in 2017.