A UCSB professor recently won a prestigious fellowship to fund research on metaphysical beliefs, further boosting the university’s reputation in religious studies.

Catherine Albanese, a religious studies professor, has been awarded the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to continue work on her study of metaphysical beliefs in the United States.

“It’s been widely acknowledged that this school has the leading Religious Studies Dept. out of state universities across the country,” Albanese said. “My winning this fellowship is another example of the distinction [of the department].”

Albanese was one of 184 people chosen from a field of over 3,200 applicants. The $6.75 million total amount of fellowships granted this year will be distributed evenly to those chosen, over $36,000 each.

“The award is not enough to live on, but usually the institutions that recipients belong to make up the difference so they can have a Guggenheim winner on staff,” Albanese said. ” My colleagues in the Religious Studies Dept. are delighted.”

Albanese, who received her Ph.D. in American religious history from the University of Chicago, recently received a Presidential Research Fellowship in the Humanities from the University of California Office of the President. She plans to use the fellowships to take a break from teaching next year to complete research for her book, “A Republic of Mystics and Metaphysicians: A Cultural History of U.S. Metaphysical Religion,” which she has been working on for the last four years. The Yale University Press has already agreed to publish the book upon its completion.

In the book, Albanese argues that metaphysical religion is a more pervasive element of American culture than is usually acknowledged.

“People in this country mix and match beliefs from different traditions to form their own,” Albanese said. “For example, over 25 percent of the country believes in reincarnation. That’s not something they’re learning about at their local Methodist church.”

Since joining the UCSB faculty in 1987, Albanese has taught numerous religious studies courses, including a study of religion in America since 1865 and the structure of religious organizations in America.

Two members of the UCSB faculty, Japanese culture professor John Nathan and geological science professor David W. Lea, received Guggenheim fellowships last year. Nathan used the fellowship to finish his book on the role of Japan in global affairs, while Lea used it to further his research into how atmospheric carbon dioxide levels affect climate change.

U.S. Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife established the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1925 as a memorial for their son. The Foundation offers fellowships once a year to scientists, scholars and artists to assist them in their research or creation of the arts.