Hoopes Prizes Awarded to Top Theses

Eighty-nine seniors received this year’s prestigious Hoopes Prize for outstanding research or scholarly work, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Prize Office announced Friday.

The distinction—funded by the estate of Thomas T. Hoopes ’19—comes with a $4,000 award for students and a $1,000 honorarium for faculty advisors who nominated student theses or projects this spring, according to Tarik Umar ’10, an economics concentrator and a Hoopes winner.

“A lot of seniors have a difficult time deciding whether to do a thesis,” Umar said, adding that the Hoopes Prize is evidence of how meaningful student theses can be.

Umar wrote his thesis about the relationship between the tone of company press releases and management ownership of the corporation’s stock after coding a program that allowed him to search through a database of 190,000 news articles.

“In the end, you get to become an expert in an area that no one has thought much of,” Umar said.

For Robert V. Fitzsimmons III ’10, his thesis on Quaker Oats’ “heart healthy” foods marketing strategy was a culmination of his experience in the history of science department over the past three years.

“I was trying to make a broader point about how we think about food,” Fitzsimmons said. “[The prize] is the representation of a process that I have really truly enjoyed.”

Vanessa J. Dube ’10, a former Crimson editorial editor and history and literature concentrator, found the inspiration for her thesis about the remote control after her mother raised a simple question about the remote’s history her sophomore year. She was then able to draw conclusions about modern culture from her research.

“The more foundational anxiety people feel, the more that they need handheld control like the remote or the iPhone,” she said. One conclusion of her thesis was that with increasing political turmoil, people wanted more control over their environment; for example, the buttons on the remote control multiplied from merely the mute and power buttons to the dozens of keys available today.

For Maria P. Vassileva ’10, who produced a thesis about a 10-page short story entitled “Red Stamps with Lenin’s Picture,” the Hoopes prize was more of a conclusion to her time at Harvard.

“It’s like a FAS divorce settlement,” said Vassileva, who received the e-mail notification of her award 30 minutes after she finished her last exam.

—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at xyu@college.harvard.edu.

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