Diana C. Wise ’09-’10, a History and Literature concentrator, has been awarded the 2010 Captain Jonathan Fay Prize for her senior thesis. She was selected for this honor from among this year’s 89 Thomas T. Hoopes Prize winners.
The Fay Prize, which is annually awarded by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, is bestowed on the senior who has produced “the most outstanding imaginative work or original research in any field,” according to the Institute’s website.
“I felt astonished and overwhelmed, and just extraordinarily gratified that my thesis was recognized in such a way,” Wise said.
In her thesis, titled “Mere Trifles: Lord Hervey’s Memoirs and the Significance of the Insignificant,” Wise philosophically examined the contradictory relationship between triviality and essentiality in the writings of Lord Hervey.
“For instance, in the court, a courtier’s position was meant to be trifling amusement,” she said. “And yet in order to ensure...that you kept making your way up the echelons of power, you had to also make yourself essential.”
Wise, who will receive a $4,000 monetary award as part of the Fay Prize, will attend Cambridge University next year in pursuit of a M.Phil. in medieval studies.
Friends of Wise said that they are not surprised by her achievement.
“There’s no one who I’m less surprised to hear that they won,” said Ari R. Hoffman ’10, who has known Wise since their freshman year. “But there’s also no one who I think deserves it more and [better] represents what I think Harvard students should be.”
Julia E. Schlozman ’09, another friend, said she was impressed with Wise’s relentless devotion to her academic work, referring to her as “an extraordinarily brilliant Energizer Bunny.”
“I would really, really love to live inside her mind,” Schlozman said of Wise. “She’s just such an interesting and quirky thinker.”
Two other seniors received honorable mention from the Fay Prize selection committee for their theses. Daniel M. Bear ’10 was recognized for his work in Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Molly R. Siegel ’10 for her History of Science thesis.
“I was just so impressed by the work of everyone I talked to, so it was a major surprise to me to know that I’d been singled out for anything,” said Bear, whose research on neurons and gene expression has been published in the scientific journals Nature and Neuron.
Siegel said that the Fay Prize honorable mention was a reaffirmation of her academic work. “I think a lot of times when you’re doing academic work it’s hard to see an end to it,” she said. “But then when other people in academia read it and like it, it’s very reassuring.”
—Staff writer H. Zane B. Wruble can be reached at email@example.com