Genius Bar: Matthew K. Nock
Meet two Harvard professors receiving 500k each from the MacArthur "genius grants."
When Matthew K. Nock, a professor of Psychology and Director for Clinical and Developmental Research in the Department of Psychology, told his wife that he had received the MacArthur “Genius” Grant, she didn’t believe him. “But luckily,” he said, “I got the letter the next day.”
Nock is one of three Harvard professors to win this year’s prestigious MacArthur Fellowship; he is the son of a mechanic and the first in his family to graduate from college. He owes his widespread recognition to his research into the prediction and prevention of suicidal and self-injurious behavior, but Nock’s committment to the learning of others has earned him two undergraduate teaching awards.
The mysterious MacArthur Foundation didn’t let Nock’s family know about the award in advance. He spoke to his father on the morning the award was announced. “He told me in no uncertain terms that I am not a genius,” said Nock. “And he’s still the person I’m going to call when my motorcycle doesn’t start.”
Nock has had his Harley-Davidson for almost 10 years. “My dad’s a mechanic and he has two Harleys,” Nock explained. “My brothers are both mechanical engineers and they have Harleys.”
For Nock, who comes off as far too humble to take the “genius” tag seriously, it’s the importance of his work that should take center stage. “It’s impossible to know why our research lab was acknowledged,” he said. “I think it has more to do with the problem we’re studying.”
According to Karina Hsieh ‘13, who took Nock’s Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences class last semester, the grant-winner’s dedication to living social issues pays off. “He makes dry material much more interesting,” Hsieh said. “He explained things in a way that it applied to the real world.”