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Hoopes Prize Winners Announced

By Alex L. Pasternack, Crimson Staff Writer

Seventy-four students learned yesterday that they have received the distinguished Hoopes Prize for outstanding academic research work.

The prize, which is funded by the estate of Thomas T. Hoopes ’19, carries with it a $2,500 award for the student and a $700 gift for the faculty advisor.

A panel of Faculty members awards the prize based on the breadth and impact of the nominated works, which are typically senior theses.

This year’s winning papers ran the gamut of scholarly research—from literary criticism on C.S. Lewis, to studies of obscure diseases to a sociological thesis on “the legitamacy of commercial sex.”

Miriam R. Asnes ’02, a joint concentrator in anthropology and women’s studies, said she was thrilled to win the prize for her work on the identity struggles of Israeli Palestinian women.

“You see the prize-winning theses on the bookshelf in Lamont, and it seems an unattainable goal,” she said. “I want more people to know about this issue, and the social and political struggles of these women.”

Asnes’ work was based on two summers she spent with Arab women’s rights organizations in Israel.

Like many other prize recipients, Asnes credited the scholarly assistance she received from her thesis advisor, Professor of Contemporary Arab Studies Steven C. Caton.

“Steve helped me figure out which aspects of my research I was really interested in. He told me what had and hadn’t been done before, and if I ever needed a particular book, he’d pull something straight out of his bookshelf,” Asnes said.

Asnes, who also wrote and recently directed a play about women in Israel, said she hope s to use her prize money to return to Israel in order to work with the Palestinian-Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace.

Racial and ethnic issues featured prominently in much of the winning work—some of which was more controversial than others.

Geoffrey Starks ’02, a Social Studies concentrator who won the prize for his research on reparations for blacks, said he hopes his thesis will prompt discussion.

“This is definitely a hot button topic, one that needs to be talked about,” he said.

For Starks and other recipients, the Hoopes was a final validation of the thousands of long hours they spent in the lab and library at the expense of sleep and time away from their friends.

“Without a doubt there were some dog days. This definitely feels good,” Starks said.

While Starks will begin working as an investment banker next fall, he said he plans to continue advocating for reparations for blacks. But first he says he will figure out how to spend his prize money.

“My roommates are already making plans on how to divvy it up,” he joked.

For his winning thesis, Economics concentrator Benjamin G. Edelman ’02 dived into a less trodden field—the dynamics of internet retailing.

Using a computer program he wrote, Edelman studied the ways in which editorial recommendations on the website of bookseller Amazon.com affected its book sales.

One of his findings, for instance, was that Amazon.com’s sales of childrens’ books responded more to positive reviews than did other books.

“It’s a fun piece,” said Edelman’s thesis advisor, Economics Professor Ariel Pakes. “It really is true that we don’t understand shopping on the internet, and he used a creative way of going about it.”

While Edelman said he probably wouldn’t buy anything from Amazon with his prize money, he said he hopes publishing his work will benefit the internet company and others like it.

Meanwhile, William J. Wailand ’02 said he plans to use his prize money to travel to Alaska—a fitting end to his study on the environmental and social impact of natural gas pipelines in that area.

“I thought I could do somewhat of a comprehensive approach to the issue in 70 or 80 pages. But [the paper] quickly reached the 150-page mark,” he said.

For Vanessa Henke ’02, a Biochemisty concentrator, long hours in the lab led to a number of unexpected discoveries about ChaK2, the protein on which she wrote her thesis.

“I found that [the protein’s] expression changes in cancer cells,” she said, a potentially beneficial finding she hopes to research next year as a Health Sciences Technology student at Harvard Medical School.

“[The thesis] took a lot of time, but it was something that I was really happy to do,” she said. “It’s been the highlight of my academic life.”

The winners of the Hoopes prize, mostly seniors, are Parag A. Pathak ’02, Geoffrey A. Starks ’02, Christopher O. Meserole ’02, Kathy Lu ’02, David D. Kornhaber ’02, John N. Friedman ’02, Benton B. Bodamer ’02, Margaret W. Elias ’02, Pavan K. Bendapudi ’02 and Jean C. Han ’02, of Lowell House.

From Pforzheimer House, Shanthi K. Naidu ’02, L. Stephen Long ’02, Michael Gerber ’02, Trevor S. Cox ’01-’02, Will G. Bain ’02, Hallam Stevens ’02; from Quincy House, Wenya Linda Bi ’02, Ross G. Douthat ’02, Stephen E. Sachs ’02, Melissa Tukey ’02 and Gernot Wagner ’02.

Other winners included Alexis G. Burgess ’02 and Tetsuro Onitsuka ’02 of Lowell House; Sue K. Paik ’02, Peter J. Chung ’02, Jonathan I. Flombaum ’02, Andrew Lynn ’02, Erik B. Sandegard ’02, Jillian R. Shulman ’02 and William Wailand ’02 of Cabot; Matthew A. Rojansky ’02 and Yuni Kim ’02 of Eliot House; and Christopher W. Cox ’02 of Kirkland House.

From Adams House, winners are Svetlana Rukhelman ’02, Robert R. Porter ’02, Elena S. Schoenberger ’02, Brian Shillinglaw ’01-’02, Alec Nevala-Lee ’02, Rob T. Dennis ’02, Melissa M. Gniadek ’02, Benjamin W. Jarvis ’02, Timothy F. Sohn ’02 and John Chia-An Tsou ’02.

From Currier House, Adriane H. Gelpi ’01, Abby L. Schlatter ’02, and Ian A. Tomb ’02; from Dunster, Vanessa G. Henke ’02, Susie Y. Huang ’02, and Rachel E. Ahern ’02; from Winthrop House, Mekhala Krishnamurthy ’02, Narie J. Yoo ’02, John M. Gansner ’02 and Jeremy Chao-Yen Hwang ’02.

Leverett residents Alexis Loeb ’02, Sara B. Johnstone ’02 and Emily N. Ogden ’02 were winners, as were Mather House residents Alexander P. Nyren ’02, Erica B. Levy ’02 and Conor M. Liston ’02.

Other winners include Katherine Sharaf ’02, Sarah Tsien ’02, Jesse Billett ’01, Jennifer Wagner ’01 and Daniel Yamins ’02.

—Crimson Staff writer Alex L. Pasternack can be reached at apastern@fas.harvard.edu.

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