For their writings on topics ranging from stem cells to medieval trade to creative writing, 77 students were recently awarded Harvard’s prestigious Hoopes Prize for exceptional scholarly work.
The award, given to a select group of students nominated by faculty members based on the quality of their senior theses or other academic projects, was founded in 1982 and includes a $3,500 prize. The prize’s stated goal is “promoting, improving and enhancing the quality of education” and “promoting excellence in the art of teaching.”
One student, Lief E. Fenno ’07, received the prize in recognition of his research on growing cells with Parkinson’s disease in a dish using embryonic stem cells.
Lecturer on Medicine Chad Cowan, one of Fenno’s advisers, praised his work for helping to advance the field of Parkinson’s research.
“What’s really exciting about this is that it really accelerates our ability to understand this disease. Now that we can show that it can happen in a dish, we can find out how, why, and what are the first things that go wrong, and use this as a platform for drug discovery,” Cowan said in an interview.
Cowan attributed Fenno’s prize to his committment and steady determination.
“I’ve been [advising theses] for 10 years, and it was hands-down the best I’ve read,” he said. “It’s rare that you find someone as dedicated and as focused as he is at such a young age.”
Fenno plans to use his prize money to eventually travel on the trans-Siberian railroad.
But after he graduates, he will continue his research in Cowan’s lab while applying to graduate schools.
Rowan W. Dorin ’07, another Hoopes winner, said he viewed his thesis more as a process than as a product and that he valued the relationship he cultivated with his adviser while conducting research on medieval Mediterranean trade.
“The experience was incredible,” Dorin said, adding that Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine History Angeliki E. Laiou “was the ideal thesis superviser—she never said the thesis was an end unto itself. It was about the trials and tribulations of academia. She let me be very independent and let me have free rein.”
Having watched him go through the process of producing a significant historical paper, Liaou said Dorin has the potential to go far in the world of academia.
“I think in the best of theses one brings the topic a bit further. One contributes something new...to a discourse,” Liaou said.
“Rowan’s a very talented young man, and I think he’ll be a great historian,” she added, saying she could “very easily” see his thesis being published.
Lindsay K. Turner ’07 received the Hoopes for her creative thesis, written under the guidance of Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory Jorie Graham.
Turner’s work was a book of poetry entitled “The Watched Sky,” the contents of which deal with issues of place and landscape.
Turner said she decided to pursue the opportunity to write a creative thesis after having taken creative writing classes during her previous semesters at Harvard.
“I’d taken several workshops, and this was a really good opportunity to do a lot of hard work on a larger project,” she said.
Turner has plans to teach English in France after graduation and eventually to study for a masters of fine arts in poetry.
Liaou expressed her appreciation for students—the Hoopes Prize winners chief amont them—who make the decision to cultivate the habit of pursuing rigorous academic discourse on a frequent basis.
“I’ve taught at this university for very many years now. One of the things that keeps me happy is that we have so many talented undergraduates with fresh and open minds who are willing to invest their time in intellectual endeavors,” Liaou said.
“And that is a real pleasure—that is the real pleasure that a professor has,” she added.
—Staff writer Juli Min can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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