85 Undergraduates Receive Hoopes Prize

Eighty-five undergraduates were awarded the Hoopes Prize for outstanding senior theses or research projects on Friday.

The award—which is funded by the estate of Thomas T. Hoopes ’19—comes with a prize of $4,000 for student recipients and $1,000 for their advisers.

After being nominated by their advisers, Hoopes Prize winners submitted their projects to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which then reviewed the applications. Award winners were notified via email on Friday morning.

“I was totally flabbergasted,” said Hoopes Prize winner Keru Cai ’11, who is an English concentrator. “I didn’t think I would win at all. I had all but forgotten about the entire process.”

Cai—who wrote her thesis on aesthetic experience and free will in the novels “War and Peace” and “Middlemarch”—said she plans to use her award money to travel in Asia this summer.


Computer Science concentrator David J. Wu ’11 said he awoke to a “fun” surprise on Friday morning upon discovering that his thesis on improving computer performance in the abstract strategy game Arimaa had been awarded the Hoopes Prize.

Prizewinner Fernando Racimo ’11 said he felt honored by the award but added that his greatest satisfaction derived from the work he put into his thesis on the genetic basis of social behavior in microbial evolution.

“The award was really something extra,” said Racimo, who is an Organismic and Evolutionary Biology concentrator.

Prizewinner Oliver D. Strand ’11, whose Literature thesis on conceptions of the function of art was inspired by an email conversation with a friend, echoed Racimo’s sentiment.

“I feel really grateful,” he said, “but I got even more out of the process.”

Social Studies concentrator Sarah E. Esty ’11, who received the Hoopes Prize for her thesis on party politics and abortion in the ’60s and ’70s, said she felt fortunate to have been chosen for the award out of a pool of talented students.

“I know how these prizes are sometimes very arbitrary and don’t recognize people who have worked very hard on their theses, so I felt very lucky to receive it,” she said.

Esty said she plans to spend her award money to help fund a summer roadtrip across the United States.

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at

See the full list of winners in each House below:


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