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Benshirim Wins Wendell Scholarship Prize

By Bluyé B. DeMessie, Contributing Writer

Ezekiel P. Benshirim ’19, an Integrative Biology concentrator from Cabot House, was awarded the 119th Jacob Wendell Scholarship Prize Saturday evening at the Harvard Faculty Club.

Established in 1899, the Wendell Prize is awarded each year to “a Harvard College sophomore identified by the selection committee as the most promising and broad-ranging scholar in his or her class, without reference to financial need.”

In addition to $7,000 in prize money awarded at the reception, Wendell Prize winners can receive up to $7,000 for each of the two summers after sophomore and junior year, respectively, to work on summer projects approved by the Prize selection committee.

The guests at the reception comprised of representatives of the Wendell family, former Wendell Prize winners, administrators, and faculty members, including Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana. Benshirim’s parents and siblings also attended the reception at the Faculty Club.

Benshirim plans to use the money from the award to conduct research on biomimetic micro-physiological systems, which are simulated human organs on a chip, at the Wyss Institute.

Outside of class, Benshirim plays viola in the Bach Society Orchestra and conducts research on fern sporangia with Organismic and Evolutionary Biology professor Noel M. Holbrook, who attended the reception.

Benshirim is also a modern and ballet dancer and is a member of the Harvard Ballet company. Connecticut College professor Heidi Henderson, Benshirim’s former modern dance teacher, attended the ceremony.

“She is a great person and a great dancer who showed me how to have unique and idiosyncratic ideas and be confident and graceful and polite about them,” Benshirim said of Henderson.

In September, roughly 200 sophomores were invited to submit applications to the Wendell Prize, which requires an essay and two letters of recommendation from Harvard professors.

After the initial application, eight students were selected to be interviewed in early February by the selection committee of seven faculty members chaired by English professor Philip J. Fisher. The morning after the interview Benshirim got the acceptance call and was astonished to win.

“It was a huge surprise and an incredible honor,” Benshirim said of his prize.

For his application, Benshirim submitted a comparative essay that was published by the Harvard Sustainability Office. The essay, titled “Daring to Care: Deep Ecology and Effective Popular Environmentalism,” focuses on how the differences between environmentalists Rachel L. Carson and James E. Lovelock parallel Arne Naess’s philosophy of deep ecology.


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