Norman R. Storer ’19 got a surprise birthday present Thursday morning when he found out he was one of seventy-two Harvard undergraduates who had won the 2019 Thomas T. Hoopes Prize for outstanding undergraduate scholarly work or research.
“I am still in disbelief about the news,” Storer, a joint Anthropology and Romance Languages and Literatures concentrator, wrote in an email. “[It is] definitely going to be one of my most memorable birthday presents.”
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences awards Hoopes Prizes annually to a select number of nominated student projects. The prizes aim to honor College seniors by “recognizing, promoting, honoring, and rewarding excellence in the work of undergraduates and their capabilities and skills in any subject.”
The prize is funded by the estate of Thomas T. Hoopes, Class of 1919. Each awardee receives $5,000, while advisers who supervised student work each receive $2,000. In addition, the students’ works are bound and showcased in Lamont Library for two years.
Soumyaa Mazumder ’19 said she was on the phone with a friend who shared the good news with her. That friend, Shenyece P. Ferguson ’19, was also awarded a Hoopes Prize.
“She told me first that I had won when she called me, and then she told me she also got it,” Mazumder, a Molecular and Cellular Biology concentrator, said. “I was more excited for her because she’s worked so hard on her thesis. It was really sweet that we both got it together.”
Ferguson, a Neuroscience concentrator whose senior thesis was a scientific experiment, said her research focused on “how attention influences the way the human brain’s visual system processes information.”
“I am so grateful for my lab advisors who both dedicated a lot of their own time to making this project possible, especially when it did not seem promising,” she said.
Other Hoopes awardees also said they faced challenges while working on their theses.
William F. Long ’18-’19, a joint Government and Computer Science concentrator who wrote his thesis on the application of Hobbesian political philosophy to artificial intelligence, said he was initially unsure about studying this topic.
Long said he was encouraged to write on this topic after reading a thesis by previous Hoopes Prize winner Louis R. Evans ’13, which focused on the application of computational theory to moral reasoning.
“I love that there are different generations over time of people that all get to inspire and encourage each other,” Long said.
Other Hoopes awardees opted for performative senior theses, like Music concentrator Emily S. S. Brother ’19, who wrote that she delivered a public lecture-recital in the Music department as her thesis.
“During the lecture, I explored the process of forming an interpretation of Frédéric Chopin’s twenty-four preludes for solo piano drawing from primary source documents, musicology, performance studies, and tonal theory, as well as my own experience studying piano for 18 years,” Brother wrote in an email.
Several awardees shared gratitude for their faculty nominators, academic advisors, and families upon finding out they received the Hoopes Prize.
Storer, who wrote his thesis on the use of objects in Boccaccio’s Decameron, also celebrated his departments’ support.
“Shoutout to the Anthropology Department for having 5 out of 8 thesis writers win Hoopes,” Storer wrote in an email. “And a shoutout to [Romance Languages and Literatures] for being such a great department and community.”
English and Classics joint concentrator Chloe A. Brooks ’19, who wrote her thesis on lyricism and narrative in the epic tradition, captured a sentiment common among Hoopes awardees.
“It’s very gratifying to have work that you have put so much thought, devotion and energy into recognized among so many wonderful theses,” she said.
A full list of Hoopes Prize awardees is available here.
Correction: May 14, 2019
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Chole Brooks is an English concentrator. In fact, she is a joint concentrator in English and Classics.
—Staff writer Meena Venkataramanan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mvenk82.