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Forty-eight College seniors became members of academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa’s Alpha Iota chapter on Nov. 16, joining twenty-four classmates who were elected to the society in April.
Phi Beta Kappa reserves membership for “those whose coursework demonstrates not only high achievement, but also breadth of interest, depth of understanding, and intellectual honesty,” per the website for Harvard’s group, which claims to be the oldest continuously operating chapter in the country.
The Harvard chapter will conduct one final round of nominations before Commencement, ensuring that no more than 10 percent of the graduating class receives the distinction. The election committee that selects students consists of University faculty and staff who are themselves members of the academic society.
Twenty of the seniors inducted into the society this cycle concentrate in the natural sciences; nineteen concentrate in the social sciences; and nine concentrate in the humanities. Of the 27 concentrations represented, Economics, Social Studies, Applied Mathematics, and Mathematics were the most popular concentrations, with four students from each.
Eleven of Harvard’s 12 undergraduate Houses are represented in this selection round.
Phi Beta Kappa invited a select number of seniors with strong academic records to apply in October. After those seniors submitted letters of recommendation and their academic transcripts, the honor society notified inductees of their nomination by email.
Serin Baek ’21, a Chemical and Physical Biology concentrator, said the news of her nomination to the society lifted her spirits as she prepared to move out of her on-campus housing and was finishing lab work for her thesis.
“Finding out about it just made the week a lot better and definitely motivated me to get through with the week, get everything done, and make it back home safely,” Baek said.
Baek, who said she hails from Dothan, Ala., said her parents were unaware of the academic honor society.
“My parents are Korean immigrants, so they were not familiar with PBK,” Baek said. “I had to explain it to them a little bit, but they were definitely very proud and happy for me.”
History and Science concentrator Sydney N. Robinson ’21 said she was in class over Zoom when she found out she had been elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
“I think I muted myself and turned my mic off for three seconds and did a five-second dance party in my room,” Robinson said. “After, I went downstairs and told my friends and they were all really excited and gave me hugs. Then, later that night at dinner, one of them brought flowers to the house.”
Robinson said she felt validated by her election to the chapter.
“It really felt like I got an external affirmation of my experience at Harvard,” she said. “Even in a broader sense, affirming that I am able to be successful at a place like Harvard, that was a really wonderful feeling.”
Physics and Computer Science concentrator Maya Burhanpurkar ’21 said she felt “overjoyed” when she learned of her nomination to the society. Burhanpurkar said she was in the midst of working on her autonomous wheelchair company Adventus Robotics when she received the news.
“I was in the middle of testing our platform in simulation so I was actually quite distracted when I got the email,” Burhanpurkar said. “I had seen the notification on my phone, but I ignored it for a couple of hours.”
Burhanpurkar said she plans to return home to Canada after college and use her education to help her home country.
“I really hope that I can at some point come back to Canada and help contribute to the country, whether that’s trying to help better our public education system or public health care system,” she said.
A complete list of the members of the Class of 2021 elected to the “Senior 48” is below:
Manuel Abecasis ’21, Economics (Cabot)
Serin Baek ’21, Chemical & Physical Biology (Dunster)
Kevin Bi ’21, Applied Mathematics (Currier)
Amy K. Brooke ’21, Engineering Sciences (Lowell)
Maya Burhanpurkar ’21, Physics and Computer Science (Quincy)
Eva Cai ’21, Engineering Sciences (Quincy)
Sambuddha Chattopadhyay ’21, Physics (Winthrop)
Smit D. Chitre ’21, Anthropology (Currier)
Gabriel Dardik ’21, Chemistry (Currier)
Serena J. Davis ’21, Computer Science (Dunster)
CJ D. Dowd ’21, Mathematics (Adams)
Madison L. Goldberg ’21, Earth and Planetary Sciences (Eliot)
Zoe Gompers ’21, Economics (Mather)
James H. Gusmer ’21, Psychology (Dunster)
Leena A. Hamad ’21, Molecular and Cellular Biology (Adams)
Frances Hisgen ’21, History (Currier)
Julia Houser ’21, English (Eliot)
Serina Hu ’21, Mathematics (Adams)
Saffron S. Huang ’20-’21, Applied Mathematics (Dunster)
Ami Ishikawa ’21, Economics (Eliot)
Humza I. Jilani ’21, Social Studies (Winthrop)
Kenz I. Kallal ’21, Mathematics (Winthrop)
Sophie B. Khorasani ’21, Statistics (Eliot)
*Katelyn X. Li ’21, Neuroscience (Quincy)
Katherine S.Q. Li ’21, English (Leverett)
Kelvin Li ’21, Chemistry and Physics (Leverett)
*Rick Li ’21, Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology (Leverett)
Katherine W. Liu ’21, Social Studies (Quincy)
*Lorenzo F. Manuali ’21, Government (Adams)
Amal Mattoo ’21, Mathematics (Eliot)
Emily R. Moss ’21, Sociology (Lowell)
*Diana H.L. Myers ’21, History and Literature (Eliot)
Ella R. Necheles ’21, Applied Mathematics (Cabot)
*Lainey A. Newman ’21, Government (Adams)
Robert S. Powell ’21, Environmental Science and Public Policy (Lowell)
Sydney N. Robinson ’21, History and Science (Kirkland)
Francesco Rolando ’21, Social Studies (Adams)
Vanessa M. Roser ’21, Neuroscience (Kirkland)
Emma P. Seevak ’20, Sociology (Dudley)
Serena S. Shah ’21, Classics (Quincy)
Raymond J. So ’21, Chemistry (Dunster)
Vivien Thoemmes ’21, Economics (Currier)
Owen Torrey ’21, History and Literature (Mather)
*Tessa A. Wood ’21, Romance Languages and Literatures (Eliot)
Alicia A. Zhang ’21, Applied Mathematics (Kirkland)
Yunchao Zhang ’21, Physics (Winthrop)
*Ruth Zheng ’21, Social Studies (Adams)
*Eli Zuzovsky ’21, Art, Film, and Visual Studies (Dudley)
*Denotes Crimson editors
Correction: November 30, 2020
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the concentrations of Maya Burhanpurkar ’21. She concentrates in Physics and Computer Science, not Physics and Chemistry.
—Staff writer Benjamin L. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenFu_2.
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