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Jai K. Khurana ’24 was waiting at the Charles/MGH subway station in Boston when he received an email notifying him that he had been selected to join Harvard College’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society.
“I was actually trapped in Boston. I was coming back from MGH, and the Red Line was down. So I was waiting for the Red Line — and I just saw it on my phone,” said Khurana, a History and Science concentrator in Winthrop House.
Khurana joins 23 other Harvard juniors who learned Monday afternoon that they were the first members of their class tapped for the Alpha Iota chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
No more than 10 percent of each graduating class are elected to Phi Beta Kappa, with an additional 48 students selected in the fall of their senior year and an additional 96 before commencement. The Senior 48 for the Class of 2023 were elected last November.
Students must demonstrate academic performance that shows “both depth of study and breadth of intellectual interest” to be admitted into the society, according to the College’s chapter website.
This year’s students hail from all houses except Cabot House and study disciplines across all three academic divisions. Winthrop House produced the most ‘Junior 24’ inductees, with five.
Several of the inductees said they were excited for the social connections Phi Beta Kappa offers.
Sarrah Bushara ’22-’24, a Philosophy concentrator in Winthrop House who took a four-year hiatus after high school to pursue classical music before beginning at Harvard, said she looks forward to having “an excuse to make new friends here.”
“I think it’ll be nice just because I am kind of a non-traditional student,” Bushara said. “My main social ties to the school are just going into office hours and talking about schoolwork.”
Trey Sullivan ’24, a Winthrop House resident studying History and Literature, said he is excited to meet students from other disciplines.
“One of my favorite things about being at Harvard in general, and about being in different spaces at Harvard, is how different, but passionate, people are about different things,” Sullivan said.
“This seems like just another space where there are people from the humanities like me, but also the social sciences and the natural sciences, who are all super passionate and engaged scholars,” he added.
Kaylie S. Hausknecht ’23-’24, an Astrophysics and Physics joint concentrator in Pforzheimer House, said that she hopes to meet more people in her class through PBK because she took a gap year.
“I’m not sure if I’ll know most of them, so I’m excited to meet them,” she said.
Some of the inductees said the recognition was a testament to their dedication to making a positive scholarly impact on the world.
“I really truly believe that each of our roles is to make the world a better place than we left it,” said Simar S. Bajaj ’24, a double concentrator in Chemistry and History and Science, who lives in Dunster House.
“And to that end, I think Phi Beta Kappa and being inducted is a recognition of that social role and the need to really have a larger social role rather than just using your gifts for self-aggrandizement,” he added.
William A. Nickols ’24, a Kirkland House resident pursuing a joint concentration in Statistics and Chemical and Physical Biology, said receiving the honor was “a really nice recognition of work along the path of exploring issues and understanding how we are in a position to improve the world.”
The award encourages him “going deep into particular subjects and really exploring the long histories of thought and developments that people have made,” Nickols said. “It means a lot to me that I’m being recognized for the thought that I’ve been exposed to here and my ability to work with those thoughts.”
The inductees said that while the award served as validation for their hard work, their academic careers were not influenced by the award.
“It naturally appeals to me, pursuing a wide variety of fields,” said Alexander J. Chen ’24, a Neuroscience and Chemistry concentrator in Quincy House.
“I’m probably more glad that I pursued these pursuits for the sake of them, rather than for any particular honor. But I’m — of course — happy that they’ve been recognized,” he added.
Hausknecht said that the award does not impact how she sees her academic interests.
“It’s exciting to get the award,” she said. “I love learning. I love physics, which is what I study. I always will, with or without this award.”
—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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