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Radcliffe Recognizes Harvard Undergraduate Scholars for Top Theses

The Institute awards the 2018 Fay Prize to Harvard College seniors Hannah Byrne, Lily Scherlis, and Aron Szanto for outstanding imaginative work or original research.

Author By Radcliffe Communications Published 05.16.2018 Share this page on Facebook Share this page on Twitter Share this page on LinkedIn Copy Link

Today, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study honored the Harvard College Hoopes Prize winners and awarded the Captain Jonathan Fay Prize to three graduating seniors for exceptional undergraduate theses.

The 2018 Fay Prize recipients were chosen from 73 Harvard College Hoopes Prize winners for outstanding scholarly work or research. The Fay Prize is given to those Hoopes Prize recipients who, in the opinion of the selection committee—made up of senior Harvard faculty—have produced the most outstanding imaginative work or piece of original research in any field, reflecting the mission of the Radcliffe Institute to foster advanced work across a wide range disciplines.

The winners’ areas of research covered disciplines as diverse as earth and planetary science, comparative literature, visual and environmental studies, and applied mathematics:

  • Hannah Byrne, “An Experiment in Earthquake Control at Rangely, Colorado, Revisited: A Coupled Flow-Geomechanical Analysis of Induced Seismicity”
    Byrne, who concentrated in earth and planetary sciences, wrote her thesis on induced seismicity (earthquakes caused by human activity) and revisited a well-known case study of earthquake control in the oil field of Rangely, Colorado. Byrne’s extensive research yielded not one but several findings that expand our physical understanding of induced and natural earthquakes. In addition to shaping her field, Byrne’s project contributes new knowledge for risk management of induced seismicity. Byrne served as a Radcliffe Research Partner twice, working with Chris Bowler RI ’17 and Jennifer Bornstein RI ‘15.
  • Lily Scherlis, “A Virtual Address/A Headspace”
    Scherlis concentrated in comparative literature and visual and environmental studies. Her two-part thesis consists of an essay, A Virtual Address, and a studio art component, A Headspace. The former meditates on how individuals enter virtual spaces. A Headspace—on view in the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts through May 24—uses video and sculpture to probe representation and identification. Scherlis has been an active member of the Radcliffe community. She assisted with two art exhibitions featuring the work of former Radcliffe Fellows: Feminist Archeology by Jennifer Bornstein RI ’15 and Calm. Smoke rises vertically. by Wendy Jacob RI ’05.
  • Aron Szanto, “Defuse the News: Predicting Misinformation and Bias in News on Social Networks via Content-Blind Learning”
    Szanto concentrated in applied mathematics. His thesis examines the pivotal question of whether “fake news” on social media can be detected and distinguished from real information through content-blind machine learning methods. Focusing his research on a set of 4.5 million tweets, Szanto developed a model for fake news identification that detects misinformation through the pattern of dissemination rather than the content of tweets. The key finding—that the model identifies “fake news” with 84 percent accuracy, outperforming content-focused methods—will doubtless inform future work in this area.

Lizabeth Cohen, dean of the Radcliffe Institute and the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies in the Department of History at Harvard, said, “We are delighted to award the Fay Prize to these three young scholars, who have produced senior theses of tremendous originality and significance. We also celebrate all of the Hoopes Prize winners, who have experienced the deep satisfaction that comes with successfully undertaking a major research project.” As Harvard’s institute for advanced study, Cohen said, Radcliffe aims to engage Harvard students in many kinds of intellectual activities by providing unique opportunities to pursue deep research alongside Radcliffe Fellows and in the Institute’s archives, as well as to contribute to and participate in the Institute’s broad spectrum of public programming.

About the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is a unique space within Harvard—a school dedicated to creating and sharing transformative ideas across all disciplines. Each year, the Institute hosts 50 leading scholars, scientists, and artists from around the world in its renowned residential fellowship program. Radcliffe fosters innovative research collaborations and offers hundreds of public lectures, exhibitions, performances, conferences, and other events annually. The Institute is home to the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library, the nation’s foremost archive on the history of women, gender, and society. For more information about the people and programs of the Radcliffe Institute, visit

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