Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Announces 2011-2012 Fellows

Selects Only 6 Percent of Applicants at the Forefront of Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences, Arts, and Professions
May 12, 2011

Karla Strobel

Cambridge, Mass. - The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University today announced the selection of its 2011-2012 fellows. A leader among institutes for advanced study, the Radcliffe Institute accepted just 6 percent of its applicants for the 2011-2012 year. These 51 fellows are award-winning artists, academics, and professionals, including musicians, mathematicians, filmmakers, anthropologists, biologists, and writers who convene at the Radcliffe Institute for a full year to focus on individual projects and research while benefiting from a multidisciplinary community in the University setting. 

"These exceptional scholars, researchers, and artists are poised for a year of discovery, innovation, and creation," said Dean Barbara J. Grosz, Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "As they work within and across disciplines, transformative ideas emerge during the year that have a lasting impact well beyond the fellowship itself."

The 51 men and women were chosen from 800 applicants based on prior accomplishments and the project they seek to undertake during their fellowship, as well as the potential of their projects to have long-term impact. Fellows for the 2011-2012 year include:

Author Chimamanda Adichie, from Nigeria, who was recently included in the New Yorker's 20 Under 40 Fiction Issue, will be working on her next novel. Her books include Purple Hibiscus (2004) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2007).

University of Toronto Professor of Observational Astrophysics Ray Jayawardhana is a leader in the emerging field of exoplanetology. At the Institute, Jayawardhana will apply the principles of planetary science, atmospheric physics, geochemistry, and astrobiology to the study of planets outside our solar system.

Journalist and commentator Diane McWhorter writes about race and civil rights. Her first book, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002. As a fellow, she will work on a book that interweaves space exploration, World War II, and the segregated American South.

The range of interests of Harvard Professor of Government Eric Nelson—from political thought in early-modern Europe and America to Thomas Hobbes’s translations of Homer—make him especially well-suited to the Institute’s multidisciplinary community, in which he will be working on a book about the political thought of the American Revolution.  

Stanford University Professor of Philosophy Tamar Schapiro studies the nature of inclination—the form of human motivation that contrasts with reason and is commonly referred to as “desire,” “passion,” or “appetite.” As a fellow, her aim is to develop a theory of human agency that explains the role inclination plays and ought to play in human life. 

Pamela Silver, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the first director of the Harvard University PhD Program in Systems Biology, studies bioenergy, metabolic engineering, and sustainability. At the Institute, she will be exploring potential for the emerging field of synthetic biology to address environmental concerns and global sustainability.

At the intersection of theory and practice is Margaret Weir, a professor of sociology and political science at the University of California at Berkeley who also chairs the MacArthur Foundation Network on Building Resilient Regions. She will bring her focus on politics and policy to the Institute with a project assessing the war on poverty.

“We welcome these distinguished fellows, who were chosen for their superior scholarship, research, and artistic endeavors, to the Radcliffe Institute,” said Judith Vichniac, associate dean of the fellowship program at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. “They will work within and across disciplines to take intellectual risks and explore the frontiers of knowledge during their year at the Institute.” 

Now in its 11th year, the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship Program has awarded more than 550 fellowships. Past fellows include Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law professor who now leads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Mulatu Astatke, founder of the hybrid musical form Ethio Jazz; Debra Fischer, who has participated in the discovery of roughly half the known extrasolar planets; critically acclaimed theater director John Tiffany; Susan Lindquist, whose discoveries about protein folding affected our understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and mad cow; and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists Geraldine Brooks and Junot Díaz.

Past fellow and writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction Anna Maria Hong said of her fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute, "This has been by far the most productive time in my writing life." Hong quickly surpassed her original goal of writing 40 sonnets during her academic year and completed 85 works. "There is something about the magic of Radcliffe, the luxury of this time. And the incredible intellectual and creative stimulation has been really, really, really productive," she said. "I have often felt like the luckiest person on the planet."

The complete list of 2011-2012 fellows is available online.  

About the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University is a scholarly community where individuals pursue advanced work across a wide range of academic disciplines, professions, and creative arts. Within this broad purpose, the Institute sustains a continuing commitment to the study of women, gender, and society. For more information, please visit www.radcliffe.harvard.edu.

This release was updated on 8/31/2011.

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