Radcliffe Institute Appoints Joanna Aizenberg, Leah Price, and Robert Sampson Directors of Academic Ventures

Pioneer Biomimetic Researcher, Probing Humanist, and Innovative Social Scientist to Lead Multidisciplinary Work Across University and Beyond
June 21, 2011
Contact: 

Karla Strobel
617-495-8608
karla_strobel@radcliffe.edu 

Cambridge, Mass.—The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University has named Harvard professors Joanna Aizenberg, Leah Price, and Robert Sampson as faculty program directors of Academic Ventures. Together, these distinguished faculty members will lead new, multidisciplinary collaborations with faculty throughout the University and develop innovative programming across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences that engage scholars and the public in the work and ideas of leading theorists and practitioners.

These Radcliffe Institute faculty leaders are experts in a broad array of fields and are committed to fostering efforts that cross disciplinary boundaries. As program directors, they will design and implement Radcliffe Institute’s Academic Ventures programs, which convene scholars from across Harvard University for multidisciplinary seminars and workshops and bring luminaries in the academic disciplines and the professions together for public symposia, conferences, and talks.

“Harvard faculty members of this caliber add to the energy and intellectual ferment of the Radcliffe Institute. They help ensure the vitality and relevance of Academic Ventures within the University and beyond,” said Dean Barbara J. Grosz, who is also Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Their unparalleled leadership in science, humanities, and social science will ensure that timely and provocative programs enrich the Institute, the University, and all who recognize the unique value of multidisciplinary work.”

Joanna Aizenberg, Director of the Science Program, Academic Ventures
A pioneer in the emerging field of biomimetics, a branch of science that models new systems and materials on nature, Joanna Aizenberg will lead the Radcliffe Institute’s strong multifaceted science program. Aizenberg is a chemist and materials scientist who earned a doctorate in structural biology and connects her innovative research across a wide range of disciplines. By exploring connections among engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, and architecture, she studies how living organisms form robust, elegant structures and how to imitate those structures in synthetic mimics that “grow” into lenses, glass fibers, and other useful structures.

“The rich multidisciplinary environment at the Radcliffe Institute enables me to interact with diverse colleagues and make richly rewarding and intellectually exciting connections with other departments, schools, institutes, and University-wide efforts,” said Aizenberg, the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, a director of the Kavli Institute for Bionanoscience, a founding core faculty member at the Wyss Institute, and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where she is currently a fellow. “I look forward not only to engaging with outstanding scholars, scientists, and artists, but also to enhancing opportunities for faculty, fellows, and the public to develop new collaborations and explore new frontiers in multidisciplinary sciences.”

Leah Price, Director of the Humanities Program, Academic Ventures
Through her research and teaching, Leah Price probes the form of the novel, as well as the history and future of reading. This past academic year, Price served as the senior advisor to the humanities program at the Radcliffe Institute and organized—together with Ann Blair, also senior advisor to the humanities program—the Institute’s conference “Why Books?” The conference brought together speakers from a variety of disciplines to explore the form and function of the book in a rapidly changing media ecology.

“The Radcliffe Institute forges links among different humanities fields, as well as between the humanities, other scholarly disciplines, and the wider world,” said Price, professor of English and a Harvard College Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She was also a fellow at the Institute in 2006–2007. “It’s exciting to help create a space in which those dialogues can take place.”

Robert J. Sampson, Director of the Social Sciences Program, Academic Ventures
Robert J. Sampson has built his career on studying social patterns, formulating influential sociological theory, and developing methods to study the complex social networks of neighborhoods and cities. His exploration of the origins of crime and violence and the influence of neighborhoods on an individual’s path in life, collective civic life, and urban inequality incorporates sociology, psychology, ecometrics, and social policy.

“In the Harvard community and to scholars worldwide, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study offers an ideal environment for incubating creative ideas and discoveries,” said Sampson, who served as senior advisor to the social sciences program at the Radcliffe Institute in 2010–2011 and is the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “I look forward to exploring innovative ways to integrate the social sciences and to bringing the multiple perspectives of students, researchers, and practitioners from around campus and beyond to pose and answer cutting-edge questions.”

The Radcliffe Institute appointments take effect July 1, 2011. The program directors will lead Academic Ventures with other faculty advisors from across the University, including:

  • Ann Blair, senior advisor to the humanities program of Academic Ventures at the Radcliffe Institute and a Harvard College Professor and Henry Charles Lea Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences;
  • Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, senior advisor to the humanities program of Academic Ventures at the Radcliffe Institute and the William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences;
  • Joan Ruderman, senior advisor to the science program of Academic Ventures at the Radcliffe Institute and the Marion V. Nelson Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School.

In addition, Dimitar D. Sasselov, professor of astronomy in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, and Rosalind A. Segal, professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, the Ted Williams Senior Investigator, and a member of the Departments of Neurobiology, Cancer Biology, and Pediatric Oncology at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will continue to serve as senior advisors to the science program for the fall term.

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.

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