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Northwestern University

Weinberg Faculty Awards 2009-2010

Mellons, Guggenheims, Sloans... Weinberg Faculty Bring Home Big Prizes

It's been a season of impressive honors for Weinberg faculty. As befitting a liberal arts college, their fields of study range from philosophy to chemistry to mathematics to classics to economics and beyond. While there are more awards worthy of mention than we have space to write about here, we'd like to especially take note of the following:

Election to the National Academy of Sciences

Northwestern University scientists Chad A. Mirkin, a world-renowned leader in nanotechnology research and its application, and Richard P. Van Duyne, the discoverer of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, have been elected members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Membership in the organization is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States. Mirkin and Van Duyne are among 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 14 countries recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. (See full story on Mirkin.)

Election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

President Morton Schapiro and two of our faculty members have been elected fellows of the AAAS, one of the nation's oldest and most respected honorary societies. President Schapiro is an expert on the economics of higher education and has written five books and more than 100 articles on the topic. In addition to his duties as president, he is an active professor, teaching classes on the economics of education. David Ferster, professor of neurobiology and physiology, studies the visual cortex of the cat and how its neuronal circuitry processes information from the eye. His research has revealed how the mammalian cortex performs complex computations. John Hagan is known for scholarship on war crimes and human rights, notably for studies of genocide in Darfur and the Balkans. He was also honored with the Stockholm Prize in Criminology. He is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law, chair of sociology, and co-director of the Center on Law and Globalization at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago.

Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellows

Brian Odom, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and Giorgio Primiceri, assistant professor of economics, are among 118 outstanding early career scientists, mathematicians and economists chosen as Sloan Research Fellows. The awards include a $50,000 grant for a two-year period. Odom's research group works on novel approaches to control molecular motion, and applications of this new technology range from particle physics to chemistry. Odom has also received a Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering. Primiceri focuses on the postwar economic history of the United States and other developed countries, researching the causes and effects of the high inflation experience of the 1970s and the decline in the volatility of business cycles of the last 25 years.

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Award

Edward Muir, the Clarence L. Ver Steeg Professor in the Arts and Sciences and the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, has received a 2009 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The awards, of up to $1.5 million each, recognize the important contributions the humanities make to the nation's intellectual life. Muir, an expert in Renaissance social and cultural history, is one of three scholars who received the award this year. He plans to use the grant to both write a book on the emergence of modern skepticism to ruling institutions and to fund an Italian academy for graduate students.

Barbara Newman, Professor of English, Religion, and Classics, John Evans Professor of Latin Language and Literature, and Director of Graduate Studies at Northwestern University, won a 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Mellon Foundation. Newman is a leader in the field of medieval religious culture and has made pioneering contributions to the study of women in medieval Christianity.

Guggenheim Fellowships

Betsy Erkkila and Gary Allan Fine have been named Guggenheim Fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

The fellowships recognize exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. Out of as many as 4,000 applicants, approximately 220 fellows are named each year. Erkkila, the Henry Sanborn Noyes Professor of Literature, is interested in American poetry, comparative American cultures, race, and gender studies, and cultural and political theory. She is the author or editor of six books, and has published a number of essays and articles on American literature.

Fine, John Evans Professor of Sociology at Northwestern, specializes in the sociology of culture, ethnographic research, social theory, and collective behavior. Currently he is studying the development of reputations, the multiple social worlds of chess, the sociology of humor and joking, and the role of small group cultures in civil society. He is the author or co-author of nearly 20 books.

National Book Critics Award

Eula Biss has won the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism for her Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays. The book is a thought-provoking look at family, race, and class in America. Biss is an Artist in Residence in the English Department.

Spinoza Chair in Philosophy

Cristina Lafont, professor of philosophy, has been named to the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam for 2011. She specializes in German philosophy, particularly hermeneutics and critical theory. She has also published in philosophy of language and contemporary moral and political philosophy.

American Philosophical Society

A Sabbatical Fellowship from the Society has been awarded to Vivasvan Soni, assistant professor of English literature. Soni's areas of interest include the rise of the novel, moral and political theory, narratology, theories of tragedy, utopian writing, and theories of modernity.

Geoscience Awards

Seth Stein, William Deering Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, has received recognition from three groups from his work in investigating plate boundary processes and deformation within the lithosphere, including an ongoing study of earthquake recurrence. He was named a Foreign Member of the Academy of Europe. From the European Geosciences Union he was awarded the 2010 Stephan Mueller Medal and, from the Geological Society of America, he received the 2009 George P. Woollard Award.

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