James C. Kitch ’22-’23 wasn’t expecting a birthday gift from the Harvard Prize Office. But on Thursday, he received a call from a friend who told him that she had a surprise.
The friend sent him the list of the 2022-23 Hoopes Prize recipients. Both their names were on it.
“It was a nice birthday present,” he said.
The prize, awarded to 74 Harvard seniors this year, is funded by the estate of Thomas T. Hoopes, Class of 1919, and aims to recognize “excellent undergraduate work,” usually in the form of a senior thesis. Each student winner receives a $5,000 award. Faculty nominators of winning projects are awarded $2,000 for “excellence in the art of teaching.”
Susan L. Lively, secretary of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wrote on behalf of the Prize Office that “these students should be proud of this accomplishment.”
“The work of these undergraduates represents academic excellence across a broad range of topics and fields,” she wrote.
This year’s Hoopes Prize-winning topics include a classicist’s examination of transgender lives in ancient Rome, an astrophysicist’s research on superluminous supernovae, and a mechanical engineer’s creation of a compressed air assisted bicycle.
Some of the awardees said they were shocked by the news.
“I was in Quincy dining hall and one of my best friends Juliet also found out, and we kind of just looked at each other, hugged, and then screamed together in the middle of Quincy dining hall,” Annie Miall ’22-’23 said.
Reese M. Caldwell ’22-’23 said he received a congratulatory text from a friend before he even found out he had received the award.
“He said, ‘Oh, you haven’t heard. You won the Hoopes,’” he said. “So that was a nice little celebration moment I got to have.”
The Harvard Prize Office emailed him a couple of hours later, he added.
The projects recognized by the prize represent a wide range of research and writing processes.
Elizabeth S. Propst ’22-’23, who wrote her thesis on the Cormac McCarthy novel “Blood Meridian,” took a road trip from her home in North Carolina to Texas to do research for her thesis.
“I lived in a cabin kind of in the middle of nowhere in the desert for about a week and then just spent all day, nine to five, at these archives going through the office papers,” she said. “So it was a real sort of hermit moment, but was just really grateful to be able to spend some time just with the project and just with myself.”
English concentrator Darius Atefat-Peckham ’23 wrote a thesis that wasn’t a traditional academic paper, but a poetry collection about “ancestral memory and intergenerational trauma” with a focus on the Iranian Diaspora. Throughout his life, he has used poetry as a method of connection to his mother, also a poet, who died when Atefat-Peckham was three years old.
“I found throughout that the process of working with teachers, like Jorie Graham and Tracy K. Smith, who’s my adviser, was a way of revealing more about myself, as well as my relationship to my mother,” Atefat-Peckham said.
Miall changed her thesis project in mid-December despite having written a chapter for her original topic. She switched late in the process because she decided she “couldn’t give up this newfound curiosity of mine” and ultimately wrote about the history of prisoners with HIV/AIDS.
She said that she hopes more people will read her thesis as a result of receiving the prize and “understand a very dark part of history that’s so often hidden away and not talked about.”
Some of the recipients will be pursuing opportunities after graduation that tie to their thesis research.
Caldwell, who will be starting a Ph.D. in Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Harvard this fall, said that pursuing a Ph.D. would be a “continuation of this trajectory” of research.
Cade M. Williams ’23, a joint concentrator in Anthropology and Folklore and Mythology who wrote his thesis on confederate monument removal in New Orleans, doesn’t have post-graduate plans that tie directly to his thesis. But he said he still hopes to participate in furthering ideas of social justice through a career in publishing.
“I really have a passion for knowledge and sharing ideas that I think can make positive change in the world,” Williams said. “I think that publishing is a great way to get into that and really try to share novel concepts, but also rethink old ideas that people might have.”
Kitch, who conducted biostatistical research for his thesis, said he plans to continue pursuing this field of research after college.
“It’s definitely the most fulfilling, the most interesting piece of research that I’ve ever done,” he said. “But I also hope that it’s not the best piece of research that I ever do.”
The full list of recipients can be found below:
Correction: May 5, 2023
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Amelia F. Roth-Dishy ’23 is concentrating in Social Studies. In fact, Roth-Dishy concentrates in History and Literature.
Correction: May 12, 2023
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Do Yeon Kim ’23.
—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.