Voices and Ideas

Phi Beta Kappa Award Winners, Fall 2017

By Allen Brewer


The Phi Beta Kappa Society extends its heartiest congratulations to the following members who have been recognized this fall for their contributions to science, literature, and the intellectual life of the country. 

MacArthur Genius Grant Recipients

The MacArthur Genius Grant recognizes individuals for their creativity, intellect, and professional inclinations. 

  • Derek Peterson (ΦΒΚ, University of Rochester, 1993), Recipient, MacArthur Genius Grant

Derek Peterson is a historian who specializes in the study and preservation of African history. He is currently a professor in the Department of History and African Studies at the University of Minnesota. Peterson is a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant for his work to reshape current understandings of colonialism and nationalism in Africa.  

  • Yuval Sharon (ΦΒΚ, University of California-Berkeley, 2000), Recipient, MacArthur Genius Grant

Yuval Sharon is an Opera director/producer who founded the Los Angeles-based production company The Industry. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant for his work to expand how opera is performed and experienced through immersive, multi-sensory, and mobile productions. 

  • Viet Than Nguyen (ΦΒΚ, University of California-Berkeley, 1991), Recipient, MacArthur Genius Grant and Finalist, The Ralph Waldo Emerson Award for Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a literary scholar and fiction writer who wrote on the lasting effects of the Vietnam War. He is currently a professor in the Department of English at the University of Southern California. Nguyen is a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant for his efforts to challenge depictions of the Vietnam War and explore the ways in which it lives on in the lives of those it displaced. He is also a finalist for The Ralph Waldo Emerson Award for Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press, 2016). 

 

The Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, Winner and Finalists

The Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science is offered to books that make outstanding contributions to the sciences in literature. 

  • Siddhartha Mukherjee (ΦΒΚ, Stanford University, 1992), Winner, The ΦΒΚ Award in Science for The Gene: An Intimate History

Siddhartha Mukherjee is the winner of The ΦΒΚ Award in Science for The Gene: An Intimate History (Scribner, 2016). Mukherjee is Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University. He has also published articles in Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times, and Cell. 

  • Janna Levin (ΦΒΚ, Barnard College, 1988), Finalist, The ΦΒΚ Award in Science for Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space

Janna Levin is a finalist for The ΦΒΚ Award in Science for Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space (Anchor Books/ Penguin Random House, 2016). Levin is the Tow Professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. She is also Director of Sciences at PioneerWorks.org. 

  • Sean B. Carroll (ΦΒΚ, Washington University, 1980), Finalist, The ΦΒΚ Award in Science for The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Really Works and Why it Matters

Sean B. Carroll is a finalist for The ΦΒΚ Award in Science for The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Really Works and Why it Matters (Princeton University Press, 2016). Carroll leads the Science Education Department of at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is also the Allen Wilson Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Wisconsin. 

The Christian Gauss Award Finalist

The Christian Gauss Award is an award offered for books in the field of literary scholarship or criticism. 

  • Jerome Charyn (ΦΒΚ, Columbia University 1959), Finalist, The Christian Gauss Award for A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century

Jerome Charyn is a finalist for The Christian Gauss Award for A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century (Bellevue Literary Press, 2016). The book shows a new side to the life of the famous poet, Emily Dickinson. Charyn is currently Professor Emeritus of film Studies at the American University of Paris. He is also working with an artist on an animated TV series. 

The Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize is awarded to those that gave outstanding contributions on a variety of topics. 

  • Barry C. Barish (ΦΒΚ, University of California-Berkeley, 1957), Recipient, Nobel Prize in Physics

Barry C. Barish is one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics. He is Professor Emeritus of Physics and High-Energy Physics at the California Institute of Technology. Barish and colleagues won the award for their contributions to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detector and the observation of gravitational waves. 

  • Jeffrey C. Hall (ΦΒΚ, Amherst College, 1967), Recipient, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Jeffrey C. Hall, Professor Emeritus of Biology at Brandeis University, is one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Hall and colleges won the award for their discovery of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm in the brain. 

National Book Award Finalist

The National Book Award celebrates the best of American literature and strives to expand and enhance the cultural values of writing in America. 

  • Elliot Ackerman (ΦΒΚ, Tufts University, 2002), Finalist, National Book Award, Fiction for Dark at the Crossing

Elliot Ackerman is a finalist for the National Book Award for his novel Dark at the Crossing (Knopf/ Penguin Random House, 2017). His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, and The New York Times Magazine. Ackerman has worked in the White House and is a Marine who served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Pulitzer Prize Finalists

The Pulitzer Prize is an award that honors excellence in journalism and the arts. 

  • Michael J. Berens (ΦΒΚ, University of California-Santa Barbara, 1974), Finalist, Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting  

Michael J. Berens is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. He is an investigative reporter for The Chicago Tribune. Berens and fellow Chicago Tribune investigative reporter, Patricia Callahan, were both recognized for this award for their work uncovering abuse, neglect, and 42 deaths at Illinois Group Homes for Developmentally Disabled Adults. 

  • Alexandra Harney (ΦΒΚ, Princeton University, 1997), Finalist, Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting

Alexandra Harney is a finalist for the  Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. She is currently a Special Correspondent for China at Reuters. Harney and three other writers were recognized for their work uncovering corruption in U.S. college admissions processes concerning student cheating on standardized tests and the complicity of American officials to cash in on full-tuition foreign students. 

  • Frederick S. “Fred” Hiatt (ΦΒΚ, Harvard College 1977), Finalist, Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing

Frederick “Fred” Hiatt is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. Hiatt was recognized for his editorials about the 2016 presidential election. He has been an editor and columnist for The Washington Post since 2000. He is also the author of two children’s books and one young adult novel. 

  • Jennifer “Jen” Sorensen (ΦΒΚ, University of Virginia, 1995), Finalist, Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning

Jennifer “Jen”  Sorensen is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for editorial Cartooning. Sorensen is the Comics Editor for Fusion.net. She serves on the National Advisory Council of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University. She is also a member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and the National Cartoonists Society. 

  • Adam Haslett (ΦΒΚ, Swarthmore College, 1993), Finalist, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Adam Haslett is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Imagine Me Gone (Hachette Trade, 2016). He is the author of three award-winning works of fiction that have been translated into eighteen languages. Haslett has been a Visiting Professor at the Iowa Writer's Workshop and Columbia University. 


Allen Brewer is a junior at the University of Mississippi majoring in journalism. The University of Mississippi is home to the Beta of Mississippi Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. 

(Posted on 10/23/2017 )