Campus & Community

Kissel grant recipients to take on ethical issues

3 min read

For the second year, Harvard College students have been awarded Lester Kissel grants in Practical Ethics to carry out summer projects on a range of ethical issues. The seven grant winners will conduct research in the United States or abroad, and write reports, articles, or senior theses. Three of the students will carry out their projects on internships or foreign study. Each grant supports living and research expenses up to $3,000.

The recipients were selected by a committee under the auspices of the University-wide Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, which administers the grants.

“The interests of the students this year range even more widely than before, and the quality is no less high,” said Dennis F. Thompson, director of the Ethics Center and the Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Political Philosophy. “It is gratifying to see so many undergraduates interested in doing serious work on ethical issues during their summer.”

The recipients are as follows:

Kristin Blagg, a junior government concentrator, will conduct a comparative study of government policy and political rhetoric towards stem cell research in the United States and Great Britain. To gain both a domestic and an international perspective, she will undertake her research in Washington, D.C., and London.

Masha Godina, a junior philosophy concentrator, will carry out senior thesis research on nonideal theory and the problem of punishment. She will explore the problems raised by the administration of punishment by considering the grounds on which the state punishes and the imperfections administration faces.

Alexander Harris, a junior social studies concentrator, will undertake honors thesis research on a topic in libertarian political philosophy. Through this lens he will explore theoretical questions and particular policy issues, examining possible rationales for justifying a state.

Kenneth McKinley, a junior anthropology concentrator, will undertake senior thesis research on organ donation systems while in Argentina. His project will explore the tension between the practical need to increase the supply of organs and the moral experience of the donors and organ recipients, and will compare approaches in the United States and Argentina.

John Sheffield, a sophomore social studies concentrator, will study the ethical implications of due obedience principles in human rights trials. His research will focus on the case of Argentina during the Alfonsin administration (1983-1989), and will take him to the National Security Archive at George Washington University and to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Arjun Suri, a junior social studies concentrator, will conduct senior thesis research in Peru on expanding the Rawlsian notion of health as a normal good to a basic social primary good that is essential for the functioning and capabilities of human beings. He will analyze the ethical trade-offs and rationing process of policymaking in Peru and South Africa towards social services, namely in education, housing, and employment services, and their influence on basic health indicators.

Rocksheng Zhong, a junior psychology concentrator, will undertake a study that investigates the ways in which causal and intentional attributions affect moral judgment. Participants in his study will evaluate different versions of the Trolley Problem, a moral dilemma in which one life must be sacrificed to save five, and Zhong hopes that the results will shed light on the cognitive mechanisms involved in making moral judgments.

The Lester Kissel grants are made possible by a gift from the late Lester Kissel, a graduate of Harvard Law School and longtime benefactor of Harvard’s ethics programs.