Campus & Community

Lester Kissel Grant recipients to tackle ethical issues

4 min read

For the third year, several Harvard College students have been awarded Lester Kissel Grants in Practical Ethics to carry out summer projects on subjects ranging from the role of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, to the psychological and social consequences of the threat of deportation. The students will use the grants to conduct research in the United States or abroad, and to write reports, articles, or senior theses. 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.

“This year’s Kissel Grant winners are exploring a number of moral frontiers, from rights to citizenship to the status of animals,” said Arthur Applbaum, acting director of the Ethics Center and professor of ethics and public policy at the Kennedy School of Government. “We are very pleased with both the quality and range of the normative research proposed by our undergraduates.”


Daniel W. Asher, a senior social studies concentrator, will explore the ethics of U.S. immigration policy, asking whether the liberal tradition of political philosophy and American’s common moral intuitions can justify America’s current exclusionist policies. Drawing on the works of Rousseau, Jefferson, and Habermas, Asher will argue that a major change in U.S. policy is a moral necessity.

Trevor Bakker, a sophomore social studies concentrator, will conduct research at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on the ethical challenges faced by the court in its collection of evidence and decisions to prosecute amid ongoing violent conflict. Research will include direct observation of trial sessions and interviews with members of the court.

Joanna Bronowicka, a junior social studies concentrator, will research the psychological and social consequences of the threat of deportation to the country of origin in a community of undocumented immigrants in Paris. She will explore the role of fear as a factor in mobilizing collective action and forging collective identity in comparison with the immigrant communities in Boston and London.

Jay Costa, a junior concentrating in biological anthropology, will undertake senior thesis research examining the role of consequences and intentions in determinations of punishment. He will utilize behavioral psychology experiments to test an adaptive hypothesis of the privileging of consequences in individual judgments of punishment, and he will conduct a cross-cultural analysis of legal systems in order to explore whether a similar reliance on consequences persists at a systematic level.

Henry Cowles, a senior environmental science and public policy (ESPP) concentrator, will expand a chapter of his senior thesis, which was on the origins of legislated wildlife protection in Britain during the 1860s, to address the explicitly ethical dimensions of that project. He will explore the ways in which ethical status was first granted to wild animals by addressing both the theoretical roots underpinning the early wildlife preservation movement and the social and cultural context in which that movement was born.

Da Lin, a junior mathematics and economics concentrator, will undertake research on “Regulatory Cosmopolitanism,” for a European project titled “Pathways to Human Dignity.” She will examine the regulatory challenges presented by modern bioscience in the specific context of moral exclusion in patent regimes. In particular, she will explore ways to secure compliance with international regulations based on fundamental values while empowering national regulators who strive to uphold local standards.

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. For further details about the Kissel Grants, visit