Campus & Community

Radcliffe Institute 2009-10 fellows include artists, scientists

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The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University has announced the women and men selected to be Radcliffe Fellows in 2009-10. These creative artists, humanists, scientists, and social scientists were chosen for their superior scholarship, research, or artistic endeavors, as well as the potential of their projects to yield long-term impact. While at Radcliffe, they will work both within and across disciplines.

The fellows include an astronomer searching for Earth-like planets in Centaurus, a constellation neighboring Earth’s own solar system, and a visual artist and founding member of the international avant-garde Fluxus movement, who will explore multimedia works of art. There will be two thematic clusters: one in economics and another in mathematics. (Clusters are small groups of fellows who work collectively on a problem or set of issues.) The economics cluster will develop a new method to evaluate the ways changes in the economic environment affect the welfare of individuals, while the mathematics cluster will explore dispersive wave phenomena from a nondeterministic viewpoint.

Joanna Aizenberg, the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at Radcliffe and the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will be this year’s professor in residence. Aizenberg joined the community of fellows in 2008-09 and was part of a Harvard team that discovered a way to control the assembly of nanobristles into helical clusters — a breakthrough that has practical applications in energy and information storage, adhesion, and other areas. Among the Radcliffe fellows again this fall, Aizenberg will continue to explore connections among engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, and architecture through biomimetics.

“With great enthusiasm for the promise of the year to come, we welcome these distinguished scholars, scientists, and artists to Radcliffe. We look forward to watching their work develop into exciting discoveries and to witnessing the meaningful collaborations they form with one another and with members of the Harvard and local communities,” said Barbara J. Grosz, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

A leader among the nation’s centers for advanced studies, Radcliffe annually hosts award-winning artists, academics, and professionals, including musicians, mathematicians, filmmakers, anthropologists, biologists, and writers. The 2009-10 fellows were selected from 853 applicants from the United States and around the world.

Examples of the fellows in each of four broad disciplinary areas (creative arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences) appear immediately below; a full list of the 2009-10 fellows appears at the end of the article.


Among the creative arts fellows is Alison Knowles, a visual artist and founding member of Fluxus — an international avant-garde movement established in 1962 that melds different media and disciplines, emphasizing frequently neglected elements as a basis for the creation and performance of art. Knowles created “The House of Dust,” the first computerized poem on record, for which she won a 1967 Guggenheim fellowship; “The Big Book” (1967), a walk-in book with 8-foot pages, which toured in Europe; and “Bohnen Sequenzen” (Bean Sequences), a series of plays exploring the resonant sounds made by beans against hard surfaces, which won her a 1982 Karl Sczuka Prize for Works of Radio Art. Her unique installations, performances, prints, publications, and sound work have been recognized with many other awards. Knowles’ Radcliffe project is titled “Fluxus Around the Clock.”

Leonard Retel Helmrich is a film director at Scarabeefilms (Netherlands) whose critically acclaimed documentaries about Indonesia have won him several international prizes. As the developer of single-shot cinema (a theoretical perspective and practical technique involving long takes with a constantly moving camera) and the SteadyWing (a camera mount that enables greater stability and maneuverability while shooting), Retel Helmrich has taught workshops around the world. During his Radcliffe fellowship year, co-sponsored by the Harvard Film Study Center, he will work on a documentary titled “Position of the Stars,” which reveals the effects of globalization, commercialization, and the interpretation of Islam in Indonesia through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl.


The humanities fellows include art historian Claire Margaret Roberts, the senior curator of Asian decorative arts and design at the Powerhouse Museum in Sidney, Australia, and a fellow at the Australian National University. Among Roberts’ numerous honors are grants from the Smithsonian Institution and the Australia-China Council, as well as multiple art-related Australian government appointments. Fluent in Chinese, she has edited or co-edited several books and catalogs and curated many major exhibitions related to north Asian visual culture, including “The Great Wall of China” (2006), a joint project of the Powerhouse Museum and the National Museum of China, Beijing. At Radcliffe, Roberts will study the history of photography in China and the Hedda Morrison archive at Harvard-Yenching Library.

Ravit Reichman is an associate professor of English at Brown University (effective July 2009). She is the author of “The Affective Life of Law: Legal Modernism and the Literary Imagination” (Stanford University Press, 2009), which examines the relationship between literature and law, with special emphasis on psychoanalysis and the traumas of the world wars. While at Radcliffe, Reichman will undertake the first book-length study of the ways in which literature and law jointly shape conceptions of property and the symbolism of property in 20th century society. Her book “Lost Properties of the 20th Century” will appraise the theme of loss in Modernism against the backdrop of shifts in the traditional legal concept of property from the end of World War I through the post-Holocaust era.


Among the natural science and mathematics fellows is Debra Ann Fischer, an associate professor of astronomy at San Francisco State University. As part of Radcliffe’s 2005-06 Lectures in the Sciences series, Fischer gave a public talk on the formation and evolution of extrasolar planetary systems. Since 1997, she has participated in the discovery of more than 150 extrasolar planets — planets that orbit other stars. She serves or has served as the principal investigator on multiple projects, including the Lick Planet Search program, the Keck program to detect the presence of hot Jupiters (N2K), a multiplanet modeling project for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) program in Chile to search for Earth-like planets around Alpha Centauri A and B. For her Radcliffe project, titled “Searching for Earths in the Alpha Centauri System,” Fischer will write about the search for habitable worlds and life in the solar neighborhood.

Ben J. Green is a renowned mathematician and Herchel Smith Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College. He calls his specialty “arithmetic combinatorics”; he studies questions that lie at the interface of combinatorics, number theory, and analysis. Green’s contributions to the field of mathematics have earned him several awards, including a 2008 European Mathematical Society Prize and a 2004 Clay Research Award (an award that recognizes major breakthroughs in mathematical research) for his joint work with Terry Tao on arithmetic progressions of prime numbers. Through his Radcliffe project “Discrete Rigidity Phenomena,” Green aims to understand “approximate” structures in various parts of mathematics, how they relate to “exact” ones, and the implications of this relationship for number theory and other areas.


The social science fellows include economists Jerry R. Green, the David A. Wells Professor of Political Economy, John Leverett Professor, and a senior fellow of the Society of Fellows; and Daniel Andres Hojman, an assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, who will form an economics cluster studying “Choice, Rationality and Welfare Measurement” at Radcliffe. Green was one of the originators of the theory of rational expectations and of a variety of concepts and methods in the economics of incentives and information. He has developed analytical models to study the role of social networks in welfare and inequality and examined the impact of corruption on political participation. While at Radcliffe, Green and Hojman will create a methodology to evaluate economic policies and actions that function regardless of the rationality of the people whose welfare is being evaluated.

Nancy J. Smith-Hefner is an associate professor of anthropology at Boston University. A scholar of gender studies, linguistic anthropology, psychological anthropology, and educational anthropology, Smith-Hefner has a special interest in Asians in America and southeast Asian Islam. Her research on Buddhism, gender, and cultural adaptation among Khmer (aboriginal people of Cambodia) in the United States and her investigation of language socialization and linguistic identity among Tengger Javanese have been supported by many prestigious awards and fellowships, including a 2002 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At Radcliffe, Smith-Hefner will complete a book titled “Muslim Youth: Gender, Sexuality and Public Piety in Indonesia’s New Middle Class” — a culmination of her nine-year study of Muslim youth in south-central Java that examines changing norms and practices of gender and sexuality within a setting of ongoing Islamic resurgence and sociopolitical transformation.

Now in its ninth year, the Radcliffe Institute’s highly competitive fellowship program has provided yearlong residencies to approximately 500 award-winning artists, scientists, and scholars. Past fellows include biologist Susan Lindquist, whose discoveries about protein folding have profoundly affected our understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and mad cow and who recently won the prestigious Otto Warburg Medal; celebrated musician Mulatu Astatke, a composer, arranger, and founder of a hybrid music form called Ethio Jazz that blends Ethiopian traditional music and Latin jazz; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, who is also the author of several nonfiction books about history and travel; and defense lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim, a winner of many precedent-setting cases before Islamic Sharia courts who was honored with the European Parliament’s 2005 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The 2010-11 fellowship applications for creative artists, humanists, and social scientists are due Oct. 1; applications for natural scientists and mathematicians are due Nov. 15. Materials sent by mail should be postmarked by these dates.

Applicants are evaluated at two levels of review. In the first level, two leaders in each applicant’s field evaluate and rank the applicant. The top applicants are then submitted to a fellowship committee, which selects the fellowship class.

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University is a scholarly community where individuals pursue advanced work across a wide range of academic disciplines, professions, and creative arts. Within this broad purpose, the institute sustains a continuing commitment to the study of women, gender, and society.


Joanna Aizenberg,* Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at Radcliffe, Harvard University, natural sciences and mathematics, “Connecting Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Architecture Through Biomimetics”

Seema Alavi, William Bentinck-Smith Fellow, Jamia Millia Islamia (India), South Asian history, “Travel, Migration and the Wahabi Diaspora: The Turn Toward Arabic Learning and Culture in 19th-century South Asia”

Kamal Aljafari, Benjamin White Whitney Scholar and Radcliffe-Harvard Film Study Center Fellow, independent artist (Israel), film, video, sound, and new media, “A Cinematic Occupation”

Uri Alon, Grass Fellow, Weizmann Institiute of Science (Israel), systems biology, “Design Principles of Biological Circuits”

Cynthia Becker, Suzanne Young Murray Fellow, Boston University, art history, “Afro-Islamic Art and Performance in Morocco: The Trans-Saharan History of the Gnawa”

Jericho Brown, American Fellow, University of San Diego, poetry, “The New Testament: Poems”

Joy Calico, Burkhardt Fellow, Vanderbilt University, musicology, “A Composer’s Remigration: Postwar European Reception of Schoenberg’s ‘A Survivor from Warsaw’”

Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Joy Foundation Fellow, Harvard University, film, video, sound, and new media, “The Open: BeComing Animal”

Siddhartha Deb, Eugene Lang College, New School for Social Research, nonfiction and current issues, “Do You Know Who I Am? Stories of Wealth and Poverty from the New India”

Emily I. Dolan, Radcliffe Institute Fellow, University of Pennsylvania, musicology, “The Orchestral Revolution: Technologies of Timbre in the Long 18th Century”

Debra Ann Fischer, Edward, Frances and Shirley B. Daniels Fellow, San Francisco State University, astronomy, “Searching for Earths in the Alpha Centauri System”

Robin Fleming, Matina S. Horner Distinguished Visiting Professor, Boston College, European history, “Living and Dying in Early Medieval Britain”

Peter Galison, Walter Jackson Bate Fellow, Harvard University, history of science, “Building Crashing Thinking”

Erin E. Gee, Rieman and Baketel Fellow for Music, independent composer, music composition, “SU-O: Discontinuous Reflection: Mouthpiece XIII, Mouthpiece XIV, Mouthpiece XV”

Ben J. Green, Augustus Anson Whitney Scholar, Cambridge University (England), mathematics and applied mathematics, “Discrete Rigidity Phenomena”

Jerry R. Green,** Suzanne Young Murray Fellow, Harvard University, economics, “Choice, Rationality and Welfare Measurement”

Linda G. Griffith, Harvard Stem Cell Institute Radcliffe Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bioengineering, “New Approaches to Probing Autocrine Growth Factor Loops in Stem Cells”

Leslie Hewitt, Mildred Londa Weisman Fellow, independent artist, visual arts, project to be announced

Daniel Andres Hojman,** Katherine Hampson Bessell Fellow, Harvard University, economics, “Choice, Rationality and Welfare Measurement”

Alison Knowles,* Frieda L. Miller Fellow, independent artist, visual arts, “Fluxus Around the Clock”

Roy Kreitner, Lillian Gollay Knafel Fellow, Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law (Israel),

legal history, “From Promise to Property, from Populism to Expertise: The Political Career of the Dollar, 1862-1913”

Elizabeth Dyrud Lyman, Jeanne Rosselet Fellow and Bunting Fellow, Harvard University, English literature, “A History of Stage Directions”

James Mallet, Helen Putnam Fellow, University College London (England), evolutionary and organismic biology, “Species and the Ecology and Evolution of Biological Diversity”

Andrea R. Nahmod,*** Sargent-Faull Fellow, University of Massachusetts at Amherst,

mathematics and applied mathematics, “Dispersive Wave Phenomena from a Nondeterministic Viewpoint”

Rachel Ollivier,† École Normale Supérieure (France), mathematics and applied mathematics, “Representations of p-adic Reductive Groups in Characteristic p”

Heather Paxson, Mary I. Bunting Institute Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, social and cultural anthropology, “Crafting American Artisanal Cheese: Economies of Sentiment, Ecologies of Production”

Ann Pearson, Radcliffe Alumnae Fellow, Harvard University, Earth and planetary sciences, “Investigating the Deep Biosphere”

Kathleen Anne Peterson, Evelyn Green Davis Fellow, Deep Springs College, poetry, “Strange Litany”

Jennie E. Pyers, Marion Cabot Putnam Memorial Fellow, Wellesley College, developmental psychology, “The Acquisition of Spatial Language in American Sign Language: Understanding the Ties to Cognitive Development”

Agustín Rayo, Burkhardt Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, linguistics, “Language as Decision-Making”

Ravit Reichman, Lisa Goldberg Fellow, Brown University, English literature, “Dispossession: Property and Loss in Modernist Literature and Law”

Leonard Retel Helmrich, David and Roberta Logie Fellow and Radcliffe-Harvard Film Study Center Fellow, Scarabeefilms (Netherlands), film, video, sound, and new media, “Position of the Stars”

Claire Margaret Roberts, The Australian National University/The Powerhouse Museum (Australia), Asian art history, “The History of Photography in China and the Hedda Morrison Archive at Harvard-Yenching Library”

Leigh Handy Royden, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Earth and planetary sciences, “Plate Tectonics: Thinking from the Top Down”

Russ Rymer, The Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nonfiction and current issues, “Out of Pernambuco: Music, Craft, and a Disappearing Tree”

Alex Samorodnitsky, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), computer science, “Some Properties of Boolean Functions”

Amy Sillman,† Constance E. Smith Fellow, independent artist, visual arts, project to be announced

Nancy J. Smith-Hefner, Hrdy Fellow, Boston University, social and cultural anthropology, “Muslim Youth: Gender, Sexuality and Public Piety in Indonesia’s New Middle Class”

Reuven Snir, Haifa University (Israel), cultural studies theory and practice, “‘Arabs of the Mosaic Faith’: The Participation of Jews in Modern Arab Culture”

Gigliola Staffilani,*** Elizabeth S. and Richard M. Cashin Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, mathematics and applied mathematics, “Dispersive Wave Phenomena from a Nondeterministic Viewpoint”

Godfried Theodore Toussaint, Emeline Bigelow Conland Fellow, McGill University (Canada), computer science, “Phylogenetic Analysis of the Musical Rhythms of the World”

*fall semester
**economics cluster
***mathematics cluster
†spring semester