Three Cox Award winners.

The Cox Award winners are John Shaw (from left), Stephanie Pierce, and Joseph Blitzstein.

Photos by Kris Snibbe and Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographers

Campus & Community

Three honored for inspiring students

3 min read

Fannie Cox Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching awarded to John Shaw, Stephanie Pierce, and Joseph Blitzstein

Three faculty have been named recipients of the 2019 Fannie Cox Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching. Stephanie Pierce, the Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology;  John Shaw, the Harry C. Dudley Professor of Structural and Economic Geology and professor of environmental science and engineering; and  Joseph Blitzstein, professor of the practice in statistics, are the winners of the annual award, which recognizes exceptional teaching in introductory science courses.

“Stephanie Pierce, John Shaw, and Joseph Blitzstein motivate and inspire students to take ownership of their learning while bringing interesting perspectives to difficult concepts and providing exciting experiential learning experiences,” said Stubbs, Samuel C. Moncher Professor of Physics and of Astronomy.  “They each embody an excellent combination of teaching innovation and deep expertise. They personify our goal to advance excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and I am thrilled they were each selected.”

The prize, made possible by a gift from alumnus Gardner Hendrie ’54, comes with a $10,000 personal award — plus an additional $40,000 for ladder faculty in unrestricted support for teaching and research). Peter Huybers, professor of earth and planetary sciences and of environmental science and engineering, led the faculty committee awarding the prize.

Blitzstein, a statistician whose introductory course “Probability” is also available on YouTube and as a free edX online course, said,  “It was such a nice surprise with which to end a crazily busy [fall] semester. A lot of the credit goes to my wonderful colleagues and students for creating a conducive, engaging environment for teaching and learning.”

Pierce, who also serves as curator of vertebrate paleontology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology and is teaching “Vertebrate Evolution” this spring said, “Opening our students’ eyes to the wonders of animal evolution is very rewarding. The prize will allow me to pursue some high-risk ideas in the quest to reveal the hidden treasures of the fossil record and reconstruct the biology of extinct animals with greater precision.”

“The most important message being sent is that Harvard values its undergraduate teaching in sciences and engineering,” said Shaw. While he also enjoys upper level classes, teaching General Education courses such as “Energy and the Environment” brings together students with different backgrounds and perspectives. “It serves an immensely important role and presents great challenges for an instructor.”

“Hopefully this can inspire us all put the best effort into our courses,” he added. “I’m looking forward to getting started this spring term!”