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Feb. 15, 2008

Honor Roll: 11 Teachers Win Lenfest Prizes
Special from The Record

Eleven Columbia professors received the Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Awards, which each come with a prize of $25,000 for three consecutive years. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences awarded these honors to senior and junior faculty members who have shown excellence in scholarship and dedication in teaching.

The Man Behind
the Lenfest Awards

Gerry Lenfest

H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest is accustomed to honoring others but when the tables are turned, the Columbia University trustee, alumnus (LAW’58) and benefactor is quick to say he does not deserve the recognition. More

Trustee Gerry Lenfest established the awards in 2006. “What make Columbia unique,” says Lenfest, “is its great tradition of outstanding teaching in all its schools. It is not just how many books a professor has written; it is also important that the professor be a great teacher.”

Lila Abu-Lughod’s groundbreaking scholarship, combining the fields of ethnography, anthropology and gender politics, has gained international recognition for its originality and rigor. Abu-Lughod’s first book, Veiled Sentiments, based on fieldwork in a Bedouin community in Egypt, explored the relationship between poetic sentiment and social life.

Zainab Bahrani, the Edith Porada Professor of Art History and Archaeology, is one of the foremost historians of the art of the ancient world. Her books Women of Babylon, The Graven Image, and the forthcoming Rituals of War: The Body and Violence in Mesopotamia display Bahrani’s erudition and mastery of ancient languages. She is also actively involved in efforts to protect ancient monuments.

Nicholas Dames is recognized as a pre-eminent figure in the field of Victorian literature. His first book, Amnesiac Selves, a cultural history that explores the Victorian obsession with psychology, was universally hailed for its scope and originality. His second, The Physiology of the Novel: Reading, Neural Science, and the Form of Victorian Fiction, establishes what one reviewer described as “an entire field . . . no one knew existed.”

Peter deMenocal is a paleoceanographer and marine geologist whose studies are greatly advancing our understanding of the interactions of climate change and human evolution. A leader in documenting climate change in the Holocene period, deMenocal is currently investigating movements of the Intertropical Convergence Zone over five million years, research that has important implications for theories of glacial cycles.

Sharon Marcus is recognized as one of the leading feminist critics of the novel. Her first book, Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London, questioned long-held assumptions about the sexual subtext of the period’s literature and established her as a prominent Victorianist.

Amber Miller is in the vanguard of a new generation of experimental cosmologists whose work is making revolutionary advances in our understanding of the physics of the early universe. Columbia’s only experimental cosmologist, Miller is the recipient of an Alfred Sloan Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Career award.

Shahid Naeem is a leading authority on the ecological consequences of declining biodiversity. His studies of complex networks of interacting species investigate unexplored dimensions of global changes in biodiversity. His honors and awards include an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship and an NSF Career award.

Colin Nuckolls is one of the world’s foremost nanotechnology experts, whose research and discoveries are revolutionizing this field. Currently, he is developing electrical circuits and sensors comprised of single molecules, and has developed a new approach to bonding molecules to metal surfaces—both among nanotechnology’s most important goals.

Pablo Piccato is among the leading Latin Americanists of his generation, whose research and scholarship have renewed and reshaped Columbia’s Latin American studies. His first book, City of Suspects: Crime in Mexico City, 1900–1931, demonstrated the originality of his historical research, gaining high praise.

Sudhir Venkatesh’s groundbreaking studies of sociology and economy in urban communities have earned him recognition as one of the nation’s finest urban ethnographers and as a leading analyst of American urban processes. Venkatesh established his reputation with his first book, American Project, which documented his historically grounded ethnographic study of an urban housing development.

Katja Vogt, in the five years since coming to Columbia from Germany, has achieved distinction in the field of ancient philosophy. Vogt established her reputation in Europe with her first book, Skepsis und Lebenspraxis: Das pyrrhonische Leben ohne Meinungen, an original reinterpretation of the views of the Stoics. Her renown is growing with her second book: Law, Reason, and the Cosmic City: Political Philosophy in the Early Stoa.