Four Columbia professors whose research interests encompass celebrity culture, the sociology of knowledge, data analysis, and music, were named Guggenheim Fellows for 2017. The prestigious awards go to mid-career scholars and scientists whose work demonstrates “prior achievement and exceptional promise.”
The new fellows are Sharon Marcus, the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Dean of Humanities for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Gil Eyal, a professor of sociology and chair of the department; David M. Blei, a professor in the departments of computer science and statistics who is also a member of the University’s Data Science Institute; and Mahir Cetiz, a composer who is a lecturer in the Department of Music.
“I’m honored to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, which will be crucial to helping me complete my book on the rise of modern celebrity culture,” said Marcus, who is completing her manuscript entitled The Drama of Celebrity, which will be published by Princeton University Press. "As a literature professor with interdisciplinary interests, I’m especially pleased that the foundation has recognized my work as contributing to intellectual and cultural history.”
Marcus joined Columbia in 2003, and is a co-founder and co-editor in chief of Public Books, an online review of books arts and ideas. Her 2007 book, Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England, won a number of prizes. She received her Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University.
Eyal’s research covers the sociology of knowledge, intellectuals and expertise.
"When I applied to the Guggenheim [more than a year ago,] I had no idea how timely my topic was about to become,” Eyal said. "In the last few months we have witnessed an unprecedented attack on experts and expertise. I hope that my Guggenheim project will make a modest contribution towards understanding why and in what ways expertise is vulnerable and how it can be defended.”
At Columbia, Eyal has won the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2013. He is a co-author of The Autism Matrix: The Social Origins of the Autism Epidemic (Polity Press, 2010), for which he won the Robert K. Merton Award given by the American Sociological Association for best book in the area of Science, Knowledge and Technology.
He joined Columbia in 2002 after teaching at the University of California.
David M. Blei
Blei plans to use his Guggenheim fellowship to develop new statistical methods to analyze data and facilitate its practice in freely-available software. He will write a research monograph with his students to communicate its practice to scientists and scholars.
"I was delighted by the news and am very much looking forward to the project.” Regarding his collaboration with postdoctoral fellows and students, Blei said, “I'm grateful to the Guggenheim foundation for supporting our work on building machine learning methods for science and academia."
Blei earned his Ph.D. in computer science at Berkeley in 2004 and taught at Princeton University before joining the Columbia faculty in 2014. At Columbia’s Data Science Institute, Blei has served as director of graduate studies was well as serving on the Institute’s executive committee, education committee, and senior search committee. He has also served at Columbia on the Digital Humanities Task Force.
In 2003, he was made a fellow of the Association of Computer Machinery. Last year he won the International Conference on Machine Learning “Test of Time Award.”
Cetiz, a composer, conductor and pianist, is a Core lecturer in music humanities who earned his doctor of musical arts at Columbia in 2013. While studying for his degree here he was the assistant conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra and director of the Collegium Musicum. He composes for solo instrumental works and variously-sized acoustic ensembles.
“I am very happy and honored that the Guggenheim Foundation decided to support my project involving multiple musical compositions for various medium, each based on the work of Turkish-Kurdish writer Yasar Kemal,” he said. "The works will be constructed in such a way that they could be either performed as individual works or as part of one longer work."
After an undergraduate degree at Ankara State Conservatory in Turkey, Cetiz attended University of Memphis, where he earned a master’s degree in composition and conducting. He then earned a degree in conducting from Hacettepe University in Ankara.
As a composer, Cetiz is drawn to the music of the Middle East, Indonesia and India, among other areas. The New York Philharmonic and BBC Symphony, among others, have performed his compositions.
—By Gary Shapiro