Lenfest Awards Celebrate Faculty Achievement In and Out of the Classroom

Feb. 15, 2011Bookmark and Share
Eight faculty members received this year’s Distinguished Columbia Faculty Awards at a dinner at Casa Italiana on Feb. 8. The awards, established by University Trustee Gerry Lenfest (LAW’58, HON’09) in 2005, are given annually to faculty of unusual merit, across a range of activities—including scholarship, University citizenship and professional involvement—with a primary emphasis on the instruction and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students.
This year’s winning faculty members come from disciplines ranging from medieval art to earth science and will receive a stipend of $25,000 per year for three consecutive years.
The awardees for 2011 are:
Rachel Adams
Rachel Adams, professor of English and American studies in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, is an acclaimed specialist on twentieth-century American literature. Her first book, Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination, published by University of Chicago in 2001, was a major critical success. Her second, Continental Divides: Remapping the Cultures of North America, examines interconnections—often unexpected and illuminating—between the cultures of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Her exploration of the themes of otherness and normality in these works led Adams to establish the emerging field of disability studies.
Stuart Firestein
Stuart Firestein, professor of Biological Sciences, is forging new understandings of sensory neuroscience through his groundbreaking research in olfacation. Among these breakthroughs, his laboratory was the first to link a specific olfactory receptor with a corresponding odor, a discovery that has been called the Rosetta Stone for understanding our sense of smell. Author of more than a hundred published papers, Firestein’s many honors include a Nakanishi Award for Excellence in Olfaction Research, a Human Frontiers of Science Award, a Whitehall Foundation Investigator Award, a McKnight Investigator Award and the R.H. Wright Award.
Mahmood Mamdani
Mahmood Mamdani, the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and professor of anthropology, continues to build on and add to a record of scholarship that has made him the world’s foremost authority on African studies. Author of more than ten books, his first, Myth of Population Control, garnered immediate critical acclaim, while Citizen and Subject became the definitive analytical history of late colonialism in Africa. Since joining Columbia in 1999, he has also enjoyed spectacular success as a teacher whose class sizes are limited only by the space available in the lecture halls.
Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray, the Bernard and Lisa Selz Professor of Medieval Art in the Department of Art History and Archeology, has introduced major changes in the study of art history through his innovative uses of digital technology. His books, articles, animations, videos and Web-based data constitute the most extensive body of published work by any American scholar on Gothic structures and design. His current book project, Narrating Gothic: The Cathedral Plot, on the rhetoric of architecture, couples his groundbreaking scholarship with an innovative use of new technologies.
Paul Olsen
Paul Olsen, the Arthur D. Storke Memorial Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is bringing new understanding to the evolution of continental ecosystems through his pioneering studies of climate cycles during the evolution of the dinosaurs and eras of mass extinctions. His fieldwork includes drilling and recovery of cores—including the largest core of Triassic era deposit ever recovered. A National Academy of Sciences member, Olsen has served as editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is currently on the National Research Council Committee on New Research Opportunities in the Earth Science.
Susan Pedersen
Susan Pedersen, professor of history and James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum, has shed new light on critical studies of international relations through her scholarship in British and European history, while spearheading the department’s growing renown as one of the world’s leading centers for the study of international history. Her next book, But Who Will Guard the Guardians?, focuses on the League of Nations mandates system. Pedersen’s Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience won the Albion Prize for the Best Book on post-1800 Britain, and her honors and grants include fellowships from the American Academy in Berlin and the Andrew Mellon and Guggenheim Foundations.
Achille Varzi
Achille Varzi, chair of the Philosophy Department, produces highly significant work in the field of formal logic marked by both the quality of his scholarship and, as he is perhaps the most prolific philosopher writing in English today, its quantity. Varzi’s rigorous ontological studies have helped focus philosophy’s attention on important yet overlooked themes such as the concept of the absent, as in his first book, Holes and other Superficialities, published by MIT Press in 1994. Varzi demonstrates a truly interdisciplinary approach to the academic life, as an ardent student of the arts, humanities and sciences.
Katharina Volk
Katharina Volk, associate professor of classics, has earned international acclaim for her innovative scholarship on classical texts. Her work is prompting a reevaluation of disputed interpretive issues among scholars and helping shape the contemporary study of classics. Her recent book, Manilius and his Intellectual Background, published by Oxford in 2009, explores one of the most challenging texts in the field, the astrological poem “Manilius.” The book was selected by the Columbia College Academic Awards Committee of students as the recipient of the 2010 Lionel Trilling Book Award.
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Professor Joseph F. Traub, founder of the Computer Science department, died Monday, August 24, 2015 in Santa Fe, NM. He was 83. Most recently the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Computer Science, Traub was an early pioneer in the field.

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