2023 Year in Review: The Top 12 Stories That Garnered Your Attention on ‘Columbia News’

What stories grabbed the attention of our readers in 2023? The results may surprise you.

December 18, 2023

The past year has been marked by change, challenge, and growth around the world and so too at Columbia. So many big things happened in 2023 that it has been hard to keep track of it all. 

We encourage you to look back over the past twelve months with us as we make sense of the year with the top 12 stories that resonated with our readers. 

Thank you for keeping up with all things Columbia alongside us this year.

JANUARY 2023: Announcing a New President

Minouche Shafik speaks at a Columbia podium.

TOP STORY: Columbia University Names Minouche Shafik 20th President

The year started off with a groundbreaking announcement: Minouche Shafik was named the 20th president of Columbia after a wide-ranging and intensive search. The Columbia community celebrated. A leading economist and former president of the London School of Economics, her appointment marked the first time since Columbia’s founding that the University will be led by a woman.

This month, readers also gravitated to news that former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton would join the University as a professor of practice at the School of International and Public Affairs and as a presidential fellow at Columbia World Projects. Readers also read about the great accomplishments of the 19th president of Columbia University, Lee C. Bollinger. 

FEBRUARY 2023: Coming Together in Care

A map of the earthquakes in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

TOP STORY: Columbians Rally to Support Victims of the Turkey, Syria Earthquakes, Share Insights on the Catastrophe 

In early February, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake and resulting aftershocks in southern Turkey and northern Syria claimed upwards of 49,000 lives and devastated an already struggling region. Columbians, from students to faculty to staff, came together to support the victims and mourn the loss of two Columbia alumni in the disaster Berkhan Eminsoy (GSAPP'20) and Burak Firik (SEAS'18). 

On the home front, Columbians gravitated to this inside look at Barnard’s Dog Cognition Lab, an interview with University Professor Joseph Stiglitz about growing inequality, and Columbians’ relationship advice around Valentine’s Day

MARCH 2023: Confronting Artificial Intelligence

A robot writes formulas on the a blackboard.

TOP STORY: Will ChatGPT and AI Help or Harm Us?

We’re not sure about you, but with the emergence of ChatGPT, it felt like AI was suddenly in the news this year with a prominence we had not seen before. So we asked University experts from across disciplines—and ChatGPT itself—to weigh in on a simple question: Do recent developments in AI technologies like ChatGPT excite you, alarm you, or give you hope? Their answers would foretell some of the biggest debates of 2023. 

Also in March, readers gravitated toward this interview with Wafaa El-Sadr, executive vice president for Columbia Global, about her vision for the recently formed unit. On a pop culture wavelength, readers loved this inside look into a Columbia professor fact-checking The Greatest Beer Run Ever, a film by Peter Farrelly (SOA ‘86).

APRIL 2023: Commencement Excitement...Commences!

A graduating student takes a selfie with Roar-EE.

TOP STORY: Here's Every Columbia 2023 Class Day Speaker We Know (So Far)

As soon as the flowers start to bud in New York City, so too does interest in who will be speaking at Columbia graduation ceremonies and this year the interest was no different, with leaders across all industries making an appearance during Commencement season. Readers also gravitated toward our landing page filled with graduate stories.

MAY 2023: Glorious Grads

2023 graduates throw mortar boards in the air.

TOP STORY: 15 Photos from Columbia Commencement 2023 That Show the Joy of Our Graduates

May 17 marked the 269th University Commencement in which degrees were conferred upon our graduates and readers wanted to see their joy and accomplishment in picture form. Also of interest this month were President Emeritus Lee Bollinger’s final Commencement speech and a roundup of graduates’ favorite books, mentors, classes, and more. Readers also gravitated to the news that David Greenwald and Claire Shipman were named co-chairs of Columbia’s Board of Trustees.

JUNE 2023: Affirmative Action Reversed

A springtime view of Columbia's campus between Low Library and Earl Hall.

TOP STORY: Columbia Issues Statement on Affirmative Action Cases

In late June, the Supreme Court rejected affirmative action, finding admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina unlawful. The decision reverberated across higher education institutions of all stripes, and the leadership of Columbia and its schools shared their approach to the changes

This month, readers also gravitated toward a story about Columbia scientists who found that materials like wood, bacteria, and fungi belong to a newly identified class of matter, "hydration solids.” Reflecting the news of the day, readers also turned to stories about the Canadian wildfires that downgraded air quality in New York City and the debt ceiling deal and its economic impact. 

JULY 2023: Blockbuster Bonanza

The Columbia Cyclotron

TOP STORY: Seen 'Oppenheimer'? Learn About Columbia's Role in Building the Manhattan Project

The return of the summer blockbuster was front-of-mind for Columbia News readers in July, who delved deeply into the history of Columbia scientists who played a substantial role in the Manhattan Project and in the research that preceded it. In the biggest pop culture debate of the year, though, “Barbenheimer” could not be ignored, with readers combing through all of the Columbia connections to the films of the summer, including Greta Gerwig’s (BC’06) Barbie.

This month, readers also learned about Columbia College Dean Josef Sorett’s newest book Black Is a Church, a partnership to study the harmful algae bloom at Morningside Pond, and the latest findings on Lyme disease

AUGUST 2023: Written in the Stars

The magnetic field in the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), captured by NASA's flying Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) observatory superimposed on a Hubble telescope picture of the galaxy.

TOP STORY: New Clues on the Source of the Universe’s Magnetic Fields

While magnetic fields exist across the universe, not much is known about where they originate. Enter: Columbia researchers, who offer insight into the source.

On a completely different note, readers dug into these photo essays of Columbia cats and canines in honor of International Cat Day and National Dog Day. They also turned up their headphones for these Columbian-made podcasts.  

SEPTEMBER 2023: Back-to-School Energy

Oliver Philcox, Minouche Shafik, Simon Brendle.

TOP STORY: Professor Simon Brendle Wins Breakthrough Prize

Simon Brendle, a professor of mathematics at Columbia, was awarded the Breakthrough Prize, which touts itself as the world’s largest international science prize. It comes with a $3 million award. 

The school year also got its start with readers turning to our A to Z Guide to Columbia, a tour of the University with a staffer who knows every room on campus, and photos of back-to-school festivities.

OCTOBER 2023: Laudable Laurels

Louis Brus

TOP STORY: Professor Emeritus Louis Brus Wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The first week of October marked two big occasions at Columbia. First, Professor Louis Brus, a longtime professor and an alumnus of the University, was awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on  the “discovery and development of quantum dots, nanoparticles so tiny that their size determines their properties.” Second, Minouche Shafik was officially inaugurated as the 20th president of the University. Readers flocked to the text of President Shafik's inaugural address, which spoke to the role of universities and a new social contract.

Later, the MacArthur “Genius” Grants were announced, including grantees affiliated with Columbia, and Columbia experts offered insight into Assessing the War in Gaza.

NOVEMBER 2023: Grappling with World Events

During World War I, soldiers perform an exercise on Columbia's campus.

TOP STORY: How Well Do You Know the History of Veterans at Columbia University?

The most-read stories on Columbia News this month were a quiz about the history of veterans at the University, research on rapidly intensifying hurricanes, and the history of book chapters.

Readers also engaged with stories about critical world events, such as this recap about having constructive conversations about the war in Gaza and a World Leaders Forum featuring the President of the Republic of Singapore who said: “The world we knew is gradually unraveling and there's no telling where this will end.”

DECEMBER 2023: Therapeutic Discovery

A watercolor illustration of ketamine

TOP STORY: New Study Maps Ketamine's Effects on Brain

Ketamine, an anesthetic also known for its illicit use as a recreational drug, has been studied in recent years for its therapeutic effects and readers wanted to learn more about Columbia biologists and biomedical engineers who mapped ketamine’s effects on the brains of mice. 

Readers also gravitated to the announcement of the members of Columbia's Antisemitism Task Force and a story about a new study out of Columbia that shows that people use facial appearance to make sentencing decisions.

Want even more Year in Review content? Be sure to spend some time with the 2023 Year in Pictures and the top research findings of 2023.