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Earl Ubell Grant Awards

Three students at Hampshire College have been awarded Earl Ubell Grants to support journalism-related academic projects:

Claudia Lerner, working in science communications and science education, is writing a thesis on astrobiology that she hopes will become a nonfiction book for general audiences. Lerner is from Cleveland, Ohio.

Joanna Price’s project will explore how three societal monoliths—feminism, technology, and sexuality—affect love and intimacy on an individual level. Price is from Oak Park, Illinois.

Alex Torpey is using an historical framework to examine current cultural and social taboos around alcohol policy in the United States. Torpey is from South Orange, New Jersey.

The Earl Ubell Grant program recognizes and supports exceptional student work that in some way seeks to make the scientific method or scientific findings accessible to nonscientists. The grants are named for Earl Ubell, whose distinguished career has influenced generations of American science writers.

Ubell began his career at the New York Herald Tribune as a messenger and rose to science editor, a position he held from 1953 to 1966 before transferring to the then-new medium of television. He was health science editor for WCBS-TV from 1966 to 1972, and from 1978 to 1995. He served as the news director for WNBC-TV News from 1972 to 1976.

Ubell covered such notable events as the first Sputnik flight in 1961 and the first U.S. manned space flight in 1962. He carried out scientific research at major laboratories, and was the author of eight books (one co-authored). His numerous awards for journalism, medical reporting and science writing include an Emmy in 1970 for the New York area of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Donald Salmon Award for significant contribution to development of the arts in that same year. Ubell died in 2007 at age 80.

Hampshire College alumnus, and the son of Earl Ubell, Michael C. Ubell (70F) established the grant program in honor of his father. This is the third year of Ubell Awards.

The working title of Claudia Lerner’s project is “A Human’s Guide to Life in the Universe: The Past, Present and Future of Astrobiology.” Her faculty committee for the project is evolutionary biologist Charles Ross (chair) and writing instructor Will Ryan.

“Although humans have been naturally curious about the possibility of life on other planets for a long time, ‘astrobiology’ has just recently begun to gain respect in the scientific community,” said Lerner.  “My Division III will explore the roots of this natural curiosity, as well as take readers through a tour of Earth’s history and the potentially habitable planets of our solar system. The search for extraterrestrial life, intelligent or not, is a fantastic operation that exemplifies the potential for human thought and innovation.”

Joanna Price’s working title is "The Nature of Love." Her project draws on sources from across academic disciplines and professional fields—including the natural sciences, social sciences, literature, philosophy, film, and more— to provide a comprehensive understanding of how we think about love and intimacy.

Price is interested in literary journalism and library science. Her faculty committee is psychology professor Jay Trudeau (chair) and Rachel Rubinstein, assistant professor of American literature and Jewish studies.

Alex Torpey’s working title is “Breaking Taboo: Examining America’s alcohol problem and the policies we need to finally solve it.” His faculty committee is co-chaired by Ralph Hexter, President of Hampshire College, and legal studies professor Jennifer Hamilton.  Martha Umphrey, a professor of law at Amherst College, is also on Torpey’s committee.

“By pinpointing the cultural and social problems that have been created from poorly designed policy, I will propose the groundwork for new alcohol policies that accurately reflect the nuances in today’s culture,” said Torpey.

Torpey is chair of Hampshire College’s Community Council (equivalent to student government) and plans to attend law school and seek elected office. He is interested in political commentary and editorial writing.

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