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Mary Pless Awarded Earl Ubell Grant

Hampshire College student Mary Pless 12F has been awarded an Earl Ubell Grant to support her academic work.

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

Pless is studying HIV and AIDS prevention strategies in rural communities in Northern Thailand.

Pless said: “The HIV and AIDS epidemic in Thailand stemmed from the commercial sex industry, and was projected to infect millions of people by the new millennium. A national campaign for 100 percent condom usage in the commercial sex industry severely impacted the rate of transmission, with the number of new infections drastically reduced.

“This study will assess various aspects of personal experiences with HIV/AIDS from the perspective of local Thai people in the rural community of Phrao in Northern Thailand. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has been experienced differently across the world, and in order to develop successful interventions they must be contextualized to the specific population they aim to serve. This requires an understanding of rural Thai culture, what interventions have been applied there in the past, and what is needed in this community to prevent further transmission of the virus,” she said.

Earl 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. He died in 2007 at age 80.

His son, Hampshire alum Michael C. Ubell 70F, established the grant program in his honor.

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