Sepkoski awarded Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship

David Sepkoski
David Sepkoski, Affiliate Professor

Two professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been awarded a 2020 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.
This year’s fellows are David Sepkoski, a professor of history and iSchool affiliate professor, and Janice N. Harrington, a poet and professor of English.

They are among 175 writers, scholars, artists and scientists from the U.S and Canada chosen "on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," according to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation's news release. The winners were selected through a rigorous peer-review process from nearly 3,000 applicants.

Sepkoski is the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in History of Science at Illinois. His research deals with the interaction between science and society, with a focus on the biological and environmental sciences. His book Catastrophic Thinking, on the history of scientific ideas about extinction and the value of diversity, will be published this summer.

Sepkoski will use his fellowship to work on a book about scientific debates in recent decades over the biological and genetic basis for human nature. The book will span from the 1970s controversy over sociobiology–a theory that explains human abilities as primarily determined by evolution and genetics–to the decoding of the human genome.

"I've long been fascinated by scientists' own accounts of the 'political' nature of their work," Sepkoski said. "During the 1970s, heated debates about the validity of pursuing biological or genetic explanations for behavioral traits like intelligence, altruism, monogamy, etc., captured wide public attention and informed broader cultural conversations about race, gender and social equality in the U.S. and elsewhere."
"Strikingly, proponents of sociobiology and other forms of biological determinism often defended their conclusions about innate human differences in individuals or groups as being objective or neutral, while characterizing their scientific critics as being motivated by politics or ideology," he said. "But if the history of science tells us anything, it is that scientific theories often have considerable social and political impact, and scientists cannot detach themselves from broader political commitments, especially when discussing human nature."

Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

iSchool researchers to present at IDCC24

iSchool faculty, staff, and students will present their research in transparent data curation and cleaning, provenance management, certified transparency, and data ethics at the 18th International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC24), which will be held from February 19-21 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The theme of this year's conference, which brings together individuals, organizations, and institutions across all disciplines and domains involved in curating data, is "Trust Through Transparency."

Adler and Naiman selected for 2024 NIH Grant Writing Series program

Associate Professor Rachel Adler and Teaching Assistant Professor Jill Naiman have been selected for the 2024 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant Writing Series program in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute (IHSI). Led by faculty who have demonstrated a history of success with NIH proposals, the biennial NIH Grant Writing Series is designed to prepare Illinois faculty to submit their first R01 or other individual investigator proposals to the NIH.

Sun selected as 2024 PTC Emerging Scholar

Assistant Professor Meicen Sun was selected as a 2024 Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC) Emerging Scholar and presented her research at the PTC Annual Conference, which was held from January 21-24 in Honolulu, Hawaii. PTC is a global, nonprofit organization promoting the advancement of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the Pacific Rim. 

Meicen Sun

Hoiem authors new book on education of things

Assistant Professor Elizabeth Hoiem has authored a new book on how children learned about the material world at the close of the eighteenth century. The Education of Things, Mechanical Literacy in British Children's Literature, 1762-1860, funded in part by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, was recently published by the University of Massachusetts Press.

Elizabeth Hoiem

Spectrum Scholar Spotlight: Janelle Lyons

This “Spectrum Scholar Spotlight” series highlights the School's scholars. MSLIS student Janelle Lyons earned her BA in French and Francophone studies from the University of Florida and her MA in international affairs from The George Washington University.

Janelle Lyons