Academic Spotlight
Faculty Research, Performance and Exhibitions

Historian David Hecht Awarded 2011 Karofsky Prize

Story posted May 11, 2011

David Hecht

Assistant Professor of History David Hecht has been named the recipient of the 2011 Sydney B. Karofsky Prize for Junior Faculty. The award was announced at the College's Honors Day ceremony on May 11, 2011.

Hecht is a scholar whose primary research area is the history of science in the 20th century. Recent research examines the public personae of scientific icons, including Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, and Rachel Carson.

Hecht is known as an original teacher who inspires students to think more deeply and invigorates the classroom with highly interactive discussions. He consistently receives high marks from students and is legendary for the care he lavishes on their written assignments. In a recent evaluation a student described it as "the most helpful feedback I've ever seen from a Bowdoin professor."

At Bowdoin Hecht has taught courses on a wide range of subjects, many of which examine the major intersections between science and popular culture. Recent courses include: Evolution in America; Science, Sex and Politics; Image, Myth, and Memory; Trials of the Twentieth Century; The Atomic Bomb and American Society; and The Cold War.

"I like to come to my classes with material that is fresh for me as well as for my students," notes Hecht. "That gives us the advantage of mutual discovery. The history of science is actually a wonderful discipline for studying any non-scientific topic in history. Science, technology and medicine are so much a part of both history and the contemporary world that they offer a dynamic lens for understanding society."

Hecht has presented at conferences around the country and currently is working on book manuscript, tentatively titled, Rewriting Oppenheimer: Public Attitudes Toward Science in the Nuclear Age.

A highly involved colleague on campus who has developed many pedagogical workshops for faculty, Hecht has been acting Director of Bowdoin's First-Year Seminar Program since 2009.

Hecht earned a B.A. in history from Brandeis University and a Ph.D. in History of Medicine and Science from Yale University. He served as a visiting assistant professor at Bowdoin from 2005-06 until he began a tenure-track appointment on the faculty in the fall of 2009.

The Karofsky Prize is given by members of the Karofsky family, including Peter S. Karofsky, M.D. '62, Paul I. Karofsky '66, and David M. Karofsky '93, to honor distinction in teaching by untenured mbers of the faculty.

It is among the College's most prestigious honors and is awarded annually on the basis of student evaluation of teach to "an outstanding Bowdoin teacher who best demonstrates the ability to impart knowledge, inspire enthusiasm, and stimulate intellectual curiosity."

It is conferred by the Dean for Academic Affairs in consultation with the Committee on Appointments, Promotion and Tenure.

Former Karofsky Prize winners have included: Jill Smith 2010; Laura Henry, 2009; Michael Kolster, 2008; Charles Dorn, 2007; Matthew Klingle, 2006; Katherine Dauge-Roth, 2005; Arielle Saiber, 2004; Rachel Beane, 2003; and Marc Hetherington, 2002.

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