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Two Northwestern faculty named Guggenheim Fellows

Professors of history, chemical and biological engineering receive prestigious fellowships

Two Northwestern faculty, Julius Lucks and Amy Stanley, are among the 2023 Guggenheim Fellows recently named by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

This year, the Foundation awarded 171 fellowships to American and Canadian scientists, scholars in the social sciences and humanities, and writers and artists selected from a pool of nearly 2,500 applicants. The fellows were appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

Since its establishment in 1925, the Foundation has granted nearly $400 million to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies and recipients of many internationally recognized honors.

“Like Emerson, I believe that fullness in life comes from following our calling,” said Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation and 1985 Fellow in Poetry. “The new class of fellows has followed their calling to enhance all of our lives, to provide greater human knowledge and deeper understanding. We’re lucky to look to them to bring us into the future.”

Julius B. Lucks

Julius B. Lucks is a professor and the associate chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering, and co-director of the Northwestern Center for Synthetic Biology.

Julius Lucks
Julius B. Lucks

A focal point of Lucks’ research is measuring and characterizing the folding properties of RNA, a fundamental component of all living systems with many important functions. Studies in Lucks’ lab have furthered scientific understanding of the molecular principles that enable biological systems to sense and adapt to changing environments, creating insights that have allowed them to engineer these systems in ways that benefit humanity.

Lucks’ work has created some of the first movies of how RNAs fold inside cells, revealing how RNAs can be engineered for on-demand diagnostic technologies that can detect water contaminants and pathogens. Lucks will use his Guggenheim Fellowship to make movies of the RNA ‘multiverse’ — collections of RNAs that all perform the same function but in different ways — opening new dimensions to understanding life’s most central molecule.

“I am humbled and honored by the recognition of the Guggenheim Foundation. In an era where it is increasingly rare to be supported to pursue one’s most bold, ambitious and risky ideas, the Guggenheim Foundation is providing a critical path to enable us to go after our passions,” Lucks said. “With this support, I am incredibly excited to add new dimensions to our understanding of RNA, so that we may use that understanding to create RNA biotechnologies that address some of society’s biggest challenges.”

Amy Stanley

Amy Stanley is the Wayne V. Jones II Research Professor in the Department of History and the director of the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Amy Stanley
Amy Stanley

Stanley is a social historian of early modern and modern Japan, with special interests in global history, women's and gender history, and narrative. She has held fellowships from the Japan Foundation, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her most recent book is the award-winning “Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World” (Scribner, 2020). She is also the author of “Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan” (University of California Press, 2012) and numerous journal articles.

Stanley will use her Guggenheim Fellowship to support the research and writing of a new social history of World War II in Asia. Her book will tell the story of people who found themselves on the battlefield in Burma, including a Japanese-American intelligence officer, a Korean “comfort woman,” a British anthropologist, a Burmese feminist and an Indian independence activist, examining how their experiences shaped the post-imperial world.

“I’m thrilled to have this support for my research, and I’m especially grateful to my colleagues in the history department for reading and commenting on my work, encouraging me to strike out in new directions, and creating and sustaining a supportive intellectual community for all of us,” Stanley said.