2009 CUNY Nobel Science Challenge


In response to our challenge to CUNY undergraduate students (for details related to the CUNY Nobel Science Challenge see link below), we received 101 essays—41 in physiology and medicine, 27 in physics, 21 in chemistry, and 12 in economics.

Four CUNY Distinguished Professors were invited to form and chair faculty committees, to review the essays submitted in each Nobel area. They then gave their committee recommendations for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners. The winners, were selected by the committees listed below.

Program Description

CUNY undergraduate students were invited to submit an essay of 1000-1500 words that described the science behind one of this year's Nobel Prizes. Essays were read and judged by a distinguished CUNY faculty committee.

Grand Prize Winner: Ms. Kimberly Thompson, Sophomore at BMCC, Science - Bio - Essay <pdf>


  • 1st place: Mr. Hyeondo "Luke" Hwang, Freshman at City College, Biochemistry (intended) - Bio - Essay <pdf>
  • 2nd place: Ms. Karishma Chawla, Senior at Brooklyn College, Biology & Health & Nutrition - Bio - Essay <pdf>
  • 3rd place: Ms. Anam Ahmed, Junior at Queens College, Biochemistry - Bio - Essay <pdf>


  • 1st place: Ms. Kimberly Thompson, Sophomore at BMCC, Science
  • 2nd place: Mr. Patrick Pompili Sophomore, Baruch College Economics - Bio - Essay <pdf>
  • 3rd place: Mr. Joshua Felipe, Senior at Hunter College, Economics - Bio - Essay <pdf>


  • 1st place: Ms. Rakefet Ben-Ari, Junior at Hunter College, Physics - Bio - Essay <pdf>
  • 2nd place: Mr. Yaakov Fein, Sophomore at Queens College, Physics (intended) - Bio - Essay <pdf>
  • 3rd place: Mr. Neaz Noor, Senior at Baruch College, Biology - Bio - Essay <pdf>

Physiology or Medicine

  • 1st place: Ms. Angela Preda, Senior at Hunter College, Biology - Bio - Essay <pdf>
  • 2nd place: Ms. Sidra Javed, 4th year at Sophie Davis/City College, Biomedical Education - Bio - Essay <pdf>
  • 3rd place: Ms. Elaine Cheng, 5th year at Sophie Davis/City College, Biomedical Education - Bio - Essay <pdf>

With a deft touch and plain prose, sophomore Kimberley Thompson from Borough of Manhattan Community College, was awarded the grand prize during the Nobel Science Challenge Award Ceremony. The ceremony was held Thursday February 25th 2010, at CUNY's 80th Street Central Office.

The CUNY Nobel Science Challenge was the brainchild of Vice Chancellor for Research, Gillian Small, who wanted CUNY's students to contribute to science literacy in New York City. The challenge was to write an essay describing the work that went into the 2010 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Economics, Physics, and Physiology/Medicine.

Each essay had to communicate the science in a way that could be understood by the general public. More than 100 essays were submitted from undergraduates across the CUNY system.
<read more>

A CUNY Distinguished Professor in each field (Ruth Stark, Chemistry; Fred Naider, Physiology & Medicine; Myriam Sarachik, Physics; and Robert Schwartz, Economics) was asked to form and head a committee of CUNY faculty to review the essays in their category.

These committees selected first, second and third place prize winners in each category, and these awards, including Apple iMac computers, Dell netbooks, and Kindle eBook readers, were presented at the ceremony.  As a bonus, the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) awarded a 1-year membership to the four first place winners.

The first place essays in each category were then reviewed by a committee of outside experts (Brian Greene, co-Founder of the World Science Festival and Professor of Physics at Columbia University; Stacie Bloom, Vice President and Scientific Director of NYAS; and Deborah Mowshowitz, Director of Undergraduate Programs and Lab Operations at Columbia University) to identify a Grand Prize winner. The external committee unanimously selected Ms. Thompson for the Grand Prize.

The award ceremony was an impressive display of commitment to the ideals of science from both our students and faculty and paved the way for future science literacy endeavors in our local communities.

To show support for the winners surrounded by their families and friends, were CUNY Board of Trustees member Rita DiMartino, BMCC President Antonio Pérez, Associate University Dean of Academic Affairs at the Macauley Honors College Sylvia Tomasch, a number of CUNY provosts, several faculty mentors, including David Foster (Biology, Hunter College) and George John (Chemistry, City College), and World Science Festival co-Founder Tracy Day.

2009 Nobel Challenge Committees

<read more>

The committee members are listed below, and we thank them all for graciously giving their time to this effort.


Distinguished Professor Ruth Stark (City College)
Professor Lou Levinger (York College)
Professor Brian Gibney (Brooklyn College)

Physiology & Medicine

Distinguished Professor Fred Naider (College of Staten Island)
Professor Tom Haines (City College)
Professor Derrick Brazill (Hunter College)
Professor (Emeritus) Maria Tomasz (Hunter College)


Distinguished Professor Myriam Sarachik (City College)
Professor Vinod Menon (Queens College)
Professor Noel Goddard (Hunter College)


Distinguished Professor Robert Schwartz (Baruch College)
Professor Maria C.Binz-Scharf (City College)

Grand Prize External Committee

Dr. Brian Greene (Co-Founder, World Science Festival; Professor of Physics, Columbia University)
Dr. Stacie Bloom (Vice President & Scientific Director, New York Academy of Sciences)
Dr. Deborah Mowshowitz (Director of Undergraduate Programs & Lab Operations, Adjunct Professor of Biology, Columbia University)

Nobel Science Challenge Award Ceremony Photos