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Student Prizes

On behalf of Caltech and in recognition of students' achievements, HSS faculty select undergraduate and graduate students to receive the following awards and honors.



Prize recipients from the last 5 years are listed below and links to past papers (hosted on CaltechTHESIS) can be found under the "More Information" drop-downs.

David M. Grether Prize in Social Science

The prize rewards outstanding performance and creativity by a Caltech undergraduate who completes one of the social science options. The prize was established by Susan G. Davis in recognition of David M. Grether's contributions to econometrics and experimental economics and his service to the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences. The prize is awarded annually by a committee of social science faculty.

When nominating a student, professors will need to provide student's name and a summary of why they are nominated. Submitting student's essay is not required.

Prize amount: $500.00

YEAR RECIPIENT
2022 No prize awarded
2021 James (Jamie) Vinson
Anthony (Tony) Kukavica
2020 David Fager
2019 Noah Huffman
Akshay Srivastava
2018 No prize awarded


Alexander P. and Adelaide F. Hixon Prize for Writing

The Hixon Prize for Writing was established in 2000 by Alexander P. and Adelaide F. Hixon. The prize is awarded annually to an undergraduate student for the best composition in a first-year humanities course. The prize is administered by the writing center, and the winner is chosen by a committee from the humanities division.

Instructors of first-year humanities courses may nominate essays submitted in their courses for this prize. Nominations can be sent to the director of the Hixon Writing Center any time between the beginning and end of an academic year.

Prize amount: $1,500.00

To see past Hixon Prize winner's work, please click here.

YEAR RECIPIENT
2022 Avirath (Avi) Sundaresan
2021 Bradley (Kaulana) Chun
2020 Elsa Palumbo
2019 Diego Olaya
2018 Galilea von Ruden


John O. Ledyard Prize for Graduate Research in Social Science

The prize rewards the best second-year paper by a graduate student in Social Science or Social and Decision Neuroscience. The prize was established by Susan G. Davis in recognition of John O. Ledyard's dedication to developing graduate students as independent researchers and his service to the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences. The prize is awarded annually by a committee of social science faculty to a sole-authored work.

Prize amount: $1,000.00

YEAR RECIPIENT
2022 To be announced
2021 Po Hsuan Lin
2020 Meng Jhang Fong
2019 Joanna Huey
Jeff Zeidel
2018 Shiyu Zhang


Mary A. Earl McKinney Prize in Literature

The Mary A. Earl McKinney Prize in Literature was established in 1946 by Samuel P. McKinney, M.D., of Los Angeles. Its purpose is to promote proficiency in writing. The terms under which it is given are decided each year by the literature faculty. It may be awarded for essays submitted in connection with regular literature classes or awarded on the basis of a special essay contest.

  • Only current, enrolled, full-time undergraduate students may submit.
  • The current approach to the prize is to offer one award for fiction and one award for poetry each year.
  • Students are only eligible to win this prize once during their time at Caltech.
  • Students remain eligible for versions of this prize they have not previously won. For example, winners of the literature category can still win the poetry prize.
  • Papers can only be submitted once to a prize and cannot be resubmitted in multiple years.
  • Please include name and work title on paper.
  • Fiction should not exceed 12,000 words (one submission).
  • Poetry – May submit up to a total of three poems.
  • Submissions should be made in PDF. Prose should be double-spaced.

Prize amount: $500.00/per category

To see past McKinney Prize winners' work, please click here.

YEAR PROSE FICTION POETRY
2022 Margaret (Maggie) Sui Lily DeBell
2021 Hrishika Basava Shiva Mudide
Honorable Mention: Maggie Sui
2020 Melba Nuzen Karen Pham
Honorable Mention: Andrew Chan
2019 Mohar Chatterjee Maria De Angelis
2018 Timothy Liu Laura Hu


Rodman W. Paul History Prize

The Rodman W. Paul History Prize was established in 1986 by some of his many colleagues and friends to honor Professor Paul's 35 years of teaching and research at the Institute. The prize is awarded annually to a junior or senior who has shown unusual interest in and talent for history.

When nominating a student, professors will need to provide student's name and a summary of why they are nominated. Submitting student's essay is not required.

Prize amount: $500.00

YEAR RECIPIENT
2022 No prize awarded
2021 Anirudh Rangaswamy
2020 Margaret (Maggie) Anderson
2019 Nivetha Karthikeyan
2018 Tristan Murphy


Eleanor Searle Prize in Law, Politics, and Institutions

The Eleanor Searle Prize was established in 1999 by friends and colleagues to honor Eleanor Searle, who was the Edie and Lew Wasserman Professor of History at Caltech. The prize is awarded to an undergraduate or graduate student whose work in history, or the social sciences exemplifies Eleanor Searle's interests in the use of power, government, and law.

When nominating a student, professors will need to provide student's name and a summary of why they are nominated. Submitting student's essay is not required.

Prize amount: $500.00

YEAR RECIPIENT
2022 Abigail (Abby) Jiang
2021 Myra Cheng
2020 Nivetha (Niv) Karthikeyan
Leonardo (Leo) Balestri
2019 Rona Yu
2018 Roohi Dalal


Hallett Smith Prize

The Hallett Smith Prize was established in 1997 to commemorate Professor Smith's long career as one of this century's most distinguished Renaissance scholars. The cash prize is given annually by the English faculty to the student who writes the best essay on English literature.

  • Only current, enrolled, full-time undergraduate students may submit.
  • Submissions must be written during students' time of enrollment at Caltech.
  • Students are only eligible to win this prize once during their time at Caltech.
  • Papers can only be submitted once to a prize and cannot be resubmitted in multiple years.
  • Students may submit work written within the last 18 months.
  • All essays must be written in a Caltech English course.
  • Entries should be double-spaced PDFs.
  • Please combine prompt with essay in one file that includes your name, course number, term (ex: Winter 2022), and professor's name. If there is no prompt, please specify this.
  • Essays written for courses may be revised before submission. No word limit.
  • NOTE: Students interested in the Hallett Smith or McClure English prizes can submit a single essay which will then be considered for both awards. Students should indicate their desire to be considered for both awards in making their submission.

Prize amount: $500.00

To see past Hallett Smith Prize winner's work, please click here.

YEAR RECIPIENT
2022 Shalini Kurinchi-Vendhan
2021 Andrew Chan
2020 Nivedita Kanrar
2019 Brendan Hollaway
2018 Reeti Gulati


Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prizes

This prize is awarded to undergraduate students for excellence in written and oral communication skills. Awards will be given in the following fields: English, history, and philosophy.

  • Only current, enrolled, full-time undergraduate students may submit.
  • The current approach to the prize is to make the award on the basis of a submitted essay.
  • Submissions must be written during students' time of enrollment at Caltech.
  • Students are only eligible to win this prize once during their time at Caltech.
  • Students remain eligible for versions of this prize they have not previously won. For example, winners of the McClure Prize in English can still win the McClure Prize in Philosophy.
  • Papers can only be submitted once to a prize and cannot be resubmitted in multiple years.
  • Students may submit work written within the last 18 months.
  • Essays written for courses may be revised before submission. No word limit.
  • All essays must be written in a Caltech HSS course.
  • Entries should be double-spaced PDFs.
  • Please combine prompt with essay in one file that includes your name, course number, term (ex: Winter 2022), and professor's name. If there is no prompt, please specify this.
  • NOTE: Students interested in the McClure English or Hallett Smith prizes can submit a single essay which will then be considered for both awards. Students should indicate their desire to be considered for both awards in making their submission.

Prize amount: $500.00/per category

To see past McClure Prize winners' work, please click here.

YEAR ENGLISH HISTORY PHILOSOPHY
2022 Margaret (Maggie) Lee Elia Gorokhovsky Elsa Palumbo
2021 Victoria Liu Saehui Hwang Ryan White
2020 Victoria Liu Karen Pham Lucca de Mello
2019 Crystal Liang George Daghlian Nishad Maskara
2018 Maitreyi Nair Tara Shankar Jonathan Chan