Building blocks

Margaret Sprug '93GSAPP / Photo courtesy of Miller HullEgyptian architect and Cairo University professor Aly Raafat ’57GSAS won his country’s highest state honor for the arts, the Nile Award. Formerly known as the Mubarak Award, the prize is worth some $66,500 . . . Margaret Sprug ’93GSAPP and Steve Doub ’96GSAPP are designing what will be one of the world’s most energy-efficient buildings. The Bullitt Center, located in Seattle, is likely to be the first large commercial office building to meet the goals of the Living Building Challenge, which stipulates that 100 percent of energy and water needs are met onsite, among other criteria.

Attention, shoppers

Hunch Inc., a New York–based data-analysis company co-founded by Chris Dixon ’96GS, ’99GSAS, was acquired by eBay. Hunch uses information culled from social networks and other websites to provide personal recommendations to shoppers, which will help eBay remain competitive with e-commerce sites such as


Works by two Columbians appeared on the New York Times Ten Best Books of 2011 list. The novel Swamplandia! by Karen Russell ’06SOA was included, as was Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable, the late Columbia professor of African-American studies . . . The 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor went to David Rakoff ’86CC for his essay collection Half Empty. Rakoff is a journalist, essayist, actor, screenwriter, and regular contributor to public radio’s This American Life . . . CUMC professor and staff physician Siddhartha Mukherjee won the Guardian First Book Award for The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which also won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.

Charging Lion

Justin Nunez '07CCJustin Nunez ’07CC beat nearly one hundred traders, bankers, and financial advisers in a charity decathlon in October to earn the title of Wall Street’s best athlete. The ten-event competition, which benefits the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, took place at Columbia’s Wien Stadium — familiar territory for Nunez, who played defensive back for the Lions. He now works in the investment management division at Goldman Sachs.

Commendable communication

Climatologist Gavin Schmidt won the first ever Climate Communications Prize, given by the American Geophysical Union at its annual meeting in December. Schmidt, an adjunct senior research scientist at Columbia’s Center for Climate Systems Research and a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was recognized for his work with RealClimate, a blog he co-founded that aims “to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary” . . . 

Heather McKellar ’11GSAS, Kelley Remole ’04CC, ’09GSAS, and Catherine Jensen ’08GSAS received the Society for Neuroscience Next Generation Award, which honors members who have made outstanding contributions to public communication, outreach, and education. They created Columbia University Neuroscience Outreach, to interest New York City school students in the brain and in science.

Drachma drama

Lucas Papademos / Photo:  AFP - Getty ImagesFormer Columbia economist and professor Lucas Papademos was appointed prime minister of Greece on November 11. Papademos, who most recently served as vice president of the European Central Bank, taught at Columbia from 1975 to 1984. He is presiding over the country’s first unity party until elections are held this spring.

Dziekuje! Merci!

John Micgiel ’77SIPA, ’92GSAS was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by President Bronislaw Komorowski at a ceremony at the Polish consulate in New York. Recipients were recognized for their contributions to the Polish-American community in science, culture, business, and politics. Micgiel is an adjunct associate professor of international and public affairs, as well as the executive director of Columbia’s East Central European Center . . . 

Antoine Compagnon / © P. Imbert, Collège de France

Antoine Compagnon, who has taught French and comparative literature at Columbia since 1985, was presented with the Claude Lévi-Strauss Prize by France’s Ministry of Higher Education and Research in November. The 100,000-euro prize honors Compagnon as a “great creative scholar who has gone off the beaten path in order to propose new methods of interdisciplinary thought.” Compagnon’s biography of the historian Bernard Faÿ, who taught at Columbia in the 1920s and 1930s and then headed the French National Library while collaborating with the Nazis, attracted a good deal of attention last year.

Federal cases

Shu Chien '57GSASPresident Barack Obama ’83CC awarded Shu Chien ’57GSAS the National Medal of Science in December. The award, which in 2011 was given to seven researchers, is the highest honor bestowed by the US government on scientists, engineers, and inventors. Chien taught at Columbia from 1969 to 1988 and is now based at the University of California at San Diego where his work, primarily on the fluid-dynamic properties of blood flow, has led to significant advancement in the understanding and treatment of circulatory disease . . . Henning Schulzrinne was named chief technology officer at the FCC by chairman Julius Genachowski ’85CC. Schulzrinne is a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Columbia and has been an engineering fellow at the FCC since 2010.

Knowledge is power

The Aspen Foundation announced Dele Olojede ’88JRN as the 2011 winner of the John P. McNulty Prize, in recognition of his groundbreaking work delivering unbiased information to the Nigerian public. Olojede is the CEO and founder of Next, an integrated media platform that provides news and information in Nigeria via a traditional newspaper as well as the Internet, radio, and mobile applications. Olojede, a former foreign editor of Newsday, is also the only African Pulitzer Prize holder . . . Michael Caruso ’83CC was named editor in chief of Smithsonian, becoming just the fourth editor in its forty-one-year history. Caruso has been editor in chief of Los Angeles magazine, Details, Maximum Golf, and Men’s Journal, and was most recently deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal’s magazine.

Nobody’s better connected

Chelsea Clinton '10PH / photo:  Getty ImagesThe NBC News family recently added two political daughters. Chelsea Clinton ’10PH joined the network as a special correspondent and will focus on the “Making a Difference” franchise, which highlights people and organizations doing extraordinary community work. Meghan McCain ’07CC will be a contributor to the cable network MSNBC. McCain, who is also a columnist for the Daily Beast, previously interned at Newsweek and Saturday Night Live

The best stories wherever you go on the Columbia Magazine App

Maybe next time