Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Graduate School News and Events

Outstanding Alumni

Nock Wins MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant"

Recent alumnus Matthew Nock (PhD 2003, Psychology) has won a 2011 “genius grant” fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Fellows receive $500,000 of unrestricted support over five years. Recipients are chosen based on exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

Nock’s research is aimed at advancing the understanding of why people behave in ways that are harmful to themselves, with an emphasis on suicide and other forms of self-harm. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among American adolescents and the tenth most common cause of death overall in the United States. The suicide rate has remained essentially unchanged in the United States over the past 40 years, despite the de-stigmatization of mental illness, the increased availability of psychotropic medications, and increased funding for suicide research. Nock combines epidemiology, laboratory experiments, measurement of implicit mental associations, and real-world, real-time biological and psychological assessments to document the nature, severity, and duration of the emotional states of individuals considering or engaging in self-injury. His studies of nonsuicidal self-injury (such as cutting and burning) among adolescents have demonstrated that these behaviors may serve an adaptive function by activating the body’s ability to self-regulate overwhelming emotional states brought on by extreme anger, anxiety, or stress. Nock’s current work includes cross-national studies of suicidal behavior that seek to discern those aspects of suicidal thinking and behavior that are universal and those that are dependent on cultural context and environment.

Nock earned his undergraduate degree from Boston University. After graduating from Yale with a dissertation titled “Parent Participation in Child Psychotherapy: Predictors of Attrition and Evaluation of a Participation Enhancement Intervention,” he joined the Harvard University faculty, where he has received several teaching awards and is director of the Laboratory for Clinical and Developmental Research. He is the editor of Understanding Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: Origins, Assessment and Treatment (2009), and his scientific articles have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the British Journal of Psychiatry, and the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Nock’s advisers at Yale were Alan Kazdin and Mitch Prinstein (now at UNC Chapel Hill).

Brownstein Receives Presidential Early Career Award

John S. Brownstein (PhD 2004, EPH), assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, has won a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), announced recently by President Barack Obama. This is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Collins Sebelius Brownstein and Holdren

John Brownstein with NIH Director Francis Collins (PhD 1974, Chemistry); Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services; and John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. (Photo credit: NASA/Paul E. Alers.)

Brownstein works on statistical modeling and medical informatics approaches for accelerating the translation of public health surveillance research into practice. His group focuses on two major areas: the design, evaluation, and implementation of public health surveillance systems and the statistical modeling of public health surveillance data to improve prevention and control activities. This research has focused on a variety of infectious diseases, including malaria, dengue, HIV, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and influenza. Planned research includes predicting patterns of influenza epidemics and pandemics and evaluating the efficacy of disease control strategies, such as vaccination, quarantine, and travel restrictions. His group is also working on several novel disease surveillance systems, including HealthMap.org, an internet-based global infectious disease intelligence system.

After graduating from Yale, Brownstein was a postdoctoral fellow at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. He currently holds research grants from the National Institutes of Health, Google, USAID, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He has advised the Institute of Medicine, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, and the White House on public health surveillance. His research has been reported on widely in Science, Nature, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well as on CNN, National Public Radio and the BBC.

Bloom Publishes Anatomy of Influence

"Literary criticism, as I learned from Walter Pater, ought to consist of acts of appreciation," writes scholar and preeminent literary critic Harold Bloom (PhD English, 1956) in his most recent book, The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life (Yale University Press, 2011). “This book primarily is an appreciation, on a scale I will not again attempt… We all fear loneliness, madness, dying. Shakespeare and Walt Whitman, Leopardi and Hart Crane will not cure those fears, and yet these poets bring us fire and light,” he writes in the preface. Anatomy of Influence is a sustained meditation on a life lived with and through the great works of the Western canon, with extended analyses of 30 of the world’s most iconic writers, from Shakespeare to James Joyce.

Bloom is the Sterling Professor of Humanities and English at Yale, where he has taught for over 55 years. He is author of nearly 40 books, including The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, How to Read and Why, and Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus recently wrote of Bloom that “He is, by any reckoning, one of the most stimulating literary presences of the last half-century — and one of the most protean, a singular breed of scholar-teacher-critic-prose-poet-pamphleteer, as deeply versed in the baroque aestheticism of Pater and Wilde as in the categorized intricacies of the kabbalah and Freud, and thoroughly steeped in several centuries’ worth of English and American poetry, acres of it committed to memory.”

Matthew Nock, John Brownstein and Harold Bloom. (Photo credit: Nock photo by Nicolas Guevara)