BMCC Student Wins Grand Prize in CUNY-wide Nobel Science Challenge

[youtube][/youtube]BMCC science major Kimberly Thompson just won first place in the economics category of the 2009 CUNY Nobel Science Challenge—as well as $5,000 as an overall Grand Prizewinner.

Thompson’s award-winning essay examines the Nobel-prizewinning work of Elinor Ostrom, who proposed eight basic tenets common to sustainable common-pool (shared) resources, or CPRs.

“A key component to Ostrom’s work,” writes Thompson, “is an interdisciplinary approach; her research and publications on CPRs draw from conservation biology, ecology, psychology, and economics, among others.”

For example, Ostrom employed game theory, in experiments evaluating players’ strategies in non-cooperative action situations.  She also examined the impact of trust and reciprocity, and found they correlate with growth and investment in CPR management.

Ostrom’s findings, then, indicate that how people relate to each other within economic and social systems is as key to resource sustainability as ecological issues—and this explains how Thompson, a science major, chose as subject for her essay, Nobel prizewinning work in economics.

“There is kind of a juxtaposition between immediate interests as opposed to the greater good; how people make decisions around their good versus the greater good,” said Thompson after the award ceremony and reception sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, Professor Gillian Small, at CUNY’s central offices on East 80th Street in Manhattan.

And the grand prize winner is…

Altogether, 12 CUNY undergraduates received awards for their essays based on 2009 Nobel prize-winning work in chemistry, physiology and medicine, physics, and economics.  First, second and third prizes in each category included an Apple iMac Computer, a Dell Mini 10 Netbook, and an Amazon Kindle.
Over 100 applicants wrote about the science behind the 2009 Nobel prizes, and how it impacts on humanity.  The impetus for the competition, shared Vice Chancellor Gillian Small in her opening remarks, came about when the 2009 Nobel winners were announced, and she was reading a recent book of essays titled Unscientific America, How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future.

“There is a distressingly large number of Americans who refuse to accept even the theory of evolution,” said Small, who envisioned the competition’s essays making Nobel work in science accessible to a larger audience.

Acknowledging cultural challenges and the hard work ahead for young people starting their careers in science, CUNY faculty introduced the winners. “Choose a difficult project,” advised one of the essay reviewers, Distinguished Professor of Physics Fred Naider, of the College of Staten Island. “Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.”

Kimberly Thompson was announced as the surprise grand prizewinner at the end of the ceremony, elation alternating with stunned disbelief as she posed holding the giant, sweepstakes-style CUNY check made out for $5,000.

“I plan to put it toward school,” she said.