Junior faculty honored for field-leading research in humanities, sciences

Jennifer Allen, Yarrow Dunham, Alvaro Sanchez, and Sarah Slavoff
Left to right: Jennifer Allen, Yarrow Dunham, Alvaro Sanchez, and Sarah Slavoff

Four junior faculty members in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) have been honored for pioneering scientific or humanities research in their scholarly fields.

Jennifer Allen, an associate professor of history, received the Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize, which recognizes outstanding publications or research by untenured ladder faculty in the humanities. Yarrow Dunham, an associate professor of psychology, Alvaro Sanchez, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Sarah Slavoff, an associate professor of chemistry and of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, received the Arthur Greer Memorial Prize for outstanding publication or research by untenured ladder faculty in the social or natural sciences.

Heyman Prize

Jennifer Allen (Department of History)

Allen was recognized for research she is conducting for her forthcoming book “Sustainable Utopias: The Art and Politics of Hope in Germany.” In the book, she charts the history of Germany’s “relatively recent efforts to revitalize the concept of utopia after the wholesale collapse of Europe’s violent utopian social engineering projects by the end of the 20th century,” according to the award announcement by FAS Dean Tamar Szabó Gendler. 

Allen is a historian of modern Germany who is especially interested in late 20th-century cultural practices. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on modern German history, the theories and practices of memory in modern Europe, and the history of the Holocaust.

Greer Prize

Yarrow Dunham (Department of Psychology)

Yarrow Dunham focuses his work on intergroup social cognition. Specifically, he examines how humans come to affiliate with groups, and whether understanding group preferences can provide insight into how children develop intergroup attitudes and stereotypes. He is the director of the Social Cognition Lab, which “has advanced new revelations into how children’s minds work, how they come to understand hierarchies and fairness, and how they interpret the world around them,” according to Gendler. 

Dunham and his research team employ experimental and cross-cultural methodologies in their exploration of how adults and children acquire knowledge and interpret the social world. He teaches introductory psychology and developmental psychology, as well as courses on the development of the social mind, the psychology of stereotyping and prejudice, and the psychology of group life, among others.

Alvaro Sanchez (Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology)

Alvaro Sanchez has shown how communities develop on a minute level — among microbes. “His work seeks to understand and predict how microbial communities assemble and evolve,” Gendler said. In his research, he uses a combination of biophysical tools, mathematical modeling and systems, and synthetic biology to understand the social behavior of microbes and to investigate whether that behavior is encoded in the microbes’ DNA, and how it shapes the behavior of other species.

Sanchez, whose lab is in the Microbial Sciences Institute on West Campus, teaches an undergraduate course on evolutionary systems biology and graduate-level courses on evolutionary theory and microbial ecology and evolution.

Sarah Slavoff (Department of Chemistry)

Sarah Slavoff  studies the “dark matter” of the human genome: the “undiscovered small open reading frames that encode microproteins.”

Through her work, she provides answers to long-standing questions about RNA and its role in gene expression,” said Gendler. Her research has helped identify new microproteins that are involved in a host of biological mechanisms and disease, providing new understanding of how the human genome functions, she added.

Slavoff’s lab is based at the Institute of Biomolecular Design and Discovery on West Campus. She teaches courses on organic chemistry, chemical biology, and “Responsible Conduct of Research,” among other topics. 

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Bess Connolly : elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu,