Seven Stanford faculty members were named 2021 Guggenheim Fellows in April. This honor recognizes those who have “demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” The fellowship is highly competitive: Approximately 3,000 applications are submitted each year, spanning various disciplines, and only about 175 individuals are ultimately selected by experts in each field. This article is part of a three-part series profiling the Stanford scholars honored with this award for 2021.
Anthropology professor Lochlann Jain — and now Guggenheim Fellowship recipient — values an interdisciplinary approach, which is reflected in their work.
During the fellowship, Jain will work on the concept of WeNet, an investigation into how biomedical processes such as vaccine development have incidentally led to viral transmission between humans and animals, combining study in the fields of biology and history. They became interested in medical anthropology after studying the varying hypotheses surrounding the origins of HIV.
Their vaccine research is especially timely during the pandemic. Jain said that they believe better models based on prior epidemics could have been prepared to understand and combat COVID-19.
“A lot of these previous epidemics provided opportunities for better understanding [of COVID-19], and we could’ve been better prepared for this,” Jain said.
They are also working on other projects, including “My Failed Transition,” a graphic novel on gender transition, and a book on the history of lungs and air.
Those who know Jain commend their artistic expression of their research.
Saj Soomal, who audited a class Jain taught at the University of Toronto, said, “It is always a pleasure to work with Professor Jain; I am excited to see how they will bring their visual and performative arts practice into their research on vaccine history.”
Colleague and anthropology professor Miriam Ticktin shared a similar appreciation for Jain’s creative work, saying that Jain has “an incredibly beautiful accessible humorous writing style” and “takes language very seriously as an artist and as a poetic form as well.”
Psychiatry and behavioral sciences assistant professor Daniel Mason draws on his understanding of the human body to produce literature, and for that unique work, he has received a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue creative writing. His new book will center around people living through a period of ecological change.
“My writing tends to focus very much on things in the world such as how a person dresses, how they carry themselves, and the kind of objects that they surround themselves with,” Mason said.
“It’s been a learning process on how to mix the two careers together,” he added.
Mason wrote his first novel “The Piano Tuner,” a historical fiction novel centered during the expansion of the British Empire, while he was a medical student.
His colleagues describe him to be a remarkable author and his passion for his work.
“He’s got a gift for seeing people in the landscape, and what he does with dialogue is quite impressive,” said Tanya Luhrmann, an anthropology professor and colleague.
Anesthesiology professor Audrey Shafer, who first met Mason when he was a resident at UCSF, added that Mason “has a talent for description and for placing the reader right in the same room as the characters.”
“He has many different passions and curiosities — he can bring those in an interwoven pattern into his writings,” Shafer said. The reader is not “bogged down by the medical details, but is also invested in the characters and environment.”