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Clote, Ohi Are Guggenheim Fellows

Peter Clote, Photo by Justin Knight

By Rosanne Pellegrini and Ed Hayward | Chronicle Staff

Published: Apr. 25, 2013

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded 2013 fellowships to two Boston College faculty members, Professor of Biology Peter Clote and Professor of English Kevin Ohi.

Guggenheim Fellowships recognize professionals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. A diverse group of 175 scholars, artists and scientists were chosen for the fellowships — out of nearly 3,000 applicants — on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.   

Clote, whose current research into synthetic biology draws on a career spent melding the disciplines of mathematics, computer science and biology, will work as a visiting professor in applied mathematics and bioengineering at California Institute of Technology in the fall and next spring at the University of Vienna, the Bioinformatics Institute of the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute of Berlin.

Clote’s distinguished career includes publishing approximately 100 research articles, co-authoring two books and co-editing three books, as well as editorial roles at several journals, including his current post as associate editor of the Journal of Mathematical Biology.

“This is wonderful news for Peter,” said DeLuca Professor and Biology Department Chairman Thomas Chiles. “The Guggenheim recognizes Peter’s scholarly contribution and innovative approach to RNA and synthetic biology.  It also speaks to the caliber of our faculty at Boston College.”

“I feel very fortunate,” said Clote, who holds a courtesy appointment in the Computer Science Department. “I’m indebted to Tom Chiles, who has helped to create an excellent research infrastructure within our department. That support has fostered a lot of great research in our department.”           

Clote moved into the field of computational biology more than a decade ago, coming from a background in mathematics and computer science. In addition to his post at BC, where he has worked since 1984, Clote has held professorships at universities in France and Germany.

Kevin Ohi

His varied and accomplished background has led him into the area of synthetic biology, specifically an effort to design RNA molecules for particular purposes.

“The focus I have is on RNA computational biology, which concerns the biophysics of RNA molecules, their structure, evolution and design,” Clote said. “So this project, building on the recent work of my lab, concerns the design of RNA molecules for certain specific functions.”

Ohi, who joined the Boston College faculty in 2001, specializes in literary and cultural theory. He has taught a number of courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, among them William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Queer Origins, and Studies in Narrative. His writing and teaching interests include queer theory, aestheticism and decadence, Victorian and modernist literature, 20th-century American literature, and film.

He is the author of the books Innocence and Rapture: The Erotic Child in Pater, Wilde, James, and Nabokov and Henry James and the Queerness of Style, and has published essays in edited collections and in such journals as ELH, Criticism, Camera Obscura, Victorian Literature and Culture, and The Henry James Review.

The fellowship, awarded to Ohi in the category of humanities and field of literary criticism, will enable continued work on his book Dead Letters Sent: Queer Literary Transmission.

“In any project there comes a time when one needs to give sustained, uninterrupted attention to one’s writing, and I am grateful that the Guggenheim Foundation, with BC’s support, will allow me to take a year off from teaching to finish my book,” he said. “It is a tremendous honor to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. I’m doing my best not to look too carefully into the question of whether I deserve to be on a list with such accomplished people.”

Ohi noted that, at a time when higher education is under increasing financial pressure, “people tend to talk about research as if it came at the expense of undergraduate teaching. In my case, it certainly doesn’t. I can’t imagine my teaching without my research, and I believe my research has made my teaching more vital and relevant.”

Information on fellowships and other programs of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation is available here.