The American Academy of Sciences and Letters honors former CUSP director for distinguished intellectual achievement

Steven Koonin is the recipient of the organization’s 2023 Barry Prize

Steven E. Koonin —  the Founding Director of Tandon’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) — has received a 2023 Barry Prize for Distinguished Intellectual Achievement from the American Academy of Sciences and Letters. The award — the academy’s premier recognition for excellence in scholarship — was presented to him on November 8 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. 

Steven E. Koonin 

Open to scholars across diverse fields and disciplines, the laurel honors those whose work has made outstanding contributions to “humanity's knowledge, appreciation, and cultivation of the good, the true, and the beautiful,” according to its official description. It is given to scholars of “extraordinary achievement and dedication to excellence in the arts, sciences and learned professions,” who are honored with academy membership and a $50,000 cash prize.

Koonin’s citation reads: “In a career spanning the academy, business and government, Steven Koonin has mobilized an extensive knowledge of theoretical physics across nuclear astrophysics, theoretical nuclear physics, computational and many-body physics to build solutions to real-world problems. With passions ranging from human flourishing in New York City to the natural environment of our globe, he has fearlessly championed the integrity and independence of natural science that are so crucial to its intellectual and practical success. The Academy honors Dr. Koonin’s distinguished contributions to humanity’s cultivation of scientific progress for the improvement of our world.”

Koonin has made significant contributions, as well, to NYU Tandon as an institution. In 2012, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg accepted NYU’s proposal to build a school of applied urban science in downtown Brooklyn in the former MTA building at 370 Jay Street, Koonin, who had served in the Obama administration as Undersecretary for Science at the U.S. Department of Energy, was named founding director of the resulting center, widely known since its inception as CUSP. 

CUSP — now under the direction of Institute Professor Maurizio Porfiri — uses New York City as a dynamic living lab to develop novel data- and technology-driven ways to improve city services; optimize decision-making by local governments; create smart urban infrastructures; and address challenging urban issues such as crime, environmental pollution and public health issues.