Crerar Prize

The John Crerar Foundation Writing Prize for College Students

The 2019-20 winning papers

1st place: Ahit Kaan Tarhan, Art & Science: Photochromism

2nd place: Ethan Pritikin, Creating Functional Algorithms in Healthcare Diagnostics Using AI

3rd place: Tiffany Vaughan, Florence Nightingale: Nursing A Calling


The annual John Crerar Foundation Science Writing Prize for College Students honors the memory of John Crerar - industrialist and philanthropist whose estate established the John Crerar Library.

This competitive award for excellence and clarity in science writing acknowledges the ability of a University of Chicago College student to produce a paper, on a scientific topic, which is thorough in its arguments but accessible to a broad readership.

An important component of the paper will be the bibliography, which must include citations from a variety of sources and may be presented in a bibliographic style of the student's choosing.

First Prize is $1500
Second Prize is $500
Third Prize is $300

Competition Guidelines and Eligibility

Students must write their paper on the given topic. We encourage and welcome submissions from all perspectives.

Eligible Participants

The competition is open to students at the University of Chicago who are currently pursuing an undergraduate degree. The competition is not restricted by year of study or concentration.

Submission Guidelines

  • Applicants must be students at the University of Chicago who are actively pursing an undergraduate degree.
  • The length cannot exceed 3000 word. The word count excludes the bibliography.
  • Essays must be typewritten.
  • Pages must be numbered.
  • Each entry must have a cover page with the title of the work, the author's name, student id number and email address. This information should appear on the cover page only.
  • Only original and unpublished work will be accepted. Submissions based on a student paper are welcome.
  • Collaborative works are acceptable. Please acknowledge all authors and indicate the contribution of each.
  • One entry per person.
  • Bibliographies must include citations from a variety of sources, and may be presented in a bibliographic style of the student's choosing. See the Citation Management Guide provided by the library for more information.
  • Entries will be accepted electronically, as a Word document, at until midnight (central time) on the day of the deadline.

Re-submission is welcome. The selection committee may recommend papers that are not selected for the 1st, 2nd or 3rd prize for re-submission the following year, with revisions to accommodate the new topic. In some cases, the topics may differ substantially from year to year - thus re-submission would not be a possibility.

Selection Criteria

Prizes will be awarded to authors who are best able to write on subject matter with a clear and logical connection to the sciences. The selected essays must be understandable to those who study either a biomedical or physical science, however its arguments must be clear to the non-specialist.

The winning submissions will be selected for the quality of the research conducted, as well as by the effective and literate statement of the results. The quality of the bibliography will also be taken into consideration.

Other criteria include:

  • Originality
  • Accuracy
  • Readability
  • Writing style

Examples include articles from:

  • Science (Perspective section)
  • Nature (News and Views section)
  • Scientific American

Selection Committee

The panel of judges includes faculty and graduate students from the University of Chicago, a representative from the University of Chicago Press and a University of Chicago Librarian.

The selection committee reserves the right not to award a prize if no entry is deserving of an award.

Research Assistance

Students who need assistance in conducting their research for the competition can contact Barbara Kern at 773-702-8717. Please put "Science Writing Prize" in the subject line.

The Topic

Students must submit a paper that meets the following criteria:

Submit a 2,500-3,000 word essay on a topic in science, medicine and/or technology. History of science and environmental or political policy papers are welcome as long as the theme is science, medicine and/or technology. Your essay should include a description of how your topic is relevant to your studies, as well as its impact on society today and into the future. Your submission must be scientifically and technically accurate, make reference to the relevant literature, and be accessible to a readership with a general knowledge of science.

View past topics
View past winning papers

Awarding the Prizes

The prizes are distributed to the winners by the Library.

Contact Information

Barbara Kern
The John Crerar Library