Student in Italian Receives University of Notre Dame Library Research Award

Author: Staff

Maggie O Brien

The Center for Italian Studies is proud to announce that Senior Maggie O'Brien won a University of Notre Dame Library Research Award for her essay on Primo Levi's “Il sistema periodico” (The Periodic Table).

Maggie O’Brien received second prize in the “Sophomore, Junior or Senior Award Category” for her use of library resources to complete her research paper, “La scienza ha una morale: The Importance of Impurity.” She was advised by Charles Leavitt, associate professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

O’Brien was inspired by a library session in Rare Book & Special Collections (RBSC) during her Italian Seminar class, which introduced her to extensive Italian-related collections. “The ones that stood out to me were the first editions from the library’s Primo Levi collection and the full set of the Italian fascist periodical ‘La difesa della razza.’” After reading another RBSC holding, “Il sistema periodico,” she focused her research on the connections between the two texts.

O’Brien used online resources, primary source materials and library spaces. Tracy Bergstrom, director of Specialized Services and Collections program, curator of the Italian Studies and Dante Collection and Italian subject librarian, helped O’Brien search for secondary sources to expand her understanding. “Though there is limited scholarship on Levi’s ‘Il sistema periodico’ specifically, Tracy helped me find several texts on ‘La difesa della razza,’ which helped me to contextualize the origins of the publication,” said O’Brien.

“It is not an overstatement to say that my research paper would not have been the same without these resources,” said O’Brien. “I was so inspired by this experience with the resources at the Hesburgh Library that I will be continuing this research on Primo Levi as an M.Phil. candidate at the University of Cambridge.”

The 2022 University of Notre Dame Library Research Award competition, sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries, resulted in 15 awards being given to students across diverse disciplines. This annual award is earned by undergraduate students who demonstrate excellence in research skills by using a breadth of library resources and services for their course assignments, research projects and creative endeavors.