Wednesday, September 21, 2011


One call out of the blue — $500,000 — No strings

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today named 22 new MacArthur Fellows for 2011. Working across a broad spectrum of endeavors, the Fellows include an architect, a sports medicine researcher, a cellist, a developmental biologist, a radio producer, a neuropathologist, a conservator, a poet, a technologist, and a public historian. All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.

The recipients learned, through a phone call out of the blue from the Foundation, that they will each receive $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations or reporting requirements and offer Fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors. The work of MacArthur Fellows knows neither boundaries nor the constraints of age, place, and endeavor.

Among the recipients this year are –

• a radio producer engaging a new generation of listeners with audio explorations of scientific and philosophical questions that recreate the thrill of discovery (Jad Abumrad);

• a sports medicine researcher advancing the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sports-related brain injuries to improve the safety of athletes of all ages (Kevin Guskiewicz);

• a technologist and electrical engineer inventing low-cost, easy to deploy sensor systems to enable users to track household energy consumption and to make buildings more responsive to our needs (Shwetak Patel);

• a clinical psychologist deepening understanding of self-injury and suicide among adolescents and adults in the interest of saving lives and influencing mental health care in our society (Matthew Nock);

• an architect integrating conventional materials, bold yet functional designs, and ecological technology in a wide range of striking structures (Jeanne Gang);

• a parasitologist decoding the genomes of virulent human pathogens that cause rare diseases and threaten the lives of millions in the developing world (Elodie Ghedin);

• a long-form journalist crafting richly illuminating accounts of ordinary people in such rapidly changing societies as Reform Era China (Peter Hessler);

• a percussionist and composer infusing Latin jazz with bold new energy and sound, dazzling technical abilities, and rhythmically adventurous compositions (Dafnis Prieto);

• an evolutionary geneticist resolvingsuch long-standing, fundamental questions as the evolutionary benefits of carrying two copies of each gene and of sexual over asexual reproduction (Sarah Otto);

• a public historian reframing the history of colonial America in works that illuminate the complex relationship between African and Cherokee peoples (Tiya Miles); and

• a poet and translator mining the classical world and poetic techniques to craft imaginative explorations of contemporary life that evoke insights about antiquity’s relevance for today (A.E. Stallings).

The process begins with formal nominations. Hundreds of anonymous nominators assist the Foundation in identifying people to be considered for a MacArthur Fellowship. Nominations are accepted only from invited nominators, a list that is constantly renewed throughout the year. They are chosen from many fields and challenged to identify people who demonstrate exceptional creativity and promise. A Selection Committee of roughly a dozen members, who also serve anonymously, meets regularly to review files, narrow the list, and make final recommendations to the Foundation’s Board of Directors. The number of Fellows selected each year is not fixed; typically, it varies between 20 and 25.

Including this year’s Fellows, 850 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been named MacArthur Fellows since the inaugural class in 1981.

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is at www.macfound.org.

Complete List of MacArthur Fellows for 2011

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