24 MacArthur 'genius grants' announced

Sept. 25, 2002 at 1:12 PM
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CHICAGO, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Wednesday awarded $500,000 "genius grants" to 24 new fellows, bringing to 635 the number of stipend winners since 1981.

"In all our programs, we are committed to nurturing those who are a source of new knowledge and ideas, have the courage to challenge inherited orthodoxies and to take intellectual, scientific and cultural risks," said Jonathan F. Fanton, president of the MacArthur Foundation. "For over two decades, the MacArthur Fellows Program has been a vital part of the foundation's efforts to recognize and support individuals who lift our spirits, illuminate human potential, and shape our collective future."

Among those receiving this year's grants were a seismologist applying structural engineering principles to public buildings in some of the world's poorest, most earthquake-prone regions; a molecular ecobiologist studying bacterial communication; and roboticist designing self-reconfigurable robots.

Those awarded grants were nominated by an anonymous panel. The winners, who were unaware they were under consideration, were notified by telephone.

The foundation neither requires nor expects specific projects from individual fellows nor does it ask for reports on how the money is used.

The fellows:

-- Molecular ecobiologist Bonnie Bassler, 40, associate professor at Princeton University, won for her work investigating the chemical signaling mechanisms that bacteria use to communicate with each other.

-- Historian Ann Blair, 40, professor at Harvard University, was recognized for her work tracing the influence of technological advances, as well as political and religious upheavals, on the transmission and evolution of ideas during the Renaissance.

-- Washington Post staff writer Katharine Boo, 37, was recognized for chronicling the stories of people struggling at the invisible margins of society.

-- Physicist Paul Ginsparg, 46, professor at Cornell University, was cited for revolutionizing scientific communication by providing a free service for publishing and reading research reports;

-- David Goldstein, 51, energy program co-director for the National Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, won for maximizing energy efficiency by undertaking sound scientific analyses, designing economic incentives, and advocating progressive regulation;

-- Novelist Karen Hesse, 50, of Brattleboro, Vt., was recognized for experimenting with form and subject matter to enrich and redefine literature for children and young adults;

-- Epidemiologist Janine Jagger, 52, of the International Health Care Worker Safety Center in Charlottesville, Va., won for inventing new devices and monitoring systems to protect healthcare workers from transmission of blood-borne diseases;

-- Linguist Daniel Jurarfsky, 39, associate professor at the University of Colorado, was cited for improving the capacity for computers to process natural language by analyzing the syntax and usage of ordinary sentences;

-- Artist Toba Khedoori, 37, of Los Angeles, was recognized for working meticulously in wax, oil and pencil to create immense but delicate drawings on vast stretches of unframed paper;

-- Liz Lerman, 54, founder and artistic director of the Dance Exchange in Takoma Park, Md., was recognized for demonstrating that dance can build upon people's experience to recreate their connections across ages and communities;

-- Trombonist and composer George Lewis, 50, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, won for bridging traditions and opening wide frontiers in experimental music;

-- Artist Liza Lou, 33, of Los Angeles, was cited for creating large works of color and complexity that merge fine art and craft;

-- Bassist Edgar Meyer, 41, of Nashville, Tenn., won for fusing classical and bluegrass styles to create an expansive repertoire of American music;

-- Presidential adviser Jack Miles, 60, of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles was cited for interpreting, through the genre of biography, the Bible as literary text with God and Christ as the principal characters;

-- Anthropologist Erik Mueggler, 40, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, was cited for enriching understanding of ethnic minorities in China through vivid ethnographies of ordinary lives in provincial populations;

-- Economist Sendhil Mullainathan, 29, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was cited for explaining how limits on knowledge, willpower and self-interest affect economic behavior;

-- Documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, 48, of Half-Nelson Films, won for synthesizing biography, history and culture in signature portrayals of the African-American experience;

-- Paleoethnobotanist Lee Ann Newsom, 45, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University, was cited for gleaning new insights into prehistoric societies through analyses of fossilized plant remains;

-- Roboticist Daniela Rus, 39, an associate professor of computer science and cognitive neuroscience at Dartmouth College, won for building innovative devices ranging from abstract information processors to self-reconfiguring robots;

-- Cosmologist Charles Steidel, 39, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, won for inventing new methods for detecting light from the most distant galaxies, opening a window into the early history of the universe;

-- Disaster prevention specialist Brian Tucker, 56, founder and president of GeoHazards International of Palo Alto, Calif., was recognized for designing low-cost methods to minimize structural failure and human injury from natural disasters in the developing world;

-- Archivist Camilo Vergara, 58, of New York, won for chronicling through photography the transformation of urban landscapes across America;

-- Atmospheric chemist Paul Wennberg, 40, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, was cited for developing new instruments and analytic methods for measuring and understanding the earth's gaseous shell; and

--Novelist Colson Whitehead, 32, of New York, was recognized for experimenting with inventive plots weaving American folklore and history into freshly drawn contemporary stories.

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