Nine scientists and a science radio host were among the 22 people who received $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grants last week. Each year the MacArthur Foundation gives the no-strings-attached awards to innovative thinkers “to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.” The 10 science-affiliated winners were:
Jad Abumrad, co-host and producer of “Radiolab,” a show that explores the mystery and wonder of science through playful, curious and deeply thoughtful conversations with scientists.
Elodie Ghedin, a parasitologist and virologist at the University of Pittsburgh, who uses genomic sequencing techniques to attack human pathogens, from tropical parasites that cause diseases such as elephantitis and sleeping sickness to the rapidly mutating influenza A virus.
Markus Greiner, a condensed-matter physicist at Harvard University, who is developing ways to trap ultra-cold atoms to study quantum phenomena such as superconductivity under well-controlled conditions.
Kevin Guskiewicz, a sports medicine researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has developed ways to diagnose and treat sports-related concussions by placing accelerometers in the helmets of football and hockey players.
Matthew Nock, a clinical psychologist at Harvard, who studies suicide and self-injury in adults and adolescents and is seeking to disentangle the neurobiological aspects of self-harming behaviors from those that are dependent on cultural context.
Sarah Otto, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of British Columbia, who studies such issues as why some species reproduce sexually and why some have more than one copy of each gene.
Shwetak Patel, a computer scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, who invented a series of sensor systems that let people track water and energy use in their homes.
Melanie Sanford, a chemist at the University of Michigan, who is developing ways to use metal-based agents such as palladium to modify specific carbon bonds in complex molecules while leaving other bonds untouched. The work could streamline the reactions necessary to produce molecules useful for pharmaceuticals while increasing their yield.
William Seeley, a neuropathologist at the University of California at San Francisco, who studies the origins of frontotemporal dementia, the second-most-common cause, after Alzheimer’s, of early dementia.
Yukiko Yamashita, a developmental biologist at the University of Michigan, who studies stem-cell division to figure out which ones replace specialized cells that are infected or worn out.
This story was produced by New Scientist magazine and can be read at www.newscientist.com.