MacArthur grants announced; 23 lucky people to follow, or not

I got the press release three minutes early, actually — not that I could have gotten anything published in that time.  At the promised time, in other words.

MacArthur grant announcement time!  It’s one of those things I take some delight in, to see who are the unsung (usually) from whom much will be expected.  With 23 grantees this year, it’s about as much fun as the Rhodes Scholar announcements.  Rhodes Scholars at least know they are in contention, having had to apply and go through rigorous interviews.  MacArthur fellows don’t know they’ve been nominated.

So, of course, the stories about the grantees often start with the surprise announcement.  The Foundation’s press release starts there, too.  I wonder how many news stories will replicate the press release in that?

23 MacArthur Fellows Announced
One call out of the blue – $500,000 – No strings attached

The MacArthur Foundation today named 23 new MacArthur Fellows for 2012. Working across a broad spectrum of endeavors, the Fellows include a pediatric neurosurgeon, a marine ecologist, a journalist, a photographer, an optical physicist and astronomer, a stringed-instrument bow maker, a geochemist, a fiction writer, and an arts entrepreneur. 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.

“These extraordinary individuals demonstrate the power of creativity,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. “The MacArthur Fellowship is not only a recognition of their impressive past accomplishments but also, more importantly, an investment in their potential for the future. We believe in their creative instincts and hope the freedom the Fellowship provides will enable them to pursue unfettered their insights and ideas for the benefit of the world.”

Meet the 2012 MacArthur Fellows ››

An eclectic group.  Already Larry Ferlazzo posted that one of the awardees is the young economist who bashes teachers, Raj Chetty — there is no requirement that awardees be universally loved, but someone who courts controversy rarely makes the list.  (An exception might be Eugenie Scott , the genius behind the National Center for Science Education, whose winning a MacArthur grant forever tainted such awards to creationists, to the delight of fans of science.)

Go noodle around at the MacArthur Foundation site — each awardee has a bio, a couple of very nice photos, and a video on their work.  Good stuff.

Here they are, in alphabetical order, straight from the MacArthur Foundation.  Hot links go to more information at the Foundation’s site.

Meet the 2012 MacArthur Fellows

Profile portrait of Natalia Almada

Natalia Almada

Altamura Films

Mexico City, Mexico

Age: 37

Documentary Filmmaker capturing complex and nuanced views of Mexican history, politics, and culture in insightful and poetic works that affirm the potency of documentary film as both an art form and a tool for social change.


Profile portrait of Uta Barth

Uta Barth

Los Angeles, CA

Age: 54

Conceptual Photographer exploring the nature of vision and the difference between how we see reality and how a camera records it in evocative, abstract compositions that focus attention on the act of looking and the process of perception.


Profile portrait of Claire Chase

Claire Chase

International Contemporary Ensemble

Brooklyn, NY

Age: 34

Arts Entrepreneur forging a new model for the commissioning, recording, and live performance of classical music and opening new avenues of artistic expression for the twenty-first-century musician.


Profile portrait of Raj Chetty

Raj Chetty

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Age: 33

Public Economist elucidating key policy issues of our time in theoretical and empirical studies that refine our understanding of the impact of public finance on economic activity.


Profile portrait of Maria Chudnovsky

Maria Chudnovsky

Columbia University

New York, NY

Age: 35

Mathematician investigating the fundamental principles of graph theory and laying the conceptual foundations for deepening connections between graph theory and other major branches of mathematics, such as linear programming and geometry.


Profile portrait of Eric Coleman

Eric Coleman

University of Colorado School of Medicine

Denver, CO

Age: 47

Geriatrician addressing system-wide deficiencies in patient transitions from hospitals to homes and other sites of care and improving the health outcomes of millions of older adults suffering from chronic illness.


Profile portrait of Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA

Age: 43

Fiction Writer using raw, vernacular dialogue and spare, unsentimental prose to draw readers into the various and distinct worlds that immigrants must straddle.


Profile portrait of David Finkel

David Finkel

Washington Post

Washington, DC

Age: 56

Journalist pushing beyond the constraints and conventions of traditional news writing to craft sustained narratives that heighten the reality of military service and sacrifice in the public consciousness.


Profile portrait of Olivier Guyon

Olivier Guyon

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ

Age: 36

Optical Physicist and Astronomer designing telescopes and other astronomical instrumentation that play a critical role in the search for Earth-like planets outside our solar system.


Profile portrait of Elissa Hallem

Elissa Hallem

University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA

Age: 34

Neurobiologist exploring the physiology and behavioral consequences of odor detection and chemoreception in invertebrates and identifying interventions that may eventually reduce the scourge of parasitic infections in humans.


Profile portrait of An-My Lê

An-My Lê

Bard College

Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Age: 52

Photographer approaching the subjects of war and landscape from new perspectives to create images that blur the boundaries between fact and fiction and are rich with layers of meaning.


Profile portrait of Sarkis Mazmanian

Sarkis Mazmanian

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, CA

Age: 39

Medical Microbiologist illuminating the complex interplay between microbes and the host immune system and the role certain bacteria may play in the development, or mitigation, of a broad range of human diseases.


Profile portrait of Dinaw Mengestu

Dinaw Mengestu

Washington, DC

Age: 34

Writere nriching understanding of the little-explored world of the African diaspora in America in tales distilled from the experience of immigrants whose memories are seared by escape from violence in their homelands.


Profile portrait of Maurice Lim Miller

Maurice Lim Miller

Family Independence Initiative

Oakland, CA

Age: 66

Social Services Innovator designing programs of mutual support and self-sufficiency that break the cycle of economic dependency for low-income families and build more resilient communities from the ground up.


Profile portrait of Dylan C. Penningroth

Dylan C. Penningroth

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

Age: 41

Historianunearthing evidence from widely scattered archives to shed light on shifting concepts of property ownership and kinship among African American slaves and their descendents following emancipation.

Profile portrait of Terry Plank

Terry Plank

Columbia University

New York, NY

Age: 48

Geochemistprobing the usually invisible but remarkably powerful thermal and chemical forces deep below the Earth’s crust that drive the motion of tectonic plate collisions.


Profile portrait of Laura Poitras

Laura Poitras

Praxis Films

New York, NY

Age: 48

Documentary Filmmaker revealing the consequences of military conflict abroad in illuminating documentaries that portray the lives and intimate experiences of families and communities largely inaccessible to the American media.


Profile portrait of Nancy Rabalais

Nancy Rabalais

Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium

Chauvin, LA

Age: 62

Marine Ecologist documenting the environmental and economic consequences of hypoxic zones in the Gulf of Mexico and informing strategies for restoring the degraded waters of the Gulf and the Mississippi River basin.


Profile portrait of Benoît Rolland

Benoît Rolland

Benoît Rolland Studio

Boston, MA

Age: 58

Stringed-Instrument Bow Maker experimenting with new designs and materials to create violin, viola, and cello bows that rival the quality of prized nineteenth-century bows and meet the artistic demands of today’s musicians.


Profile portrait of Daniel Spielman

Daniel Spielman

Yale University

New Haven, CT

Age: 42

Computer Scientist connecting theoretical and applied computing to resolve issues in code optimization theory with implications for how we measure, predict, and regulate our environment and behavior.


Profile portrait of Melody Swartz

Melody Swartz

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

Age: 43

Bioengineer enhancing understanding of the dynamic processes of tissue vascularization and immune responses to tumor invasion using a large toolbox of concepts and methods from biophysics, cell culture, molecular genetics, engineering, and immunology.


Profile portrait of Chris Thile

Chris Thile

New York, NY

Age: 31

Mandolinist and Composer creating a new musical aesthetic and a distinctly American canon for the mandolin through a lyrical fusion of traditional bluegrass orchestrations with a range of styles and genres.


Profile portrait of Benjamin Warf

Benjamin Warf

Children’s Hospital Boston

Boston, MA

Age: 54

Pediatric Neurosurgeon revolutionizing treatment of hydrocephalus and other intra-cranial diseases in very young children and advancing standards of and access to health care in both the developed and poorest regions of the world.



3 Responses to MacArthur grants announced; 23 lucky people to follow, or not

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Raj Chetty is one of the MacArthur Fellows named in the post above:

    Professor Chetty acknowledged, “Of course there are going to be mistakes — teachers who get fired who do not deserve to get fired.” But he said that using value-added scores would lead to fewer mistakes, not more.

    In The New York Times, “Big study links good teachers to lasting gain,” January 6, 2012, page A1.


  2. brentn says:

    Yeah, Jonah Lehrer. Tragedy, I think, rather than irony. He is not the first to crack under that kind of pressure and he will certainly not be the last.


  3. […] grateful to Ed Darrell for breaking the news when I was sound asleep! Share this:TwitterFacebookTumblrEmailLike […]


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