CULTURE & ARTS
09/29/2015 01:29 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2015

Meet The 2015 MacArthur Fellows

These are the 24 MacArthur "Geniuses" you should know, including a stem cell biologist, a tap dancer and an economist.

Once a year, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announces its roster of MacArthur Fellows, a designation frequently referred to as the "Genius Grant." The fellowship bestows upon its recipients a $625,000 prize, along with an accolade that manages to celebrate innovative minds across fields, from science to poetry to painting, and just about everything in between. 

This year, the list of MacArthur Fellows ranges from a celebrated writer to an environmental advocate to an inorganic chemist, varying in age from 33 to 72 years old. In total, there are 15 men and nine women represented. The recipients were aware of their award before the 12 a.m. announcement by the MacArthur Foundation this Tuesday. Nonetheless, the winners are celebrating publicly now that the news is out.

"These 24 delightfully diverse MacArthur Fellows are shedding light and making progress on critical issues, pushing the boundaries of their fields, and improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways," MacArthur President Julia Stasch explains on the MacArthur Foundation website. "Their work, their commitment, and their creativity inspire us all."

The MacArthur Fellowship, founded in 1978, is given out annually to a group of high-achieving individuals in disciplines as diverse as dance, computer science and adaptive design. What was once a $50,000 award has since morphed into a six-figure prize. Past winners include author Cormac McCarthy, photographer Cindy Sherman and astrophysicist Joseph Taylor.

Check out a full-list of the 2015 Fellows below.

1. Patrick Awuah (Education Entrepreneur) 

MacArthur Foundation

The 50-year-old founder and president of Ashesi University College was chosen for his efforts in building a new model of higher education in his home country of Ghana. He was an engineer and program manager at Microsoft before he began the university in 2002.

2. Kartik Chandran (Environmental Engineer)

MacArthur Foundation

An associate professor in the Earth and Environmental Department of Columbia University, the 41-year-old New York native integrates microbial ecology, molecular biology and engineering to update the process of wastewater treatment.

3. Ta-Nehisi Coates (Journalist)

MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Foundation praised the 39-year-old national correspondent at The Atlantic in Washington, D.C., for bringing "personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues," namely through his longform essay titled "The Case for Reparations," as well as his two books The Beautiful Struggle and Between the World and Me.

4. Gary Cohen (Environmental Health Advocate)

MacArthur Foundation

The 59-year-old co-founder and president of Health Care Without Harm focuses on the environmental impact of American hospitals. The Virginia resident engages environmental scientists, medical professionals and institutions in discussions of sustainability and climate change as they are related to health care.

5. Matthew Desmond (Urban Sociologist)

MacArthur Foundation

The 35-year-old associate professor of sociology and social studies at Harvard University studies the impact of eviction on the lives of the urban poor. The Massachusetts-based creator of the Milwaukee Area Renters Study looks specifically at the low-income rental market in the largest city in Wisconsin, noting "that households headed by women are more likely to face eviction than men, resulting in deleterious long-term effects much like those caused by high rates of incarceration among low-income African American men."

6. William Dichtel (Chemist)

MacArthur Foundation

A 37-year-old associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University in New York, he is celebrated for his work assembling molecules into high surface-area networks that are beneficial in the fields of electronics, optics and energy storage.

7. Michelle Dorrance (Tap Dancer and Choreographer)

MacArthur Foundation

The 36-year-old founder and artistic director of Dorrance Dance in New York has been heralded for combining traditions from tap dance with the choreographic nuances of contemporary dance in works like "SOUNDspace," "The Blues Project," and "ETM: The Initial Approach." 

8. Nicole Eisenman (Painter)

MacArthur Foundation

The 50-year-old painter from New York explores themes like gender and sexuality, family dynamics, and the inequalities of wealth and power in her narrative and rhetorical works that span from painting and sculpture to drawing and printmaking.

9. LaToya Ruby Frazier (Photographer and Video Artist)

MacArthur Foundation

The 33-year-old assistant professor of photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago mixes self-portraiture with social narrative to construct visual autobiographies that emphasize the connection between her notions of "self" and "space."

10. Ben Lerner (Writer)

MacArthur Foundation

A 36-year-old professor in the Department of English at City University of New York, Brooklyn College, Lerner's work moves between fiction and nonfiction in an attempt to investigate the "relevance of art and the artist to modern culture."

11. Mimi Lien (Set Designer)

MacArthur Foundation

The 39-year-old set designer from New York creates architecturally dramatic sets for theater, opera and dance, such as her full-scale Tsarist Russian salon in "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812."

12. Lin-Manuel Miranda (Playwright, Composer and Performer)

MacArthur Foundation

The 35-year-old playwright, composer and performer from New York has been honored for expanding the possibilities of musical theater for individuals and communities new to Broadway stages, particularly in his work "In The Heights," which tells the story of an immigrant community losing its neighborhood to gentrification.

13. Dimitri Nakassis (Classicist)

MacArthur Foundation

An associate professor of in the Department of Classics at the University of Toronto, the 40-year-old classicist is transforming our understanding of prehistoric Greek societies, challenging the long-held view that Late Bronze Age Mycenaean palatial society (1400 to 1200 BC) was a highly centralized oligarchy, distinct from the democratic city-states of classical Greece.

14. John Novembre (Computational Biologist)

MacArthur Foundation

The 37-year-old associate professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago is discovering news ways of viewing human evolutionary history, population structure and migration, and the etiology of genetic diseases.

15. Christopher Ré (Computer Scientist)

MacArthur Foundation

The 36-year-old assistant professor of computer science at Stanford University is "democratizing" big data analytics using his training in databases and expertise in machine learning to ultimately create an inference engine dubbed DeepDive.

16. Marina Rustow (Historian)

MacArthur Foundation

The 46-year-old professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University in New Jersey is notable for her work using the Cairo Geniza texts to draw new conclusions about Jewish life in the medieval Middle East.

17. Juan Salgado (Community Leader)

MacArthur Foundation

The 46-year-old president and CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino in Chicago is praised for his work helping low-income immigrants succeed in the workplace and participate in education programs that equip workers with the skills they need for higher-paying employment.

18. Beth Stevens (Neuroscientist)

MacArthur Foundation

The 45-year-old assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts studies microglial cells and the origins of adult neurological diseases.

19. Lorenz Studer (Stem Cell Biologist)

MacArthur Foundation

Studer is the 49-year-old director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York who's credited with a breakthrough in dopaminergic neurons that could provide treatment for Parkinson's disease, and possibly other neurodegenerative conditions.

20. Alex Truesdell (Adaptive Designer and Fabricator)

MacArthur Foundation

A 59-year-old executive director and founder of Adaptive Design Association, Inc., the New York resident creates low-tech and affordable tools that help children with disabilities in everyday activities in their homes, schools and communities.

21. Basil Twist (Puppetry Artist and Director)

MacArthur Foundation

The 46-year-old puppetry artist from New York is known for his 1998 production, "Symphonie Fantastique," which consisted of an hour-long performance of feathers, glitter, plastics, vinyl, mirrors, slides, dyes, blacklight, overhead projections, air bubbles, and latex fishing lures.

22. Ellen Bryant Voigt (Poet)

MacArthur Foundation

 The 72-year-old poet from Virginia has published eight collections of poetry that challenge "will and fate and the life cycles of the natural world while exploring the expressive potential of both lyric and narrative elements."

23. Heidi Williams (Economist)

MacArthur Foundation

The 34-year-old assistant professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focuses on the causes and effects of innovation within health care markets, revealing how the timing and nature of intellectual property restrictions can affect change in the field.

24. Peidong Yang (Inorganic Chemist)

MacArthur Foundation

The 44-year-old Professor of Energy in the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, specializes in semiconductor nanowires and their practical applications, such as in the conversion of waste heat into electricity.

 

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