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2011 MacArthur 'Genius' Grants Announced

Radiolab co-host and producer Jad Abumrad is among this year's 22 recipients of "genius" grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Each MacArthur fellow receives $500,000 "to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers."

Jad, who hosts and produces Radiolab from WNYC in New York, creates "engaging audio explorations of scientific and philosophical questions [that] captivate listeners and bring to broadcast journalism a distinctive new aesthetic," the MacArthur citation reads.

This year's other winners, and excerpts about them from the MacArthur announcements:

-- Marie-Therese Connolly of Washington, D.C.: "a lawyer who draws on a blend of legal, policy, and legislative skills to combat the largely hidden but immense problem of elder abuse and mistreatment."

-- Roland Fryer of Harvard University: "an economist illuminating the causes and consequences of economic disparity due to race and inequality in American society."

-- Jeanne Gang of Chicago: "an architect challenging the aesthetic and technical possibilities of the art form in a wide range of structures."

-- Elodie Ghedin of the University of Pittsburgh: "a biomedical researcher who is harnessing the power of genomic sequencing techniques to generate critical insights about human pathogens."

-- Markus Greiner of Harvard: "an experimental physicist who is advancing our capacity to control the spatial organization of ultra-cold atoms with the aim of revealing basic principles of condensed matter physics."

-- Kevin Guskiewicz of the University of North Carolina: "a researcher and athletic trainer who has made major advances in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sports-related concussions."

-- Peter Hessler of Ridgway, Colo.: "a long-form journalist whose three books and numerous magazine articles explore the complexities of life in Reform Era China as it undergoes one of the fastest social transformations in history."

-- Tiya Miles of the University of Michigan: "a public historian who explores the complex interrelationships between African and Cherokee people living and working in colonial America." (Coincidentally, she's due on Tell Me More later today.)

-- Matthew Nock of Harvard: "a leading clinical psychologist of suicide and self-injury in adolescents and adults, [who] has made significant breakthroughs associated with the very basic question of why people harm themselves."

-- Francisco Nunez, director and founder of the Young People's Chorus of New York City: He is "is shaping the future of choral singing for children."

-- Sarah Otto of the University of British Columbia: "a theoretical biologist whose research focuses on fundamental questions of population genetics and evolution, such as why some species reproduce sexually and why some species carry more than one copy of each gene."

-- Shwetak Patel of the University of Washington: "a computer scientist who has invented a series of sensor technology systems for home environments with the goal of saving energy and improving daily life through a broad range of applications."

-- Dafnis Prieto of New York City: "a percussionist whose dazzling technical abilities electrify audiences and whose rhythmically adventurous compositions combine a range of musical vocabularies."

-- Kay Ryan of Fairfax, Calif.: "an accomplished poet whose immediately distinctive and tightly woven verse is grounded in incisive explorations of seemingly familiar language, ideas, and experiences."

-- Melanie Sanford of the University of Michigan: "a chemist reviving and enhancing approaches to organic synthesis previously set aside because of their technical difficulty."

-- William Seeley of the University of California, San Francisco: "a clinician-researcher who integrates microscopy, magnetic resonance imaging, and clinical examination to explore the structural, functional, and behavioral aspects of human neurodegenerative disease."

-- Jacob Soll of Rutgers University: "a historian whose meticulously researched studies of early modern Europe are shedding new light on the origins of the modern state."

-- A. E. Stallings of Athens, Greece: "a poet and translator mining the classical world and traditional poetic techniques to craft works that evoke startling insights about contemporary life."

-- Ubaldo Vitali of Maplewood, N.J.: "a fourth-generation silversmith, conservator, and scholar who draws upon a deep knowledge of past and modern metalworking techniques to restore historical masterworks in silver and to create original works of art."

-- Alisa Weilerstein of New York City: "a young cellist whose emotionally resonant performances of both traditional and contemporary music have earned her international recognition."

-- Yukiko Yamashita of the University of Michigan Medical School: "a developmental biologist exploring the biochemical, structural, and molecular genetic mechanisms that regulate stem cell division."

Update at 12:10 p.m. ET. More On The Winners.

Two other NPR blogs now have posts up about some of the geniuses:

-- "A Genius Grant For An Economist Who Studies Race And Inequality." (Planet Money)

-- "Three Musicians Awarded MacArthur 'Genius' Grants." (The Record)

Note: NPR is among the organizations that the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

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