2014 MacArthur 'genius grant' winners unveiled

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2014 MacArthur 'genius grant' winners unveiled

Physicist Danielle Bassett, 32, is applying mathematical approaches to the analysis and modeling of brain connectivity and enhancing our understanding of how these connections give rise to the functions the brain performs.

Cartoonist and graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel, 54, is expanding the expressive potential of the graphic form in intricate narratives that explore the complexities of familial relationships.
Civil rights lawyer Mary L. Bonauto, 53, is breaking down legal barriers based on sexual orientation and gender identity to equal treatment under the law for all, and working to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples and the protections, obligations, and dignity marriage affords.
Tami Bond, 50, is an environmental engineer unraveling the global effects of black carbon emissions, on climate and human health and playing a key role in understanding the complex relationship between energy and climate change.
Jazz composer and saxophonist Steve Coleman, 57, is infusing iconic spontaneous music idioms with the melodic, rhythmic, and structural components of an eclectic range of musical traditions to create a distinctive new sound.
Legal scholar and advocate Sarah Deer, 41, is developing policies and legislation that are empowering tribal authorities and reshaping the landscape of support and protection for Native American women at risk for domestic and sexual violence.
Social psychologist Jennifer L. Eberhardt, 49, is investigating the subtle, complex, largely unconscious yet deeply ingrained ways that individuals racially code and categorize people and the far-reaching consequences of stereotypic associations between race and crime.
Computer scientist Craig Gentry, 41, is fueling a revolution in cryptography and theoretical computer science through his breakthroughs in fully homomorphic encryption, leading to the possibility of more secure cloud computing.
Poet Terrance Hayes, 42, reflects on race, gender, and family in works that seamlessly encompass both the historical and the personal and subvert canonical forms.
Housing advocate John Henneberger, 59, is building collaborations among elected officials, developers, and community residents to preserve and expand the supply of affordable housing and ensure that all Americans have equal access to housing and federal disaster relief.
Materials scientist Mark Hersam, 39, is drawing on techniques from a variety of fields in investigations of the physical, chemical, and biological properties of nanomaterials, offering new promise for applied uses.
Playwright Samuel D. Hunter, 33,is crafting quietly captivating dramas that explore the human capacity for empathy and confront the socially isolating aspects of contemporary life across the American landscape.
Historian of science and technology Pamela O. Long, 71, is challenging our understanding of the role of scholarship and craftsmanship in Renaissance societies and demonstrating how technologies are deeply enmeshed within the broader cultural fabric.
Public Artist, Rick Lowe, 53, reinventing community revitalization as an art form by transforming a long-neglected neighborhood in Houston into a visionary amalgam of arts venue, community support center, and historic preservation initiative.
Mathematician Jacob Lurie, 36, is creating a novel conceptual foundation for derived algebraic geometry (DAG) and rewriting large swathes of mathematics from a new point of view.
Translator and poet Khaled Mattawa, 50, isrendering the beauty and meaning of contemporary Arab poetry accessible to an English reader and highlighting the invaluable role of literary translation in bridging cultural divides.
Documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, 39, is illuminating the social, psychological, and emotional dimensions of controversial subjects, such as state-sponsored violence, in works that challenge the modern aesthetic of contemporary documentary cinema in both intimacy of focus and visual construct.
Labor Organizer Ai-jen Poo, 40, is catalyzing a vibrant, worker-led movement for improved working conditions and labor standards for domestic or private-household workers.
Criminal lawyer Jonathan Rapping, 48, is safeguarding the essential democratic right of every American to high-quality legal representation by transforming the practice of indigent defense in the South through training, mentorship, and community.
Historian of Modern Europe Tara Zahra, 38, combines extensive archival research with broad sociohistorical analysis of notions of nation, family, and ethnicity to construct an integrative, transnational understanding of events in twentieth-century Europe.
Yitang Zhang, 59, is a mathematician tackling truly hard questions in number theory leading to the first finite bound on a gap between prime numbers and the best possible qualitative approximation of the twin prime conjecture.
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CHICAGO (AP) - A professor whose research is helping a California police department improve its strained relationship with the black community and a lawyer who advocates for victims of domestic abuse are among the 21 winners of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants."

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced on Wednesday the 2014 recipients, who will each receive $625,000 to spend any way they like.

The professor and lawyer, part of an eclectic group that also includes scientists, mathematicians, historians, a cartoonist and a composer, are among several recipients whose work involves topics that have dominated the news in the past year.

"I think getting this (grant) speaks to people's sense that this is the kind of work that needs to be done," said recipient Jennifer Eberhardt, a Stanford University social psychologist who has researched racial stereotypes and crime.

Her work prompted the Oakland, California, police department to ask for her help studying racial biases among its officers and how those biases play out on the street - topics that have been debated nationally in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old in Missouri. Eberhardt, who is also studying the use of body cameras by police - another topic of particular interest since Brown's shooting - said, "I hope this will show the work matters, holds value and promotes social change."

The justice system is also at the heart of Sarah Deer's work as a legal scholar and advocate for Native American women living on reservations, who suffer higher-than-average rates of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Deer, a Native American who teaches law in Minnesota, met with women who simply stopped reporting such attacks because their tribal governments had been stripped of the authority to investigate and because federal authorities were often unwilling to do so, she said. The foundation pointed to her instrumental role in reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act by Congress in 2013 that restored some of those abilities to tribes.

"For the first time since 1978 ... tribes (can) prosecute non-Indians who have committed acts of sexual assault and domestic violence on reservations," she said.

Like Deer, fellow recipient Jonathan Rapping has worked to improve the lives of others.

A former public defender, Rapping founded Gideon's Promise after seeing a legal system that he said valued speed over quality representation of the indigent. The organization trains, mentors and assist public defenders to help them withstand the intense pressure that can come with massive caseloads.

Today, the program that began in 2007 for 16 attorneys in two offices in Georgia and Louisiana has more than 300 participants in 15 states.

The foundation recognized Khaled Mattawa, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, for his poetry and translations of Arab contemporary poets.

Mattawa, who said he started translating the poetry as way to teach himself to write poetry, said the work can connect people from different cultures. "The poets are bearing witness not only to the humanity of their own people but of a shared humanity," he said.

The awards, given annually since 1981, are doled out over a five-year period. This year's class brings the number of recipients to more than 900. Shrouded in secrecy, the selection process doesn't involve applications. Instead, anonymous groups make nominations and recommendations to the foundation's board of directors.

Most winners are not widely known outside their fields, but the list has over the years included such writers as Susan Sontag and Karen Russell and filmmaker John Sayles.

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