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At least 19 of this year’s “geniuses” who received the coveted call from the MacArthur Foundation granting them an $800,000 award have ties to academe. They are:

  • Sociologist Jennifer Carlson, an associate professor in the School of Sociology and the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona School of Sociology, for uncovering the motivations, assumptions and social forces that drive gun ownership and shape gun culture in the United States.
  • Computer scientist Yejin Choi, the Brett Helsel Professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington at Seattle, with a joint appointment at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, for using natural language processing to develop artificial intelligence systems that can understand language and make inferences about the world.

  • Literary historian and digital humanist P. Gabrielle Forman, the Paterno Family Professor of American Literature and Professor of African American Studies and History at Pennsylvania State University, for catalyzing inquiry into historic 19th-century collective Black organizing efforts through initiatives such as the Colored Conventions Project.
  • Synthetic inorganic chemist Danna Freedman, the Frederick George Keyes Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for creating novel molecular materials with unique properties directly relevant to quantum information technologies.
  • Musician, scholar and artist/activist Martha Gonzalez, an associate professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Chicana/o Latina/o Studies and director of the Humanities Institute at Scripps College, for strengthening cross-border ties and advancing participatory methods of artistic knowledge production in the service of social justice.
  • Artist and filmmaker Sky Hopkina, an assistant professor in the film and electronic arts program at Bard College, for combining imagery and language in films and videos that offer new strategies of representation for the expression of Indigenous worldviews.
  • Mathematician June Huh, a professor of mathematics at Princeton University, for discovering underlying connections between disparate areas of mathematics and proving long-standing mathematical conjectures.
  • Astrodynamicist Moriba Jah, an associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin, for envisioning transparent and collaborative solutions for creating a circular space economy that improves oversight of Earth’s orbital spheres.
  • Environmental engineer Jenna Jambeck, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia, for investigating the scale and pathways of plastic pollution and galvanizing efforts to address plastic waste.
  • Historian Monica Kim, associate professor and the William Appleman Williams & David G. and Marion S. Meissner Chair in U.S. International and Diplomatic History at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, for examining the interplay between U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, processes of decolonization and individual rights in regional settings around the globe.
  • Plant ecologist, educator and writer Robin Wall Kimmerer, Distinguished Teaching Professor and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, for articulating an alternative vision of environmental stewardship informed by traditional ecological knowledge.
  • Ornithologist, naturalist and writer Joseph Drew Lanham, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and master teacher in the Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department at Clemson University, for creating a new model of conservation that combines conservation science with personal, historical and cultural narratives of nature.
  • Writer Kiese Laymon, the Libbie Shearn Moody Professor of English and Creative Writing at Rice University, for bearing witness to the myriad forms of violence that mark the Black experience in formally inventive fiction and nonfiction.
  • Sociologist, criminologist and social worker Reuben Jonathan Miller, of the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago, for tracing the long-term consequences that incarceration and re-entry systems have on the lives of individuals and their families.
  • Physicist Steven Prohira, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Kansas, for challenging conventional theories and engineering new tools to detect ultra-high-energy subatomic particles that could hold clues to long-held mysteries of our universe.
  • Reproductive justice and human rights advocate Loretta J. Ross, an associate professor in the Program of the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College, for shaping a visionary paradigm linking social justice, human rights and reproductive justice.
  • Historical demographer Steven Ruggles, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Regents Professor of History and Population Studies at the University of Minnesota, for setting new standards in quantitative historical research by building the world’s largest publicly available database of population statistics.
  • Primary care physician and researcher Dr. Emily Wang, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, for partnering with people recently released from prison to address their needs and the ways that incarceration influences chronic health conditions.
  • Mathematician Melanie Matchett Wood, professor at Harvard University and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, for addressing foundational questions in number theory from the perspective of arithmetic statistics.

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