A novelist who takes readers into the swampy backwaters of the Everglades.
An astrophysicist who searches for other planets — and finds them.
These are among the 24 winners of MacArthur Fellowships, or “genius grants,” each of whom will receive $625,000 over a five-year period, with no strings attached (that's an increase from the $500,000 amount of previous years).
The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has been presenting the fellowships since 1981, the winners nominated and selected in a secret process for which no one may apply.
This year's class features 13 men and 11 women, the winners ranging in age from 32 to 60.
Following is an annotated guide to the recipients. For more information, go to macfound.org.
Kyle Abraham, 36, New York. As founder and artistic director of Kyle Abraham/Abram.in.Motion, choreographer-dancer Abraham creates works that explore social issues, expressing them via hip-hop, contemporary and modern dance vocabularies. Abraham's “Pavement” (2012), explores the implications of urban violence; “The Radio Show” (2010) reflects on the demise of a Pittsburgh radio station and its impact on its listeners.
Donald Antrim, 55, New York. An associate professor in the Writing Program at Columbia University, Antrim writes in the realms of fiction and nonfiction. “The Verificationist” (2000) imagines a gathering of psychoanalysts, as perceived by a protagonist losing his hold on reality. “The Hundred Brothers” (1998) contemplates a deteriorating family drama. And “The Afterlife: A Memoir” (2007), Antrim's first nonfiction work, gathers essays on the toll of his mother's alcoholism.
Phil Baran, 36, La Jolla, Calif. An organic chemist and professor at the Scripps Research Institute, Baran has created new methods for “synthesizing natural products en masse, offering solutions for the cost and supply problems in drug development,” according to the MacArthur Foundation. For instance, he has developed a technique for synthesizing cortistatin A, which potentially could improve treatments for macular degeneration and cancer.
C. Kevin Boyce, 39, Stanford, Calif. Paleobotanist Boyce uses cutting-edge technology to interpret how plants have evolved at the cellular level. These studies have illuminated scientific understanding of how ecology changes as the planet heats up. Newly appointed to the faculty of Stanford University, Boyce previously taught at the University of Chicago.
Jeffrey Brenner, 44, Camden, N.J. As founder and executive director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Brenner — a primary care physician — has created innovative ways to provide health care for the sick and the poor. Brenner's techniques include creating Care Management Teams that work with patients in diminishing the need for emergency room visits and, therefore, reduce health care costs.
Colin Camerer, 53, Pasadena, Calif. How and why do people behave the way they do when it comes to making economic decisions? Camerer, a professor of behavioral economics at the California Institute of Technology, uses advanced technology, such as fMRI, to study brain activity of individuals interacting over economic issues. His studies have generated new, unconventional theories in the growing area of neuroeconomics.
Jeremy Denk, 43, New York. The rare concert pianist who's as eloquent with words as he is with tones, Denk has won critical accolades for his interpretations of the standard repertory and 20th-century works, and admiration for his writings in the New Yorker, the New Republic and elsewhere.
Angela Duckworth, 43, Philadelphia. An associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, Duckworth studies predictors of success in education. Specifically, she has identified two factors: grit and self-control, as important determining characteristics of academic achievement. Her research offers potentially new ways of shaping education policy.
Craig Fennie, 40, Ithaca, New York. Fennie applies the techniques of theoretical physics and solid-state chemistry to identify new materials. Some of his studies, for instance, could lead to the creation of devices with vast memory storage and instruments that could alter the nature of electronics and communication technology.
Robin Fleming, 57, Chestnut Hill, Mass. A history professor at Boston College, Fleming has shed new light on British life during the fall of the Roman Empire and after. By studying surviving objects and physical remains, she has provided deeper understanding of the way the masses lived during medieval times. Her published work shows how people worked, prayed, fought and conducted commerce.
Carl Haber, 54, Berkeley, Calif. The earliest known sound recordings are decaying over time, but experimental physicist Haber has invented new means for recapturing precious aural documents. Recordings made on wax cylinders, lacquer discs and other historic technologies have been retrieved by Haber and colleagues; they use a noncontact technique that transforms visual data into a digital sound file. This method has retrieved the oldest known recording of a human voice, from 1860, and the sound of Alexander Graham Bell's voice.
Vijay Iyer, 41, New York. An innovative jazz soloist and thinker, Iyer has forged a singular style on the piano that is often colossal in scope and high in rhythmic tension. He also was one of the first major musicians to bring the sounds of his Indian heritage to bear on jazz improvisation and composition. And his work with veterans in a series of music/spoken-word recordings has broadened the scope and political impact of his work.
Dina Katabi, 42, Cambridge, Mass. Katabi, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her collaborators have devised ways of wirelessly transmitting data faster, more safely and more securely. By working in the fields of computer science and electrical engineering, she has shown that Wi-Fi signals can be used to read the movement of a person's body, enabling a computer to receive instructions delivered by gesture rather than by keystroke.