Two men in D.C. area among MacArthur ‘genius grant’ winners

WASHINGTON – Two men who work in the D.C. area have been awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship for showing exceptional creativity in what they do.

The men are among 24 people from the arts and sciences that received the award, known as a genius grant, from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The fellowship is given out annually and it comes with $625,000.

The money is paid out quarterly over five years, and it can be used in any way the recipient likes.

“When I first got the call from the MacArthur Foundation I was ecstatic,” said Ta-Nehisi Coates in an interview posted on the foundation’s website.

Coates works as a national correspondent for The Atlantic, based in D.C.

He is a journalist, blogger and memoirist who writes about issues such as racial identity, urban policing and racial bias.

“I have a great interest in how wide the umbrella of human rights and democracy can expand,” said Coates. “If you truly want to understand a problem, you really have to have a firm grounding in history.”

The second fellowship winner who works in the D.C. area is Gary Cohen, co-founder of the nonprofit Health Care Without Harm based in Reston, Va.

Cohen is an environmental health advocate who has worked to reduce the amount of pollutants and hazardous waste produced and released into the environment by American hospitals.

“I think the MacArthur fellowship will give me breathing room to think about some of the critical initiatives we need to work on,” Cohen said on the foundation’s website.

“We really want to work on how hospitals can be anchors for community wellness.”

Here are the winners:

__ Ta-Nehisi Coates, 39, Washington, D.C. Journalist and blogger who writes about issues such as racial identity, urban policing and racial bias.


__ Gary Cohen, 59, Reston, Virginia. Environmental health advocate and co-founder of Health Care Without Harm who has worked to reduce the amount of pollutants and hazardous waste produced and released into the environment by American hospitals.


__ Patrick Awuah, 50, Accra, Ghana. An educator and entrepreneur who founded a university in Ghana that teaches ethical principles and skills needed in contemporary Africa.

__ Kartik Chandran, 41, New York. Columbia University environmental engineer integrating microbial ecology, molecular biology and engineering to transform wastewater into useful resources such as fertilizers, energy sources and clean water.

__ Matthew Desmond, 35, Cambridge, Massachusetts. An urban sociologist at Harvard University, Desmond’s work has revealed the impact of eviction on the urban poor and how eviction is not just a symptom of poverty, but a cause.

__ William Dichtel, 37, Ithaca, New York. A Cornell University chemist working to bring a new class of nanostructured materials out of laboratories and into daily use.

__ Michelle Dorrance, 36, New York. A dancer and choreographer reinvigorating tap dancing by combining its musicality with the intricacies of contemporary dance.

__ Nicole Eisenman, 50, New York. An artist whose paintings, sculptures and drawings explore such themes as gender and sexuality, family dynamics and the inequities of power and wealth.

__ LaToya Ruby Frazier, 33, Chicago. Photographer and video artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who uses visual autobiographies to capture the impact of economic decline and environmental degradation.

__ Ben Lerner, 36, New York. An English professor at Brooklyn College of the City College of New York, Lerner also is a novelist, poet and critic who has explored the relevance of the artist to modern culture.

__ Mimi Lien, 39, New York. A set designer for theater, opera and dance who has created performance space to establish relationships between the characters on stage as well as between the actors and the audience.

__ Lin-Manuel Miranda, 35, New York. A playwright, composer and performer whose work fuses traditional storytelling with contemporary musical styles and whose most recent play, “Hamilton,” is a Broadway sensation.

__ Dimitri Nakassis, 40, Toronto, Canada. A classicist at the University of Toronto, whose work is transforming the understanding of prehistoric Greek societies.

__ John Novembre, 37, Chicago. A computational biologist at the University of Chicago, Novembre’s work has shed new light on the study of human evolution, migration and the cause of the genetic diseases.

__ Christopher Re, 36, Stanford, California. Stanford University computer scientist, who has created an inference engine, DeepDive, that can analyze data in a way that is beyond the capabilities of traditional databases.

__ Marina Rustow, 46, Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton University historian whose work has shed new light on lives of Jews and the broader society of the medieval Middle East.

__ Juan Salgado, 46, Chicago. President and CEO of Instituto del Progresso Latino, Salado has pioneered an education helps immigrants learn the skills they need for higher paying manufacturing and health career jobs.

__ Beth Stevens, 45, Boston. A neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, Stevens’ research has triggered a major shift in thinking about neuron communication in the health brain and the origins of adult neurological diseases.

__ Lorenz Studer, 49, New York. A stem cell biologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Studer has pioneered research that could provide treatment for Parkinson’s disease and perhaps other neurodegenerative diseases.

__ Alex Truesdell, 59, New York. An adaptive designer and fabricator, Truesdell has created low-tech and affordable tools and furniture out of such materials as cardboard and glue for children with disabilities.

__ Basil Twist, 46, New York. A puppeteer and theater artist recognized for his innovative work that has helped revitalize puppetry as a serious and sophisticated art form.

__ Ellen Bryant Voigt, 72, Cabot, Vermont. A poet whose work is known for its distinctive musical quality, Voigt explores will, fate, and life cycles of the natural world.

__ Heidi Williams, 34, Cambridge, Massachusetts. An economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Williams has explored the causes and consequences of innovation in health care markets.

__ Peidong Yang, 44, Berkeley, California. An inorganic chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, Yang is seeking to transform the field of semiconductor nanowires and nanowire photonics.


The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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