Edited to add Julie Livingston, whom we mistakenly omitted from our list, and to correctly describe the research of Carl Haber.
Thirteen US scientists number among the 24 MacArthur Fellows chosen this year by the philanthropic MacArthur Foundation, based in Chicago, Illinois. The designation honours creative and accomplished individuals in any field with strong potential for future achievements. Winners will receive ‘no-strings-attached’ awards—commonly called ‘genius grants’—worth US$625,000, paid over five years.
Phil Baran, an organic chemist at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, has devised new approaches for synthesizing large quantities of pharmacological compounds from natural sources in the laboratory. He recently developed a cost-effective method for making cortistatin A, a marine-derived substance with potential to treat macular degeneration and cancer.
C. Kevin Boyce, a paleobotanist at Stanford University in California, examines extinct and living plants to link ancient and present-day ecosystems. He has deduced that the evolution of flowering plants influenced the water cycle in the ancient tropics, giving rise to the rainfall patterns and rich biodiversity characteristic of modern rainforests.
Colin Camerer, a behavioural economist and game theory expert at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, is using brain scans to understand how people predict the actions of others in complex economic interactions.
Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, focuses on the roles of grit (determination to achieve long-term goals), and self-control (managing immediate impulses) in personal success.
Craig Fennie, a materials scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, uses theoretical physics and solid-state chemistry to predict desirable electrical, magnetic and optical properties in new candidate materials. His work could lead to electronic devices with enhanced memory storage or materials with improved abilities to capture solar energy.
Carl Haber, an experimental physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, has pioneered a method to extract high-quality sound from damaged or deteriorating analog recordings, such as vinyl records. The technique was used to recover the sound of Alexander Graham Bell’s voice from a recording from 1885, which was released earlier this year.
Dina Katabi, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, specializes in wireless data transmission. She has developed algorithms to reduce data loss over WiFi networks, and is working to protect personal wireless devices such as pacemakers from unwanted interference and manipulation.
Julie Livingston, a medical historian at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, explores the treatment of chronic illness in Botswana using archival information and ethnographic techniques.
David Lobell, an agricultural ecologist at Stanford University in California, studies the effects of climate change on crop production and food security. His research on maize in Africa indicates that the plant is more sensitive to extreme heat and drought than previously thought.
Susan Murphy, a statistician at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is applying statistical theories to personalized medicine. For chronic or recurring problems such as depression or substance abuse, Murphy has developed a model to evaluate how physicians should modify ongoing treatment regimens based on the patient’s current state and their response to previous treatments.
Sheila Nirenberg, a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, New York, has designed a prosthetic device that could one day restore vision to patients suffering from macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. The device bypasses the eye’s photoreceptor cells, which are damaged in these conditions, and sends electrical signals directly to retinal ganglion cells—the next stop in the visual pathway.
Ana Maria Rey, an atomic physicist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, is developing theories that could increase the stability of quantum computers, improve atomic clocks, and lead to new insights in quantum entanglement.
Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge who has been a member of the Kepler science team, is focused on finding and understanding planets outside of the Solar System. She has pioneered methods for studying exoplanet atmospheres, and is developing small, low-cost satellites for better observing the planets.