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Meet a Genius

Are you a genius? Probably not. But I know some people who are…

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently released the names of its recipients of their “Genius Grants” (actually called MacArthur Fellows) for 2011.  I briefly profile a few of the fellows below.


  • Yukiko Yamashita – is a developmental biologist exploring the biochemical, structural, and molecular genetic mechanisms that regulate stem cell division.  Yamashita’s basic investigations illuminate the mechanisms underlying the loss of control over stem cell division, which is regarded as the primary cause of many human diseases such as some cancers or other proliferative disorders.

Contagious Diseases

  • Elodie Ghedin – leader of international projects to decode the function of some of the most virulent human pathogens. A major focus of her work has been parasites that cause diseases endemic to tropical climates, such as leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, elephantiasis, and river blindness.


  • Roland Fryer: uses quantitative analysis to evaluate issues of race and inequality including cognitive underpinnings of racial discrimination, labor market inequalities, and, in particular, the educational trajectory of minority children


  • Peter Hessler – is a long-form journalist whose three books and numerous magazine articles explore the complexities of life in Reform Era China .  I just read his book Country Driving earlier this month and I highly recommend it.


  • William Seeley – uses a variety of techniques to analyze human neurodegenerative disease such as frontotemporal dementia, a family of devastating neurological syndromes usually afflicting people in midlife, and second only to Alzheimer’s as the primary cause of progressive pre-senile dementia.


  • Matthew Nock – is leading clinical psychologist of suicide and self-injury in adolescents and adults.  He discovered a behavioral marker — the extent to which a person associates his or her self-concept with death — and a method for obtaining objective measurements of the strength of the association that predict suicide attempts with much greater accuracy than traditional assessments.

Sports Medicine

  • Kevin Guskiewicz – researcher and athletic trainer who has made major advances in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sports-related concussions. He was among the first to identify the long-term effects of multiple concussions through large-scale epidemiological studies of retired professional football players.  Guskiewicz demonstrated that postural control, or balance, serves especially well as an objective measure in the evaluation of concussive episodes.


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