BREAKING NEWS: Commuter Train Crashes At Station In Hoboken, New Jersey | Watch CBSN Live | Read More

Texas Bioengineer Among Those Receiving MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Grants

Follow CBSDFW.COM: Facebook | Twitter

NEW YORK (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Rebecca Richards-Kortum, a Texas bioengineer developing point-of-care medical technologies and a new approach to engineering education and Claudia Rankine, one of poetry’s brightest and most innovative stars, are among this year’s 23 MacArthur fellows and recipients of the so-called “genius” grants.

The fellows were announced Thursday by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which gives each honoree $625,000 over five years to spend any way he or she pleases, with no strings attached. More than 900 people have received the grants since 1981, with previous fellows including “Hamilton” playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, author-journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates and dancer-choreographer Merce Cunningham. Fellows, brought to the foundation’s attention by an anonymous pool of nominators, do not apply for the money and are not informed they’ve been chosen until shortly before the awards are announced.

The idea behind the grants is to give people of “exceptional creativity” the “flexibility” to further pursue their ideas and projects.

“While our communities, our nation, and our world face both historic and emerging challenges, these 23 extraordinary individuals give us ample reason for hope,” MacArthur President Julia Stasch said in a statement. “They are breaking new ground in areas of public concern, in the arts, and in the sciences, often in unexpected ways. Their creativity, dedication, and impact inspire us all.”

Rebecca Richards-Kortum is a Texas bioengineer addressing global health disparities in low-resource settings by developing point-of-care medical technologies and a new approach to engineering education. (credit:

Rebecca Richards-Kortum is a Texas bioengineer addressing global health disparities in low-resource settings by developing point-of-care medical technologies and a new approach to engineering education. (credit:

Richards-Kortum holds a Ph.D. in Medical Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has been a professor at Rice University since 2005. The goal of her research is to address global health disparities in low-resource settings. In addition to helping develop a portable, high-resolution microendoscope, which enables real-time diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer in a single visit, the 52-year-old co-founded the award winning Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) educational initiative, an undergraduate curriculum focused on translating classroom concepts into solutions for global health problems.

Rankine is best known for her book-length tapestry of poems, prose and images about racism, “Citizen: An American Lyric,” a 2014 release which won the National Book Critics Circle prize and several other honors. More than 100,000 copies are in print, a remarkable total for poetry. During a recent telephone interview, Rankine said she planned to use at least some of the MacArthur money to open a performing-creative-educational space in Manhattan that would challenge “the discourse that created this internalized hierarchy in white people.”

“We need a space where we can get together and put pressure on the language,” she said.

The foundation also selected author Maggie Nelson, New Yorker staff writer Sarah Stillman, composer Julia Wolfe, theater artist and educator Anne Basting and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. At just 31, the Princeton-educated Jacobs-Jenkins has made a name for himself as an inventive, fresh theater writer. Two of his works tied for Obie Awards for Best American Play and his play “An Octoroon” was finalist for The Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History. His works include “Neighbors,” in which a family of minstrels in blackface moves in next to a contemporary mixed-race family, “Appropriate,” where a white family discovers its racist past and “Gloria,” about a group of catty editorial assistants at a Manhattan magazine whose lives change completely one random day.

Others chosen ranged from financial service innovator Jose A. Quinonez and human rights attorney Ahilan Arulanantham to linguist Daryl Baldwin and Gene Luen Yang, a prize-winning author and national ambassador for young people’s literature.

Also announced Thursday were computer scientists Subhash Khot and Bill Thies, synthetic chemist Jin-Quan Yu and biologist-inventor Manu Prakash, microbiologist Dianne Newman and geobiologist Victoria Orphan. Other fellows are sculptor Vincent Fecteau, art historian and curator Kellie Jones, cultural historian Josh Kun, author-writer Lauren Redniss, jewelry maker and sculptor Joyce J. Scott and video artist Mary Reid Kelley.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More From CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Drip Pan: CBS Local App
Drip Pan: Weather App

Listen Live