Lifestyle & Belief

Annual $500K MacArthur "genius grants" announced

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on Tuesday announced 22 new MacArthur Fellows for 2011. Sometimes called "genius grants," MacArthur Fellows received $500,000 in no-strings-attached funding over five years.

People cannot apply to by MacArthur Fellows, each recipient learns about the award through a phone call "out of the blue," the foundation says.

"This has been a year of great change and extraordinary challenge, and we are once again reminded of the potential individuals have to make a difference in the world and shape our future," Robert Gallucci, president of the MacArthur Foundation, said in a statement. "The MacArthur Fellows exemplify how individual creativity and talent can spark new insights and ideas in every imaginable field of human endeavor."

Among the recipients this year are a radio host, an economist, a parasitologist/virologist, a choral conductor and two poets.

Jad Abumrad, the radio host, is the producer and co-host of WNYC's Radiolab program. The Foundation credits him with "engaging a new generation of listeners with audio explorations of scientific and philosophical questions."

Roland Fryer, a 34-year-old economist at Harvard University, is credited with "offering new insight into such issues as racial discrimination, labor market inequalities, and educational underachievement."

Kay Ryan, a poet from Fairfax, California, is described as "composing deceptively simple verse of wisdom and elegance, grounded in explorations of familiar ideas and experiences, and surprising us with the possibilities of the medium."

Francisco Núñez, the artistic director and founder of the Young People's Chorus of New York City, is lauded for "shaping the future of choral singing for children by expanding access from inner-city to elite schools and redefining the artistic and expressive boundaries of the youth choir."

The youngest recipients this year are both 29 years old. Shwetak Patel is a sensor technologist and computer scientist at the University of Washington. Alisa Weilerstein is a cellist from New York City.