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An ornithologist, a cellist and a human rights activist: the 2022 MacArthur Fellows

It is perhaps the most coveted award in academia, the arts and sciences. You can't get nominated and the pool of candidates is a tightly-held secret. It's also a sweet cash prize. This year's 25 MacArthur Fellows will each receive $800,000, a "no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential," according to the MacArthur Foundation website. This year's class of so-called 'geniuses' includes an ornithologist, a cellist, a computer scientist and a human rights activists. The fellows can advance their expertise, change careers or buy a house.

The 2022 MacArthur Fellows are:

Jennifer Carlson of Tucson, Ariz., is a sociologist who studies "the motivations, assumptions, and social forces that drive gun ownership and shape gun culture in the United States." WBUR's Here & Now spoke with Carlson in 2021.

Paul Chan of New York, N.Y., is an artist, "testing the capacity of art to make human experience available for critical reflection and to effect social change."

Yejin Choi of the University of Washington is a computer scientist who uses, "natural language processing to develop artificial intelligence systems that can understand language and make inferences about the world."

P. Gabrielle Foreman of Pennsylvania State University is a literary historian and digital humanist who specializes in "nineteenth-century collective Black organizing efforts through initiatives such as the Colored Conventions Project." WPSU interviewed Foreman in 2021.

Danna Freedman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a synthetic inorganic chemist, "creating novel molecular materials with unique properties directly relevant to quantum information technologies."

Martha Gonzalez of Scripps College is a musician, scholar and artist/activist "strengthening cross-border ties and advancing participatory methods of artistic knowledge production in the service of social justice."

Sky Hopinka of Bard College is an artist and filmmaker who combines "imagery and language in films and videos that offer new strategies of representation for the expression of Indigenous worldviews."

June Huh of Princeton University is a mathematician who studies the "underlying connections between disparate areas of mathematics and proving long-standing mathematical conjectures."

Moriba Jah of the University of Texas, Austin, is an astrodynamicist "envisioning transparent and collaborative solutions for creating a circular space economy that improves oversight of Earth's orbital spheres."

Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia is an environmental engineer "investigating the scale and pathways of plastic pollution and galvanizing efforts to address plastic waste." NPR spoke with Jambeck in 2018.

Monica Kim of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, is a historian who examines "the interplay between U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, processes of decolonization, and individual rights in regional settings around the globe."

Robin Wall Kimmerer of SUNY-Syracuse is a plant ecologist, educator, and writer "articulating an alternative vision of environmental stewardship informed by traditional ecological knowledge." Wisconsin Public Radio spoke with Kimmerer earlier this year.

Priti Krishtel of the Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge (I-MAK) in Oakland, Calif., is a health justice lawyer "exposing the inequities in the patent system to increase access to affordable, life-saving medications on a global scale." Krishtel was a guest on Ted Radio Hour in 2021.

Joseph Drew Lanham of Clemson University is an ornithologist, naturalist, and writer "creating a new model of conservation that combines conservation science with personal, historical, and cultural narratives of nature." Here's Lanham from an episode of StoryCorps in 2019.

Kiese Laymon of Rice University is a writer "bearing witness to the myriad forms of violence that mark the Black experience in formally inventive fiction and nonfiction." NPR spoke with Laymon in 2018.

Reuben Jonathan Miller of the University of Chicago is a sociologist, criminologist and social worker who traces "the long-term consequences that incarceration and re-entry systems have on the lives of individuals and their families." WHYY's Fresh Air spoke with Miller in 2021.

Ikue Mori of New York, N.Y., is an electronic music composer and performer "transforming the use of percussion in improvisation and expanding the boundaries of machine-based music."

Steven Prohira of the University of Kansas is a physicist "challenging conventional theories and engineering new tools to detect ultra-high energy sub-atomic particles that could hold clues to long-held mysteries of our universe."

Tomeka Reid of Chicago, Ill., is a jazz cellist and composer "forging a unique jazz sound that draws from a range of musical traditions and expanding the expressive possibilities of the cello in improvised music." WHYY's Fresh Air reviewed an album put out by Reid and fellow musicians earlier this year.

Loretta J. Ross of Smith College is a reproductive justice and human rights advocate "shaping a visionary paradigm linking social justice, human rights, and reproductive justice." Ross was on the TED Radio Hour in 2021 about calling people in, instead of calling them out.

Steven Ruggles of the University of Minnesota is a historical demographer "setting new standards in quantitative historical research by building the world's largest, publicly-available database of population statistics." Ruggles spoke with Lynn Neary on Talk of the Nation in 2003 about the role of extended family in American life.

Tavares Strachan of New York, N.Y., and Nassau, The Bahamas, is an interdisciplinary conceptual artist "expanding the possibilities for what art can be and illuminating overlooked contributions of marginalized figures throughout history."

Emily Wang of Yale University School of Medicine is a primary care physician and researcher who partners with "people recently released from prison to address their needs and the ways that incarceration influences chronic health conditions." Wang spoke to Morning Edition in 2016 about how those newly-released from correctional facilities are more likely to die.

Amanda Williams of Chicago, Ill., is an artist and architect "reimagining public space to expose the complex ways that value, both cultural and economic, intersects with race in the built environment." Williams was on the TED Radio Hour in 2021, speaking about how color brings new life to old houses.

Melanie Matchett Wood of Harvard University is a mathematician "addressing foundational questions in number theory from the perspective of arithmetic statistics." NPR talked with Matchett Wood in 2008 when she was a graduate student about how girls math skills are actually equal to boys. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Correction: October 12, 2022
In an earlier version of this story, the MacArthur Fellows award was given as $625,000.