Academic Women Who Won 2011 Genius Awards

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago has announced this year’s class of 22 MacArthur Fellows. The fellowships, often referred to a “Genius Awards,” offer scholars, artists, writers, and performers $500,000 in unrestricted support for the following five years. Winners also receive health insurance.

This year, 10 of the 22 MacArthur Fellows are women. Several have affiliations with higher education.

(L to R) Elodie Ghedin, Tiya Miles, Sarah Otto, Melanie Sanford, and Yukiko Yamashita

Elodie Ghedin is an assistant professor of computational and systems biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Her research is focused on genomic sequencing techniques to generate critical insights about 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.

Dr. Ghedin holds a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. from McGill University. She earned a master’s degree at the University of Quebec at Montreal.

Tiya Miles, a professor of history and professor and chair of the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, explores the complex interrelationships between African and Cherokee people living and working in colonial America. She is the author of Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom (2005) and The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story (2010).

A graduate of Harvard University, Professor Miles earned a master’s degree at Emory University and a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota.

Sarah Otto is a professor of zoology at the University of British Columbia. She is a theoretical biologist whose research focuses on fundamental questions of population genetics and evolution. She is the co-author of A Biologist’s Guide to Mathematical Modeling in Ecology and Evolution (2007).

Dr. Otto joined the faculty at the University of British Columbia in 1995. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Melanie Sanford is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on using metal-based agents, primarily palladium, to catalyze reactions that substitute hydrogen in carbon-hydrogen bonds with other atoms or functional groups.

Dr. Sanford holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University. She earned a Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology.

Yukiko Yamashita is a research assistant professor at the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan. Dr. Yamashita studies the division of stem cells to establish which ones go on to replace differentiated cells and which ones maintain the pool of stem cells for future division.

Dr. Yamashita holds bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Kyoto University. She did postdoctoral research at Stanford University.

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