Regional scientists win Genius Awards

    The MacArthur Foundation has named both a Pennsylvania and a New Jersey professor Genius Award recipients. Each will be a half-million dollar cash prize to be spent however they wish.

    The MacArthur Foundation has named both a Pennsylvania and a New Jersey professor Genius Award recipients. Each will be a half-million dollar cash prize to be spent however they wish.

    Caption: Beth Shapiro and Daniel Sigman
    Photo Credit: MacArthur Foundation.org

    Listen:
    [audio: 090923pcgenius.mp3]

    At just 33 years old, Beth Shapiro is the youngest of the award-winners this year. The assistant professor at Penn State University studies DNA in animal fossils to track why they either thrived or went extinct.

    Shapiro says the money will go toward field studies, because traditional funding sources often hesitate to put money into experimental research.

    Shapiro: One of the hardest things about ancient DNA is it’s really hard to know whether you’re going to get results from whatever bone you’ve ground up until you’ve already invested quite a bit of money. This is a great opportunity to try some risky or wacky ideas without worrying that you’re wasting somebody’s money.

    Another MacArthur fellow – Daniel Sigman at Princeton University – also has his nose in antiquity. He collects nitrogen left behind from past ice ages to study climate changes, past and present.

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