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Three Society alumni named MacArthur Fellows

Dianne Newman researches the role bacteria played in shaping the Earth.​​​​​​​ Photo credit: All: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (CC BY 4.0).

Dianne Newman researches the role bacteria played in shaping the Earth. Photo credit: All: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (CC BY 4.0).

Two alumni of Society for Science & the Public’s science fair competitions and one winner of the Science, Play and Research Kit (SPARK) competition were named 2016 MacArthur Fellows. Fellows are awarded five-year grants to support their notable research.

Dianne Newman (1987 and 1988 ISEF finalist), a microbiologist at Caltech, investigates the role early bacteria played in shaping the Earth — from the planet’s rock formations to its oxygen-dominated atmosphere. Newman also uses information about the evolution of ancient microbes to understand how modern disease-causing bacteria thrive. Her work could lead to more effective treatments for chronic infections such as those that affect cystic fibrosis patients.

Bill Thies (1997 STS finalist), a computer scientist and senior researcher with Microsoft Research India, works on technologies to advance the social and economic well-being of low-income communities in the developing world. Thies’ mobile-based technologies, which aid medical treatment, education and reporting social injustices, are relatively affordable and take into account obstacles faced by these communities such as limited internet access and low literacy rates.

Manu Prakash

Manu Prakash (first place winner of the Society’s 2014 SPARK competition), an inventor and physical biologist at Stanford University, is interested in democratizing science. Prakash invents affordable devices to study complex problems in global health and ecological surveillance. One of his inventions, Foldscope, is a lightweight optical microscope with micrometer resolution that is made from a single sheet of paper integrated with electronics and lenses. It costs less than a dollar to produce.

Read more about Newman’s work:
student.societyforscience.org/blog/doing-science/how-ancient-microbes-invented-metabolism.