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Two MIT affiliates named MacArthur fellows

An MIT alumnus and an MIT economics professor have been selected as 2015 MacArthur Fellows, and both will receive a no-strings-attached reward of $625,000.

The fellowship, also known as the “genius grant,” is given to 20 to 40 individuals each year, selected by an anonymous committee from a pool of nominees.

Assistant Professor Heidi Williams, who has been in MIT’s economics department since 2011, received the fellowship for her research on the economics of innovation in the healthcare market. She has studied the implications of market behavior and public policy, such as intellectual property restrictions, on drug development and health care research.

Cornell Professor William Dichtel ’00, who graduated from MIT with a degree in chemistry, has broken ground on the study of covalent organic frameworks, which have practical applications in storing chemical fuels or electrical charge and purifying water. Covalent organic frameworks are ordered molecular grids or scaffolds with immense surface areas given their mass, and they were very difficult to work with until Dichtel’s team demonstrated new techniques to incorporate them into devices.

Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, who was a visiting writing professor at MIT from 2012-2014, was recognized for his work addressing “complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing.”

Three MacArthur Fellows last year had MIT connections: Jacob Lurie was an MIT associate math professor, and Ai-jen Poo and Rick Lowe were Community Innovators Lab fellows.

The $625,000 award will be paid out to each fellow in five annual installments.

—Ray Wang