The 2018 class of MacArthur Fellows, announced Oct. 4, includes a pair of Princeton faculty and one visiting fellow. Clifford Brangwynne, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, Allan Sly, a professor of mathematics, and Okwui Okpokwasili, a Hodder Fellow in the Lewis Center for the Arts, each received the so-called “genius grant,” which comes with $625,000 in unrestricted funding over five years.
Brangwynne, who joined the faculty in 2011, has a background that spans materials science, physics, biology, and engineering. He was honored for “enhancing our understanding of cellular compartmentalization and its critical role in biological development.” A March 2018 Nature article called this area of inquiry “one of biology’s hottest questions.”
Sly, who came to Princeton from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2016, has made significant contributions to statistical physics and theoretical computer science, according to the MacArthrur Foundation summary of his work, including “important findings pertaining to the threshold for recovering clusters in the sparse stochastic block model; pathbreaking work on cutoff in Markov chains; and the discovery of a key to constructing embeddings of random sequences into random sequences.”
Okpokwasili, a Brooklyn-based writer, actor, dancer, and choreographer, has been described as a “magnetic performer” by The New York Times (in a review of her 2014 one-woman show Bronx Gothic). According to the Lewis Center, she is spending her Hodder fellowship year working on a performance piece inspired by a traditional practice of women’s resistance movements in southeastern Nigeria.
Twenty-five MacArthur Fellows were named this year. Other Princetonians to receive the honor in recent years include psychologist Betsy Levy Paluck (2017); alumni Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ’06, Subhash Khot *03, José Quiñonez *98, and Julia Wolfe *12 (2016); professor of Near Eastern studies Marina Rustow (2015); alumnus Jonathan Rapping *92 (2014); and alumna Maria Chudnovsky *03 (2012).