Thursday, September 22, 2016

MacArthur Fellows 2016: Meet 'Em

Environmental & Science Education
Art and Environment
Student Achievement

Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum at TEDxHouston 2010
Photo courtesy of Blue Lemon Photo
The Class of 2016 MacArthur Fellows has been announced.

The talent of the recipients of these so-called "genius-awards" is jaw-dropping and the range of the 23 awards, e.g., law, art, sculpture, scientists, engineers, computer specialists, a New Yorker writer, cartoonist, linguist, inspiring. The range hints at the large pool of talent from which these women and men were nominated and then selected to receive this honor.

I draw attention to one of them because she works in one of the STEM fields-science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  An NPR report was devoted to a profile of Rebecca Richards-Kortum, a professor of bioengineering at Rice University.

The reporter, Jason Beaubien, notes that "(Richards-Kortum) has made a name for herself in the field not for her own inventions, but for the incredible creativity of her students."

Professor Richards-Kortum "challenges students to design new medical devices and technologies that can actually be put into practice in low-resource settings. A device developed by one of her students to help premature babies breathe, for example, is now used in 19 countries.... So far the lab holds 29 patents for work they've developed."  

"If it stays in the lab, it's not really innovation," she says. "What we've learned here [at Rice] is that if you can engage students in helping to design new technologies and put them into practical use, they get so excited and work so hard that they learn in a different way. And they go on to have careers where they take that dedication and turn it into action in their own lives."

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