Five Life-Science MacArthur Winners

This year’s winners research topics ranging from stem cell regulation to brain damage from football injuries.

Edyta Zielinska
Sep 22, 2011

William Seeley, Sarah Otto, Kevin Guskiewicz, Elodie Ghedin, Yukiko YamashitaCOURTESY THE JOHN D. & CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION

Five life science researchers counted among this year’s 22 MacArthur Fellowship recipients,  announced Tuesday, September 20th.  Each will receive a monetary prize of $500,000 over the next five years with no stipulations on how the money should be spent and no reporting requirements.

Winners include the following:

  • Elodie Ghedin, at the University of Pittsburgh, who studies parasites and diseases endemic to tropical climates, such as leishmaniasis, river blindness, Chagas disease and elephantitis. Through global collaborations and sequencing technology, she is revealing physiological similarities and differences between the pathogens that may become targets for drug development.
  • Kevin Guskiewicz at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, whose research on sports-related concussions was one of the first to show the long-term neurological effects of such injuries.  He helped develop what has become a widely used measure for reporting concussions based on an individual's balance and posture, and is now measuring impact in younger athletes by embedding impact detectors in their helmets.
  • Sarah Otto from the University of British Columbia won her fellowship for her work on gene copy number variation and sexual reproduction that helped settle long-standing debates about the ratio of males to females in a species, and the role that sexual reproduction plays in the coevolution of host and parasite, among others.
  • William Seeley at the University of California, San Francisco, received the prize for his clinical fMRI and microscopic studies of neurodegenerative diseases like frontotemporal dementia, a disease second only to Alzheimer's in causing pre-senile dementia. His work demonstrated that neurons called von Economo cells are reduced in number in this disease, but not in Alzheimer's.
  • Yukiko Yamashita at the University of Michigan Medical School won the fellowship for her studies on the asymmetric division of stem cells. She looks at the point at which the cells decide to differentiate, repair damaged or spent tissue, or maintain the pool of stem cells, and how that process changes as an organism ages.