2021 "Genius" Grant Winners

Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is an American poet, essayist, and cultural critic. He earned a degree in marketing from Capital University. He created 68to05, a music and archival website enabling users to write about and share music. Abdurraqib has had his work published in outlets such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Brooklyn Magazine, and the Paris Review. He was awarded this grant for "forging a distinctive style of cultural and artistic criticism through the lens of popular music and autobiography".

Abdurraqib published collections include:

Daniel Alarcón

Daniel Alarcón is a Peruvian novelist, journalist, and radio producer. He is the co-founder, host, and executive producer of Radio Ambulante, an award-winning Spanish podcast distributed by NPR. He earned a BA degree in anthropology from Columbia University and an MFA degree in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Alarcón currently works as an assistant professor of broadcast journalism at the Columbia University Journalism School and writes for The New Yorker. He was awarded this grant for "chronicling the social and cultural ties that connect Spanish-speaking communities across the Americas.

Alarcón's published books include:

Marcella Alsan

Marcella Alsan is an infection disease physician and an applied microeconomist studying health inequality. She earned a BA in psychology at Harvard University, an MPH from Harvard School of Public Health, an MD from Loyola University, and a PhD in economics from Harvard University. She is currently a Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Alsan's most influential work thus far is providing empirical evidence for the widely held hypothesis that mistrust of medical institutions contributes to poor health indicators experienced by Black men in the US. She was awarded this grant for "investigating the role that legacies of discrimination and resulting mistrust play in perpetuating racial disparities in health". Her work has been published in American Economic ReviewQuarterly Journal of EconomicsJournal of Political EconomyThe Lancet Infectious Diseases, and Annals of Internal Medicine, among others.

Alsan's published articles include:

Trevor Bedford

Trevor Bedford is an American computational virologist. He earned a BA in biological sciences from University of Chicago and a PhD in biology from Harvard Univeristy. He is currently working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Bedford was one of the first to warn the US about the community spread of COVID-19 and credited as helping start a rapid response to the virus on a national scale. He was awarded this grant for "developing tools for real-time tracking of virus evolution and the spread of infectious diseases". His articles have appeared in NatureScienceBioinformatics, and New England Journal of Medicine, among others.

Bedford's published articles include:

Reginald Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts is an American poet, legal scholar, educator, and prison reform advocate. While serving 8 years for a carjacking he committed at 16, he began writing poetry. Bretts has earned a BA, an MFA, and a JD degree from Yale Law School and is currently working on a PhD in law. He served on President Barack Obama's Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention. He founded Freedom Reads, an organization that give access to books to incarcerated people. He was awarded this grant for "promoting the humanity and rights of individuals who are or have been incarcerated". His memoir is A Question of Freedom.

Betts's poetry collections include:

Jordan Casteel

Jordan Casteel is an American figurative painter. She studied at Lamar Dodd School of Art at University of Georgia in Cortona, Italy in 2020, earned a BA from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, and earned an MFA in painting and printmaking at Yale. Casteel is currently an Assistant Professor of Painting in the Department of Arts, Culture, and Media at Rutgers University in Newark. She was awarded this grant for "capturing everyday encounters with people and places in works that invite recognition of our shared humanity". Her works are in display at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, AR; Denver Art Museum, CO; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; The Museum of Modern Art, NY; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; The Pérez Art Museum, Miama, FL; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, NC; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, TN; Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY.

Don Mee Choi

Don Mee Choi is a Korean-American poet and translator. She earned a BFA and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. She is currently an instructor in the College and Career Pathways program at Renton Technical College. Choi was born in Seoul during Park Chung Lee's military dictatorship and immigrated to Hong Kong and then to the US. She was awarded this grant for "bearing witness to the effects of military violence and US imperialism on the civilians of the Korean Peninsula.

Choi's published books include:

In addition to her own books, Choi has translated a number of Korean poetry books into English.

Ibrahim Cissé

Ibrahim Cissé is a Nigerien-American biophysicist. He earned a BS at North Carolina Central University and a PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently director of the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigentics. Cissé was born in Niamey, Niger, became interested in science through Hollywood films, and completed high school two years early so he could move to the US. His cutting-edge innovations in single-molecule microscopy and in-depth understanding of biophysical and cellular processes are illuminating the dynamics of gene regulation and enabling further investigation of biological condensates He was awarded this grant for "developing microscopy tools to investigate the subcellular processes underlying genetic regulation and misfunction". His work has appeared in NatureScienceCell, and PNAS, among other journals.

Cissé's published articles include:

Nicole Fleetwood

Nicole Fleetwood is an American academic, curator, and author. She earned a BPhil from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Miami University of Ohio and an MA and PhD in modern thought and literature from Stanford University. She is the James Weldon Johnson Professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Fleetwood's earlier work focused on representation of Blackness in art, performance, and popular culture and how assumptions within American culture about Blackness are disrupted or reinforced by Black public figures and artists. She was awarded this grant for "elucidating the cultural and aesthetic significance of visual art created by incarcerated people". Her latest book, Making Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, investigates the cultural, personal, and aesthetic significance of the art of those incarcerated.

Fleetwood's other published books include:

Cristina Ibarra

Cristina Ibarra is an American documentary filmmaker. She earned a BA in Radio-Television-Film from University of Texas at Austin. She grew up on the Texas-Mexico border in El Paso and uses her personal experience for multi-layered storytelling. Ibarra was awarded this grant for "crafting nuanced narratives about borderland communities, often from the perspective of Chicana and Latina youth". Her films depict intergenerational life, displacement, labor struggles, and community violence.

Ibarra's films include:

Ibram X. Kendi

Ibram X Kendi is an American author, professor, anti-racist activist, and historian of race and discriminatory policy in America. He earned dual BS degrees in African American studies and magazine production from Florida A&M University, as well as an MA and a PhD in African American studies from Temple University. He is currently the director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. Kendi was included in Time Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential People of 2020. He was awarded this grant for "advancing conversations around anti-Black racism and possibilities for repair in a variety of initiatives and platforms". His most famous book is How to Be an Antiracist, a 2020 New York Times #1 Best Seller.

Other books Kendi has written include:

Daniel Lind-Ramos

Daniel Lind-Ramos is an African-Puerto Rican painter and sculptor. He earned a BA from the University of Puerto Rico and an MA from New York University. He currently is a senior professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao Campus. Lind-Ramos creates sculptures, painting, drawing, video, and neighborhood-based performance pieces. He was awarded this grant for "transforming everyday objects into assemblages that speak to the global connections inherent in Afro-Caribbean and diaspora legacies". His work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Drawing Center, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, and the Grand Palais in Paris, France.

Monica Muñoz Martinez

Monica Muñoz Martinez is a public historian. She earned a BA from Brown University, Department of Ethnic Studies and American Civilzation and an MA, MPhil, and PhD from Yale University, Department of American Studies. She is currently the Stanley J. Bernstein Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University. Martinez is a co-founder of Refusing to Forget, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and raising public awareness of current and past racial violence in Texas. She was awarded this grant for "bringing to light long-obscured cases of racial violence along the U.S.-Mexico border and their reverberations in the present". In 2018 she published her book, The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas.

Martinez's published articles include:

Desmond Meade

Desmond Meade is a voting rights activist. He earned an AS and a BS from Miami-Dade College and a JD from Florida International Univeristy School of Law. He is currently Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. As a returning citizen himself, Meade has worked to change Florida's disenfranchisement laws. He was awarded this grant for "working to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens and remove barriers to their full participation in civic life". He published his biography, Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Civil Rights of Returning Citizens, in 2020.

Joshua Miele

Joshua Miele is a blind American inventor who specializes in adaptive technology design. He earned a BA and PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently a Principle Accessibility Researcher at Amazon. Miele developed Tactile Maps Automated Production (TMAP), a web-based software that creates tactile street maps of any location that can then be printed at home with Braille embossers. He was awarded this grant for "developing device to enable blind and visually impaired people to access everyday technologies and digital information". His work has been published in PerceptionJournal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, and British Journal of Visual Impairment, among other journals.

Miele's published articles include:

Michelle Monje

Michelle Monje is a neuroscientist and neuro-oncologist. She earned a BA at Vassar College and her MD and PHD in medicine at Stanford University. She completed her residency at Harvard Medical School in the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital before returning to Stanford for fellowships. Monje is currently an associate professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences. She was awarded this grant for "advancing understanding of pediatric brain cancers and the neurological effects of cancer treatments with an eye toward improved therapies for patients". Her work has been published in NatureScienceCellNeuron, and Molecular Cell, among other journals.

Monje's published articles include:

Safiya Noble

Safiya Noble is an internet studies and digital media scholar. She earned a BA in sociology at California State University, Fresno, and an MA and PhD in library and information science at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently an associate professor at UCLA and the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry. Noble using her training in information science and understanding of the intersections among culture, race, and gender to reveal how artificial intelligence and algorithms underpinning technologies we use daily have real and negative impacts on the lives of women and girls of color, among other vulnerable people. She was awarded this grant for "highlighting the ways digital technologies and internet architectures magnify racism, sexism, and harmful stereotypes". Her book, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, shows that search engines are not neutral or objective information sources.

Noble's published articles include:

Taylor Perron

Taylor Perron is a geomorphologist. He earned an AB in earth and planetary sciences and archaeology from Harvard University and a PhD in earth and planetary science from the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently a professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Perron is currently focusing on rivers as a record of climate history on Mars and Titan and how changing landscapes have affected biological evolution and the past of humans. He was awarded this grant for "unraveling the mechanisms that create landforms on Earth and other planets". His work has been published in NatureScience, and Geology, among other journals.

Perron's published articles include:

Alex Rivera

Alex Rivera is an American film maker. He earned a BA in political science and media theory at Hampshire College. He is best known for his films about labor, immigration, and politics. Rivera was a distinguished lecturer in 2018 in the Department of Media Studies at Queen's College. He was awarded this grant for "exploring issues of migration, globalization, and technology with an activist orientation". His most recent film is The Infiltrators, which was a collaboration with his partner, Cristina Ibarra.

Other films of Rivera's include:

Lisa Schulte Moore

Lisa Schulte Moore is an American landscape ecologist. She earned a BS in biology from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, an MS in biology ffrom the University of Minnesota at Duluth, and a PhD in forestry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She currently is a professor in the Department of Natural Resource Evology and Management at Iowa State University, the associate director of the Bioeconomy Institute, and the director of the Consortium for Cultivating Human and Naturally reGenerative Enterprises (C-CHANGE). Schulte Moore is the lead developer of People in Ecosystems Watershed Integration (PEWI), an open-source tool that allows farmers to visualize the ecosystem benefits of strips and other conservation features on their farms. She was awarded this grant for "implementing locally relevant approaches to build soil, improve water quality, protect biodiversity, and strengthen the resilience of row crop agriculture". Her work has been published in PNASAgricultureEcosystems and EnvironmentEcology, and Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, among other journals.

Schulte Moore's published articles include:

Jesse Shapiro

Jesse Shapiro is an American applied microeconomist. He earned a BA in economics, an MA in statistics, and a PhD in economics, all from Harvard University. He currently is the George S. and Nancy B. Parker Professor of economics at Brown University. Shapiro has used qualitative, quantitative, historical, and contemporary evidence, along with tools such as game theory and textual analysis via machine learning, to address subjects ranging from statistical methodology and public policy design to media incentives and disinformation on climate change. He was awarded this grant for "devising new frameworks of analysis to advance understanding of media bias, ideological polarization, and the efficacy of public policy interventions". Recently he's been focusing on the topic of ideological segregation, people choosing media sources and communities that share their prior views, which he has found has increased since the 2016 election, especially among groups the least likely to use the internet.

Shapiro's published articles include:

Jacqueline Stewart

Jacqueline Stewart is a film scholar, archivist, and curator. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an AM and PhD from the University of Chicago. She is now a professor of cinema studies at the University of Chicago and director of Black Cinema House, a nonprofit arts organization. Stewart is currently on a sabbatical from the university while she serves as chief artistic and programming officer at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. She was awarded this grant for "ensuring that the contributions of overlooked Black filmmakers and communities of spectators have a place in the public imagination". Her landmark study, Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity, paints a nuanced picture of Black spectatorship of silent film in Chicago during the Great Migration.

Other published works of Stewart's include:

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an American academic, writer, and activist. She earned a BA from Northeastern Illinois University and her MA in African American Studies from Northwestern University. She is currently a professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University. Taylor uses fine-grained analysis and historical research and combines it with her deep understanding of the concrete manifestations of inequality, including substandard housing, over-policing, and high unemployment. She was awarded this grant for "analyzing the political and economic forces underlying racial inequality and the role of social movements in transforming society". Her most known book is From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, for which she received the 2016 Cultural Freedom Award for an Especially Notable Book from the Lannan Foundation.

Taylor's other published works include:

Victor J. Torres

Victor J. Torres is a Puerto Rican-American microbiologist. He earned a BS from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and a PhD from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He completed his postdoctoral training in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt. Torres currenty is the C. V. Starr Professor of Microbiology at New York University Grossman School of Medicine. He was awarded this grant for "investigating how bacterial pathogens overcome the immune system and identifying potential therapies". He uses a diverse range of techniques from genetics and molecular biology to immunology and bioinformatics to study the Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that causes a range of diseases from mild skin infections to life-threatening blood infections.

Torres's published articles include:

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar is an American dancer, teacher, and choreographer of modern dance. She earned a BA in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and an MFA from Florida State University. She is currently the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor and Nany Smith Fichter Professor of Dance in the School of Dance at Florida State University. Zollar is the founder and visioning partner of the Urban Bush Women (UBW) dance company as well as the director of UBW's Summer Leadership Institute. She was awarded this grant for "using the power of dance and artistic expression to celebrate the voices of Black women and promote civic engagement and community organizing". She has produced work for UBW, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, Taylor Mac, and many universities. Her company has performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, and Kennedy Center, among other venues.