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Californians get MacArthur awards

Foundation honors 25 U.S. researchers, doctors and artists with $500,000 each over five years.

September 23, 2008|Thomas H. Maugh II and Diane Haithman | Times Staff Writers

A UCLA astronomer who is pioneering ways to minimize image distortion caused by the Earth's atmosphere and a Caltech physicist developing quantum computing are among the 25 winners of the 2008 MacArthur awards announced today.

The winners, cited for "exceptional creativity" in their fields, will receive $500,000 each over the next five years to use as they see fit.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, September 25, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
MacArthur Fellows: An article in Tuesday's California section about the 2008 MacArthur Fellows described violinist Leila Josefowicz as a native of Los Angeles. She moved here as a toddler but was born in Toronto.

Andrea Ghez, 43, of UCLA initially used a technique called speckle imaging in which very short exposures are digitally added to increase resolution. More recently, she has been using a technique called adaptive optics in which an "artificial star" is created with ground-based lasers to allow researchers to identify atmospheric distortions and subtract them from their astronomical images.

Among other findings, she has used the technique to identify a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.

Alexei Kitaev, 45, a theoretical physicist at Caltech, has been studying the often bizarre and counterintuitive physical interactions of materials at the quantum level, attempting to manipulate them to perform arithmetic calculations that would be orders of magnitude faster than those performed with conventional computers.

The third California winner is Walter Kitundu, 35, a multimedia artist at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Kitundu invented the phonoharp, a hybrid of turntables and stringed instruments that allows the performer to combine percussion and string resonance with digital manipulation of prerecorded materials to "navigate the boundary between live and recorded performance," according to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which awards the grants.

Among this year's recipients from the worlds of arts and culture is native Angeleno Leila Josefowicz, 30, a classical violinist who lives in New York and was cited for "captivating audiences through her juxtaposition of the avant-garde and eclectic with the more traditional."

In April, Josefowicz appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic playing Bartok's Violin Concerto No. 2 under the direction of 27-year-old Gustavo Dudamel, who will become music director of the philharmonic in 2009.

Also locally, Carol Sauvion and Kyra Thomson, the Los Angeles-based executive producers of the 2007 PBS documentary series "Craft in America: Memory, Landscape, Community," can celebrate that one of the artists featured in the series, 63-year-old fiber artist of North Carolina, is one of this year's fellows.

Jackson's crafts include sweetgrass baskets made according to a tradition that originated in West Africa, was brought to America by slaves and was passed down to Jackson by older relatives.

Stage lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, 71, and sculptor Tara Donovan, 38, both of New York, were also awarded grants.

Tipton, a Columbus, Ohio, native, won a Tony Award for her lighting of a 1977 Lincoln Center production of "The Cherry Orchard" and is known for her work with choreographers including Jerome Robbins, Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp.

Donovan, who received a solo exhibition at the Hammer Museum in 2004, is noted for sculpting with everyday materials such as cellophane tape, drinking straws and paper plates.

Other winners:

* Chimamanda Adichie, 31, a fiction writer from Columbia, Md.

* Will Allen, 59, an urban farmer in Milwaukee who provides food to the poor.

* Dr. Regina Benjamin, 51, operator of a rural health clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala.

* Kirsten Bomblies, 34, an American faculty member at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tubingen, Germany, who studies the evolution of plants.

* Wafaa El-Sadr, 58, an infectious disease physician at Columbia University's Mailman School of Health in New York who has been developing new treatment regimens for HIV and tuberculosis.

* Stephen Houston, 49, an anthropologist at Brown University in Providence, R.I., who studies early Mesoamerican writing.

* Susan Mango, 47, a developmental biologist at the University of Utah who studies how organs are formed.

* Dr. Diane Meier, 56, a geriatrician at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

* David Montgomery, 46, a professor at the University of Washington who studies how geologic processes affect the environment.

* John Ochsendorf, 34, a structural engineer and architectural preservationist at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

* Dr. Peter Pronovost, 43, a physician at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore who works to improve patients' safety in hospitals.

* Adam Riess, 38, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University who studies the geometry of the universe.

* Alex Ross, 40, a music critic at New Yorker magazine.

* Nancy Siraisi, 76, a Brooklyn-based historian of medicine.

* Marin Soljacic, 34, an MIT physicist developing ways to transmit electricity without wires.

* Sally Temple, 49, a neuroscientist at the New York Neural Stem Cell Institute in Albany.

* Rachel Wilson, 34, a neurobiologist at the Harvard Medical School in Boston who measures the activity of neurons in fly brains.

* Miguel Zenon, 31, a saxophonist in New York.

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thomas.maugh@latimes.com

diane.haithman@latimes.com

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