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Researchers awarded MacArthur "Genius Grants"

Two astronomers who presented papers at the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation Symposium in France earlier this year are among the 25 scientists, historians, artists, and other innovators selected as 2008 MacArthur Fellows. Andrea Ghez, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California at Los Angeles, and Adam Riess, professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University and an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, received the so-called Genius Grants.

Photonic crystal and nonlinear optics researcher Marin Soljacic was also named a grant recipient. Soljacic has presented numerous papers at SPIE symposia since 2002, and served on the program committee of the SPIE conference on Photonic Crystal Materials and Devices at Photonics West.

Ghez is an astronomer who has opened important windows of galactic observation by overcoming previous limitations of ground-based instruments.

"I will be able to take more risks with my research than I could before," Ghez said in a press release issued by UCLA. "The current shortage of federal funding for science can lead scientists to take fewer risks, but my selection as a MacArthur Fellow will allow me to pursue new ideas; it says to me that I should be brave and take risks."

Riess' observations and experiments are advancing the understanding of the geometry of the university, taking us to the edge of the universe and telling the story of both its beginning and its end, the foundation said.

The awards come with a no-strings-attached $500,000 grant to support their research over the next five years.