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STS, ISEF finalists & SPARK winner named MacArthur Fellows

Notable Alumni - Bill Thies Bill creates technology to advance the well-being of low-income communities.
Bill creates technology to advance the well-being of low-income communities. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN D. & CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION.

Two alumni of the Society for Science & the Public’s science fair competitions were named 2016 MacArthur Fellows. They include: Bill Thies, a 1997 Intel STS finalist, and Dianne Newman, a 1987 and 1988 Intel ISEF finalist. Additionally, Manu Prakash, who won the first place prize in the Society’s 2014 Science, Play and Research Kit (SPARK) competition, is a 2016 Fellow. These “genius grants” are awarded to notable researchers.

Bill Thies, a computer scientist and senior researcher with Microsoft Research India, works on technology to advance the social and economic well-being of low-income communities in the developing world.

Bill overcomes the difficulties that face low-income communities like financial constraints, limited access to the Internet, and low literacy by creating interfaces with mobile phones — which are affordable and widely used — and with modern networks and applications.

Dianne Newman, a microbiologist at the California Institute of Technology, investigates the role bacteria played in shaping the Earth and in modern biomedical contexts.

Dianne brings together techniques from various fields in order to study the evolution of ancient microbes’ metabolic processes — or the way they obtain energy and nutrients — and their effects on the geochemistry of the environment.

Manu Prakash, a physical biologist and inventor and assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University, is interested in democratizing the experience of science.

Manu won first place in the Society’s SPARK competition, sponsored by the Society and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which differs from our three premiere science fairs for middle and high school students — the Regeneron Science Talent Search, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and Broadcom MASTERS.

Manu invents solutions to complex problems in global health, science education, and ecological surveillance. He focuses on many areas of research, including soft-matter physics and the diversity of lifeforms on Earth. He works on projects with food coloring, physical computation, and microfluidic processors or “water computers.”

The Society for Science & the Public congratulates our alumni for their continued success and research in STEM.

Check back for interviews with these MacArthur Fellows.

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