|Two Alums Awarded Genius Grants|
|By Norman Boucher|
September 24, 2013—Author and Columbia associate professor Donald Antrim ’81 and Stanford agricultural ecologist and associate professor David Lobell ’00 today became two of the latest innovators to be named MacArthur Fellows. The honor, which comes with an unrestricted $625,000 stipend sometimes referred to as a “genius grant,” goes to individuals who, in the view of the MacArthur Foundation, “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”Antrim, who teaches in Columbia’s Writing Program, is the author of the 1998 novel The Hundred Brothers, which Jonathan Franzen called “a perfect instance of the work of art that seduces you with its beauty and power and then maddens you with its craziness.” In 2000, Antrim published The Verificationist. Describing Antrim’s novels, New York Times critic Dwight Garner wrote “you’re drawn in because of the depth of human feeling that Antrim smuggles into these stories, almost below radar level. His characters long to make genuine emotional connections, but their attempts end badly.” The Verficationist, Garner wrote, is “a book that clatters and whirs like a Rube Goldberg device, spitting out, on every page, perfectly formed pellets of intellection, rude humor, grief and longing.”
As an agricultural ecologist, Lobell, a member of Stanford’s Department of Environmental Earth System Science and the associate director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, analyzes large data sets from a variety of disciplines to document the effect of climate change on crop production and food security around the world. His analysis of the long-range effect of moisture and temperature on crops has been an important tool in predicting how climate change will impact the productivity of some of the food on which much of the world depends. In one important paper cited by the MacArthur Foundation, for example, Lobell found that maize is far more sensitive to extremes in temperature and moisture than had been previously thought, suggesting that climate change could drastically reduce yields of this essential crop. His work has also opened up similar studies on soybeans, wheat, and rice in North and South America and Central and South Asia.