Posted on September 21, 2011

3 University of Michigan Researchers Win Macarthur Foundation ‘Genius Grants’

Ann Arbor, September 20, 2011

Three researchers from the University of Michigan are among the latest 22 recipients of the no-strings-attached MacArthur Foundation “genius grants.”

The $500,000 fellowships for 2011 were announced today by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. University of Michigan researchers on the list include Tiya Miles, Melanie Sanford and Yukiko Yamashita.

Miles is director of the Department of Afroamerican & African Studies in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Sanford is a chemistry professor in LSA. And Yamashita is an assistant professor at the Life Sciences Institute and an assistant professor at Michigan’s medical school.


Miles is a public historian who is reframing and reinterpreting the history of the nation “in works that illuminate the complex interrelationships between the African and Cherokee peoples in colonial America,” U-M said.

She said the funding will help her advance a new project she started called ECO Girls, which is based in the Department of Afroamerican & African Studies. The mission of ECO Girls is to foster environmental awareness and stewardship, ecological literacy, cultural education, friendship building, self-confidence and leadership skills for elementary and middle school girls in the southeastern Michigan cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit, U-M said.

Sanford is an organometallic chemist, U-M said. Her research focuses on using metal-based agents, primarily palladium, to catalyze reactions that substitute hydrogen in carbon-hydrogen bonds with other atoms or functional groups, according to the release.

Yamashita, a stem cell biologist, is working to explain the process of stem cell division and its role in age-related decline in organ repair and in the onset of some cancers and other disorders, U-M said.