It all starts with a phone call. "Surely there's been some mistake. You do realize I play the mandolin, right?" Chris Thile said when he was informed that he had been named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow. Thile is one of 23 very talented and very lucky musicians, writers, scientists, and thinkers awarded a half-a-million dollar no-strings-attached grant to expand their work and pursue their passion.
This year’s fellows include novelist Junot Diaz, filmmaker Natalia Almada, Washington Post reporter David Finkel, Harvard economist Raj Chetty, and Maria Chudnovsky, associate professor of industrial engineering and operations research at Columbia University. She studied graph theory, which uses mathematical abstractions to solve everyday problems like scheduling airline flights or assigning cell-phone frequencies.
Jad Abumrad won a MacArthur last year, and he gives Maria some advice.