Penn Engineer Danielle Bassett Receives 2014 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced Wednesday that the University of Pennsylvania’s Danielle S. Bassett has been selected as a 2014 MacArthur Fellow. The fellowship, often referred to as a “genius grant,” provides no-strings-attached funding for creative, innovative, path-breaking work in a broad range of scholarly and artistic fields. 

Bassett, the Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s departments of Bioengineering and Electrical and Systems Engineering, is among the 21 people in the MacArthur Fellowship Program’s 2014 class.

As a MacArthur Fellow, Bassett will receive a five-year, $625,000 grant designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue research or creative activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements.

Bassett’s laboratory uses tools from complex systems and network science to study the structure and dynamics of the human brain at the level of large-scale neural circuitry. Akin to social networks in Facebook and Twitter, regions of the brain form a network of mutually interconnected components that process, transmit and store information. The end goals are to identify organizational principles, to develop novel diagnostics of disease and to design personalized therapeutics for rehabilitation and treatment of brain injury, neurological disease and psychiatric disorders.


“Danielle Bassett’s research reveals the nature of the connections that make us who we are, both as individuals and as a society,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “She also maximizes our ability to understand the immensely complex human brain by integrating knowledge from fields as varied as neuroscience, mathematics, genetics, computer science, behavioral economics and the fine arts. Bassett’s work epitomizes Penn’s distinctive focus on integrating knowledge across disciplines for practical as well as theoretical purposes, and we are all the more proud that the MacArthur Foundation is recognizing her path-breaking work in this way.”

Bassett is also the founder of the Penn Network Visualization Program, a six-week internship where local artists learn about network science from research experts and use theory and data from the field to inform their creative work. Their projects were recently displayed at a gallery event and will tour local middle and high schools as a way of encouraging students to explore the connections between art and science.   


The program is not just of use to artists and students; visualizing complex networks can reveal hidden structures and connections that can inform future research. 

“Since coming to Penn last year, we’ve known that we have in Danielle a researcher with unlimited potential,” said Eduardo Glandt, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “I’m thrilled to see that the MacArthur Foundation agrees and is helping support her in the early stages of what is sure to be an illustrious career.”

Bassett’s work has also been recognized with a Sloan Fellowship, awarded earlier this year. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provides early-career scientists and scholars, nominated by their peers, with two-year, $50,000 awards to further their research.

Another Penn researcher, Angela Duckworth, an associate professor of psychology in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences, was honored in the 2013 class of MacArthur Fellows.

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