Paul Ginsparg, Ph.D. ’81, professor of physics and information science, received one of twenty-four John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowships last week. As a recipient of the fellowship, Ginsparg will receive $500,000 in grant money over the next five years.
A theoretical physicist, Ginsparg’s development of arXiv.org, an online archive of scientific information, earned him the MacArthur fellowship.
“Essentially, he automated the publishing business,” said Robert Constable, dean of computing and information science. “It was a highly revolutionary idea that will have magnificent ramifications.”
Commonly referred to as “genius awards,” MacArthur fellowships are granted to members of various disciplines who exhibit exceptional innovation in their respective fields. Joining Ginsparg in receiving MacArthur fellowships are other scientists, artists and musicians.
“[The Foundation] makes it explicit that this is not an achievement award,” said Ginsparg. “It’s an award to facilitate doing something.”
Currently, Ginsparg is a member of both the physics and the computing and information science departments. The latter — a recently established interdisciplinary department at Cornell — was created to develop the computing and informational organization methods that are integral to information organization and retrieval in a variety of academic areas. In addition to his research, Ginsparg also teaches courses in both departments.
“[His accomplishment] is going to do a lot for us,” said Constable, commenting on Ginsparg’s value to the computing and information science department. “It shows that there is wide recognition for what we are trying to do.”
Ginsparg’s arXiv project developed eleven years ago when he decided to create a method for organizing and distributing scientific information via a computerized network. He brought his arXiv work to Cornell last year after joining the computing and information science department from New Mexico.
The grant that Ginsparg will receive as a MacArthur fellow is awarded with no pending conditions. Therefore, he is free to use the money according to his own discretion.
“The money does not start coming until January of next year. The reason they do that is so I have some time to think about what I want to do with it,” said Ginsparg who has not yet decided what he will do with the grant.
“I never end up doing what I set out to do anyway,” he added, indicating that his projects often take unplanned detours.
While Ginsparg is currently unsure as to how he will use the grant money, his colleagues are confident that he will continue his innovation and creative thinking.
“He is going to do something very original,” said Constable. “I’m hoping what he will do is create the most exciting information technology system in the world.”
In addition to Ginsparg, three other Cornell alumni received MacArthur Foundation grants this year.
Erik Mueggler ’87 received his grant for his anthropological studies of Chinese cultures. A member of the University of Michigan’s Anthropology department., Mueggler is the author of The Age of Wild Ghosts.
Sendhil Mullainathan ’93, the youngest fellow this year, received a grant for his studies in economics. A faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Mullainathan is also on faculty at Massachussetts Institute of Technology.
Daniela Rus, Ph.D. ’92 earned a grant for her studies in computer science and robotics. An associate professor of computer science and cognitive neuroscience at Dartmouth College, she also received a National Science Foundation Career Award in 1996.
Archived article by Ellen Miller