'Genius Grants' To Eclectic Group

Stanford University biochemistry scientist Pehr Harbury, 40, smiles in his lab in Stanford, Calif., Monday, Sept. 19, 2005, after learning he is among the 25 MacArthur Foundation "genius grants" winners. Harbury is researching what he calls "test-tube evolution," which allows for scientists to simultaneously screen millions of chemical compounds for their potential as drug targets. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
A lobsterman from Maine, an oncologist from Nigeria and the first woman to lead a major American symphony are among the 25 people chosen for this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants," $500,000 that recipients can use however they wish.

Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade, 48, left Nigeria for Chicago as a young woman and became an international leader in breast cancer research, recently focusing on the molecular genetics of breast cancer in women of African heritage.

Now director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago Medical Center, she regularly returns to Nigeria to train doctors in the latest cancer treatments and research.

"To have an opportunity to leverage my position here to help underserved, underprivileged, understudied patients has really been my life's mission," Olopade said. "I'm blown away someone took notice."

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation also announced Tuesday genius grants to a biologist who documents endangered plants and animals in Madagascar, a violinist who has been giving minority children greater access to classical music, and a history professor who focuses on sound.

Lobsterman and fisherman Ted Ames, 66, another recipient, belongs to a family that has fished off the coast of Maine since before the Revolutionary War.

Disturbed by the threat to the fishery ecosystem from over-harvesting, Ames conducts detailed scientific studies of spawning, habitat and fishing patterns, often starting with the anecdotal experiences of aging fishermen.