Tech Alumna Honored with 'Genius' Award
Posted September 19, 2006 | Atlanta, GA
Tech alumna Linda Griffith was named today as one of 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2006, commonly known as the genius awards," by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Griffith graduated from Georgia Tech in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering. She is currently director of the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center and professor in the Departments of Biological and Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"The award was a huge surprise and I am incredibly honored - and owe much of the credit to the fantastic environment at Tech when I was an undergraduate," said Griffith. "Tech fostered independence and rigorous thinking, but in an environment of collegiality and fun, it made engineering seem like a wonderful career - Tech let my inner nerd hang out."
All MacArthur Fellows were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future. This past week, the recipients learned by a phone call from the Foundation that they will each receive $500,000 in 'no strings attached' support over the next five years.
Griffith is a biotechnologist who is shaping the frontiers of tissue engineering and synthetic regenerative technologies. Her early work focused on designing novel substrates for liver cell cultures to allow pharmacologists to test in vitro the efficacy and toxicity of many potential drugs. She has designed several methods for fabricating scaffolds on which cultured cells can adhere and grow.
"These are people pushing boldly to change, improve, and protect our world, to make it a better place for all of us. This program was designed for such people - designed to provide an extra measure of freedom, visibility, and opportunity to sustain and nurture their trajectories," said Daniel J. Socolow, director of the MacArthur Fellows Program.
Griffith is offering the prospect of significant reduction in the need for future organ replacement or regeneration by developing a powerful tool for exploring the normal function of the liver and the mechanisms of disease that attack it. Her latest experiments are expanding the use of 3-D scaffolds for growing other cell types, such as blood-forming cells. These experiments lay the groundwork for building in vitro models of toxicity and cancer metastasis. Griffith works at the intersection of materials science, cell surface chemistry, physiology, and anatomy. She is extending the limits of biomedical engineering and its applications for diagnosing disease and regenerating damaged organs.
"I am grateful to Ajit Yoganathan for giving me great freedom and responsibility in his lab when I was an undergraduate at Tech," Griffith said. "But my undergraduate education was only a part of it. After I left, Tech emerged as a bioengineering giant under Bob Nerem's superb leadership. He has been a terrific inspiration to the whole field of bioengineering and to me especially."
Linda Griffith received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1982 and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988. In 1991, she joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an assistant profesor of chemical engineering (1991-1996), after serving as a postdoctoral associate in the same department (1988-1990). She is currently a professor of biological engineering and mechanical engineering at MIT, where she is also director of the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center. Her scientific articles have appeared in such journals as Science, Biomaterials, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations or reporting requirements, offering the
opportunity for Fellows to accelerate their current activities or take their work in new directions. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors. Fellowships are awarded to women and men of all ages and at all career stages; the extraordinary creativity of MacArthur Fellows knows neither boundaries nor the constraints of age, place and endeavor.
The MacArthur Fellows Program was the first major grantmaking initiative of the Foundation. The inaugural class of MacArthur Fellows was named in 1981. Including this year's Fellows, 732 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been named MacArthur Fellows since the inception of the program.
About the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation:
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grantmaking institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, helps strengthen institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media.