UCLA neurobiologist Elissa Hallem, Caltech medical microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian and conceptual photographer Uta Barth were among 23 people named Monday as MacArthur Fellows for 2012, and will receive $500,000 over the next five years.
Hallem, an assistant professor of in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, explores the physiology and behavioral consequences of odor detection. As a graduate student at Yale, Hallem undertook expansive studies of olfaction in fruit flies that revealed several important and sometimes unexpected insights.
"I'm incredibly honored to have received a MacArthur Fellowship, and I'm very grateful to the MacArthur Foundation for making this investment in my work," Hallem said in a statement.
Hallem received her doctorate in 2005 and became a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, shifting her attention to the connection between chemoreception and behavior.
In her basic research, the 34-year-old Hallem is applying her experiences and expertise in invertebrate chemoreception to identify interventions, either pharmacologic or behavioral, that may eventually reduce the scourge of parasitic infection in human.
The 39-year-old Mazmanian is investigating the mechanism underlying the symbiotic relationship between hosts and their beneficial microbial partners. He is laying the foundation for a new understanding of human-microbiome symbiosis that could lead to new therapies or preventive treatments for a broad class of human diseases.
Barth, a 54-year-old Los Angeles resident, who intentionally depicts mundane or incidental objects in nondescript surroundings to focus attention on the fundamental act of looking and the process of perception.