'Hope for the future': Bay Area residents among 2021 MacArthur Foundation 'Genius Grant' winners

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KGO) -- Two South Bay residents are being recognized for their life-changing work to Build a Better Bay Area.

The MacArthur Genius Grant is a prestigious award that highlights the best and brightest across the United States.

These filmmakers, scientists, writers, historians and artists are exceptionally creative visionaries inspiring change.

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Amongst the group is Palo Alto's Michelle Monje and Sunnyvale's Joshua Miele.

"What this class of fellows are each doing in their own fields is really so important," Stanford University Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences Dr. Michelle Monje said. "It gives me hope for the future. This is a group of people who are making the world a better place and I'm enormously grateful to be counted among them."

Dr. Monje and Miele each will receive $625,000 to continue their work.

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"What we developed was a way to layer the criminal justice system with the power of community organizing." Raj Jayadev co-founded an organization called Silicon Valley De-Bug and was just awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.



Miele had acid thrown onto his face in an attack as a child. He lost his sight, but gained clear focus for what would become his life's work.

As an adaptive researcher for Amazon, he enables the blind and visually impaired through adaptive technology.

"A lot of the time, accessibility for blind people really means access to information," Miele said in an interview with the MacArthur Foundation. "So, it's super important to make sure technologies are easy to access, inexpensive, open-source and readily achievable. That's why what I do is research, invention and activism."

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Dr. Monje works to give parents of children with brain cancer that same hope.

The grant will go to her study of malignant brain tumors in children to help develop treatments and therapies.

"My work is really at the intersection of neuroscience and cancer biology, trying to understand how these brain cancers of childhood form in the context of the developing brain and how we might better treat them," Dr. Monje said. "I'm really hopeful that this award will help me push past those boundaries and make further progress."

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The MacArthur Foundation expects a fellow to offer a promise of a brighter future through their advances.

Dr. Monje and Miele are proud to fit the bill.

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