Psychology prof named a MacArthur 'genius'
Angela Duckworth will receive $625,000 in a five-year, no-strings-attached grant
September 25, 2013, 11:18 am · Updated September 25, 2013, 11:53 pm·
Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor who has researched grit and academic success, was named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow on Wednesday, one of the top national honors given to recognize innovation and creativity.
Duckworth, one of 24 recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship — commonly called “genius grants” — will receive a five-year, no-strings-attached grant of $625,000. That marks an increase from the $500,000 that MacArthur winners previously received, and is the first stipend bump since 2000.
Duckworth is best known for her research linking factors like self-control and grit to personal competency and academic achievement. She has shown that grit — the ability to sustain effort over a long period of time — is a better indicator of success than factors like IQ or family income.
Other psychologists have studied self-control, but Duckworth’s lab at Penn has become the leading voice for research on grit, said Eli Tsukayama, who authored multiple papers with Duckworth as a graduate student in psychology and is now one of her post-doctoral advisees.
Duckworth’s research subjects have ranged from children in school to participants in spelling bees and West Point cadets.
“I hope this fellowship draws attention to a worthy subject,” Duckworth said in an interview with the MacArthur Foundation that was posted Wednesday. “I hope it balances out the preoccupation with cognitive tests and IQ scores that seems to occupy at least much of consciousness in American schooling.”
Duckworth was not available for comment on Wednesday.
Tsukayama said he believes that Duckworth’s research is widely relevant.
“It’s applicable to any domain — sports, business, anything that involves achievement and working toward a goal,” he said.
Duckworth is the first Penn professor to be named a MacArthur genius since Sarah Kagan, a Nursing professor, received the honor in 2003, according to the MacArthur Foundation’s website. That same year, Eve Troutt Powell, then an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia, also received the grant. Powell is now associate dean for graduate studies in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences.
Duckworth, who earned her doctoral degree in psychology at Penn, joined the University’s faculty in 2006.
Staff writer Fiona Glisson contributed reporting.