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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - September 10, 2014: Danielle S. Bassett, PhD poses in the lobby area of Skirkanich Hall on Wednesday September 10, 2014 at the University of Pennsylvania. Credit: Jeff Fusco , Jeff Fusco

Danielle Bassett, a physicist and Skirkanich assistant professor of innovation in the Bioengineering Department, was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow on Wednesday.

Bassett is one of 21 MacArthur Fellows awarded a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000, commonly referred to as “genius grants,” which are distributed to the fellows in installments over a period of five years. Since its conception, the fellowship has supported “people, not projects,” trusting the recipients to follow their own creative pursuits for the benefit of society.

Bassett’s research lies at the intersection of network science and neuroscience. “The majority of my work focuses on understanding connectivity patterns and networks in the human brain, and how these networks reconfigure during disease, injury recovery or healthy cognitive function,” Bassett said. Her research also explores how brain networks are modified over time through memory and language processing.

“The grant provides the opportunity to try some very creative ideas that we are not completely sure will work but have the potential to make a big impact on the field and our understanding of human brain function,” Bassett said.

“I think Dani Basset exemplifies the creative potential of integrating knowledge across disciplines,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “She’s just a treasure for Penn and for the whole understanding of the human brain. Very few people have as broad and creative a way of approaching the human brain as Dani Basset does, so I say brava to her and to the MacArthur Foundation for recognizing her.”

Bassett has not yet decided how she’s going to spend the $625,000 she was awarded, as she is “still processing the information that the grant has been awarded to me.” However, she plans to continue teaching while pursuing her research.

Bassett’s award marks the second consecutive year a Penn professor has been awarded the grant. In 2013, associate psychology Professor Angela Duckworth was selected as one of 24 MacArthur Fellows. Duckworth’s research examined grit and self-control as the two traits that predict success in life. She continues to pioneer research and interventions to help children foster and internalize self-control.

Deputy News Editor Kristen Grabarz contributed reporting.

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