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2014 MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Winners Unveiled

A professor whose research is helping a California police department improve its strained relationship with the black community and a lawyer who advocates for victims of domestic abuse are among the 21 winners of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants."

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced on Wednesday the 2014 recipients, who will each receive $625,000 to spend any way they like. The professor and lawyer, part of an eclectic group that also includes scientists, mathematicians, historians, a cartoonist and a composer, are among several recipients whose work involves topics that have dominated the news in the past year.

"I think getting this (grant) speaks to people's sense that this is the kind of work that needs to be done," said recipient Jennifer Eberhardt, a Stanford University social psychologist who has researched racial stereotypes and crime.

Her work prompted the Oakland, California, police department to ask for her help studying racial biases among its officers and how those biases play out on the street — topics that have been debated nationally in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old in Missouri. Eberhardt, who is also studying the use of body cameras by police, said, "I hope this will show the work matters, holds value and promotes social change."

The recipients include Ai-jen Poo, a labor advocate organizing domestic workers; criminal lawyer Jonathan Rapping, working to help the indigent get legal defense in the southern U.S.; and Texas housing advocate John Henneberger. See the full list of 2014 MacArthur Fellows here.

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— The Associated Press