UC Berkeley press release


Two UC Berkeley faculty members honored with prestigious MacArthur "genius" fellowships

by Marie Felde

Berkeley -- Two University of California at Berkeley professors whose work focuses on the issues of today -- urban poverty and the ownership of electronic information -- have been awarded prestigious and highly prized MacArthur Fellowships.

Professor Pamela Samuelson, 48, who holds a joint appointment with the School of Information Management and Systems and the School of Law (Boalt Hall) was recognized for advancing the emerging field of intellectual property law.

Sociologist Loïc J.D. Wacquant, 36, an acting associate professor of sociology, is highly regarded for his work on urban poverty and an approach that bridges the theoretical French human sciences with the more empirical methods of American social science.

The two are among 23 new fellows announced today (6/16) by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. All will receive fellowships, which range from $150,000 to $375,000 over five years annually, depending on the age of the recipient.

Samuelson learned the news of her $295,000 award in a phone call to her campus office Monday afternoon.

"It was wonderful news. What I've been trying to do is be a bridge between computing professionals and the legal community to adapt copyright law to the new electronic environment," said the scholar and lawyer.

"I've been working very, very hard to focus on issues of burning importance. What I'm looking forward to is to step back and reflect and do some writing. I will use the MacArthur to do that."

Wacquant, who is currently in France, will receive $235,000 over the next five years. He has written extensively on urban poverty and recently completed major work on the subject using the rich ethnographic material he collected while immersing himself in the social world of a boxing gym in Chicago's South Side.

In addition, Wacquant has addressed larger issues such as the transformation of American ghettos and the changing forms of urban poverty in Europe and America.

The MacArthur Foundation imposes no requirements or restrictions on how the money is used. Individuals cannot apply for MacArthur Fellowships, which have become know as "genius" awards because the foundation seeks out people -- rather than projects or organizations -- who are experts in their field and exhibit exceptional creativity.

Samuelson is a co-director with Boalt Hall Law Professor Robert P. Merges of the law school's Center for Law and Technology.

Merges said that Samuelson's award is well deserved. "One of the reasons she is so effective is that she is a voice of reason. She is a bridge between the technical communities and the legal specialties. The debates can get fairly hot on both sides."

"Pam has become a leader in making the issue known to the public. She's well known in Silicon Valley, in entertainment circles in Hollywood and in New York publishing circles. "

Samuelson is married to Robert J. Glushko, who is involved in electronic commerce and publishing. She describes her 17-year-old stepson as "a good user" of electronic information.

She joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1996, becoming the first faculty member in the campus's School of Information Management and Systems. The graduate program will admit its first students this fall with the aim of creating a new kind of professional: someone who is skilled in locating, organizing, manipulating, filtering and presenting information.

She received her law degree from Yale Law School and a masters in political science and a BA in history from the University of Hawaii at Honolulu.

Wacquant has been an acting associate professor at UC Berkeley since 1993. He had been a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation and a junior fellow at Harvard University before coming to UC Berkeley.

A citizen of France and a permanent US resident, he received his PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago and a nouveau doctorat de sociologie from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

With these awards, the number of MacArthur Fellows from UC Berkeley totals 22.

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