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Sunday November 23, 2014
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Susan Murphy

 

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Students in this advanced U-M statistics class write furiously in their notebooks or laptops. As the professor explains the problem's "puissant variables" and "square root Ns," she observes, "Half the class is confused right now. I'm standing up here, and I can see the faces."

It's not just students who race to keep up with Murphy. A slender, high-energy woman who sweetens her statistics lectures with "y'all" and other Southern colloquialisms, Murphy received a MacArthur "genius" grant in September. As one of twenty-four people selected this year for their "exceptional creativity" she'll get $625,000 over the next five years from the MacArthur Foundation, no strings attached.

"It's been twenty-two years since the last statistician got it," Murphy notes. She figures she'll use most of the money to hire more grad students--but does plan to commemorate her MacArthur by buying a "totally cool statistics/probability clock" to place in her office.

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