- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - Three college professors in Illinois are among the 21 winners of this year’s MacArthur Foundation “genius grants.”

Mark Hersam of Northwestern University, Tami Bond of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Tara Zahra of the University of Chicago were each awarded $625,000 grants that they can spend however they want, the Chicago-based foundation announced Wednesday.

Hersam, 39, was recognized for his work as a materials scientist. The foundation pointed to how he draws on techniques “from a variety of fields in investigations of the physical, chemical and biological properties of nanomaterials, offering new promise for applied uses.”

The foundation praised Bond, 50, an environmental engineer, for “unraveling the global effects of black carbon emissions, or soot, on climate and human health…”

Zahra, 38, a professor of East European History, received her award for her work as a historian who is “challenging the way we view the development of the concepts of nation, family, and ethnicity and painting a more integrative picture of twentieth-century European history,” the foundation said.

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