2015 Winners

PERFORMING ARTS

FRED ARMISEN AND BILL HADER

These Saturday Night Live veterans are two of the most talented actors, writers, comedians and producers working in Hollywood today. Armisen and Hader’s new creation is Documentary Now!, an IFC series of fictitious (and hilarious) documentaries and biopics that revolutionizes the mockumentary tradition by parodying classic American nonfiction films ranging from Nanook of the North to The Thin Blue Line. Armisen is also the co-creator, co-writer and co-star of IFC’s Peabody Award-winning series, Portlandia, along with Carrie Brownstein. Hader has appeared in numerous movies, including Trainwreck and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

This award was presented by Senator Al Franken.

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HISTORY

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA

Miranda is a composer, lyricist, rapper and actor, as well as the creative force behind the Broadway smash hit Hamilton. The hip-hop recreation of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton is being celebrated as one of the most innovative musicals ever on Broadway. Miranda won Tony and Grammy awards for the Broadway musical In the Heights, and was the co-composer and co-lyricist of Bring It On: The Musical, which received a Tony nomination for Best Musical.

This award was presented by Rubén Blades, singer, songwriter, actor, musician, lawyer, and Panamá presidential candidate.

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PHYSICAL SCIENCES

ALAN STERN

As an associate vice president for research and development at the Southwest Research Institute, Stern conceived of and led the celebrated New Horizons mission, which gave the world its first-ever close look at Pluto this past July. The spacecraft flew some three billion miles to its destination after NASA launched it in 2006, and scientists expect that the images and data from its advanced sensors will offer new clues to the evolution of the solar system. Stern, who has degrees in physics, astronomy, atmospheric sciences and aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, has a doctorate in astrophysics and planetary science from the University of Colorado..

This award was presented by science educator Bill Nye.

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VISUAL ARTS

ZOE CROSHER and SHAMIM MOMIN

They are the creative forces behind the cross-country art installation, The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project, 100 thought-provoking signs along Interstate 10 from Jacksonville, Florida, to Los Angeles. Each of the ten “chapters” was executed by a different acclaimed American artist, such as John Baldessari and Eve Fowler. Crosher, who originated the project and also contributed one chapter, is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art. Momin is director of the Los Angeles Nomadic Division, or LAND, a nonprofit organization dedicated to curating site-specific public art exhibitions in Los Angeles and beyond.

This award was presented by John Gray, director of the National Museum of American History.

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NATURAL SCIENCES

RUDOLPH TANZI and DOO YEON KIM

This duo, from Harvard Medical School, for the first time grew brain cells in a dish that develop signs of Alzheimer’s disease, offering researchers a new and unprecedented tool for studying the affliction. Tanzi, director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, has been investigating the genetic causes of Alzheimer’s for three decades. Kim, an expert in pathological molecular mechanisms in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, contributed the crucial insight of growing the human brain cells in a three-dimensional gel. Their work is making it possible to search for new drug treatments for the disease.

This award was presented by Lisa Genova, neuroscientist and author of Still Alice.

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EDUCATION

FRANÇOISE MOULY

Mouly, editorial director of Toon Books, is revolutionizing early-reader texts for children by incorporating cartoons and harnessing the power of visual narrative. Today Toon Books, which have won praise and awards from the likes of the American Library Association, are used in classrooms nationwide. Mouly’s impact on cartooning can be traced to 1980, when she was the founder, designer and co-editor, with her husband, cartoonist Art Spiegelman, of the pioneering comics anthology RAW, where Spiegelman’s Maus was first published. Mouly has been the art editor of the New Yorker since 1993. One critic compares Mouly’s influence on comics to Ezra Pound’s impact on modernist literature.

This award was presented by Lynda Barry, cartoonist and playwright.

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SOCIAL PROGRESS

THEASTER GATES

The renowned artist and social activist is internationally acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and performances. One of the 100 most powerful people in the arts, according to ArtReview, he’s being recognized for his deeply innovative work revitalizing the South Side of Chicago by turning dilapidated, abandoned buildings in his neighborhood into architectural gems that serve the community. The eclectic new spaces offer residents the chance to experience art and culture, bringing cinema, a library, dining space, yoga classes and performances close to their own homes. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called Gates a “civic treasure.”

This award was presented by Perry Chen, founder of Kickstarter.

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TECHNOLOGY

RANA el KALIOUBY

She is a facial-recognition technology pioneer and co-founder of Massachusetts-based Affectiva, which develops digital tools to assess people’s emotional states. Possible applications range from evaluating if the driver of a car is too groggy to stay behind the wheel to analyzing a focus group’s response. While at the MIT Media Lab, el Kaliouby developed the first “emotional hearing aid,” eyeglasses with a camera and headphones, to help autistic children, and she has compiled the world’s largest database of emotion analytics, based on more than 2.5 million face videos from over 80 countries. She has a doctorate in computer science from Cambridge University.

This award was presented by Sarah Lisanby, National Institute of Mental Health.

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YOUTH

LILIANNA ZYSKOWSKI

The 15-year-old high-school student from Massachusetts uses networked sensing technologies to solve human problems in new ways. Her PillMinder invention, inspired by her grandfather, who was hospitalized after mixing up his pill schedule, is a bottle equipped with touch sensors, LED lights and a microcontroller to track medication use. Dolphin Swim Goggles combine an ultrasonic distance sensor and LED lights to alert swimmers before hitting the wall of a pool, preventing head and neck injuries. The BabyMinder is a conductive fabric that monitors a baby’s body temperature, diaper status and location—and sends messages to a parent’s cellphone. Liliana’s work was exhibited at the 2015 White House Science Fair.

This award was presented by Adam Steltzner, NASA scientist, lead engineer on Mars Rover Team.

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