Inside the Mind of a Genius: Beth Shapiro

MacArthur Foundation
MacArthur Foundation

Now that you know How to Be a Black Genius, members of the 2009 class of MacArthur fellows give some insight into the way they live and think.


Age: 33

Hometown: Rome, Georgia

Current Location: State College, Pennsylvania

Occupation: Professor of Biology

1. What four adjectives would your first best friend use to describe you?

Short, loud, bossy, excitable.

2. What dish do you make well?

Pulled pork BBQ

3. What was your favorite song when you were in high school?

R.E.M. "Man on the Moon"

4. What is the quickest, best form of charity?

Giving blood. I suppose writing a check is probably quicker, but deciding to whom that check should be written takes ages.


5. Do you believe in magic?

No, but I really enjoy a clever, well-performed trick.

6. What's your drink?

At 8 months pregnant, probably sparkling water. How boring is that?

7. What's the oldest piece of clothing you own?

A T-shirt I got for signing up for a credit card in college—with the 1994 University of Georgia football schedule printed on it.

8. Do you handle compliments well?

I hope so, although it's definitely something I've had to work on.

9. What habit would you like to break?

I tend to pace around the house aimlessly while I'm talking on the phone. Google video is slowly breaking me of this habit.


10. Mac or PC?


11. Who would you destroy?

Nobody. The world is a richer place with the diversity of opinions out there.

12. What holiday do you enjoy?

Thanksgiving. Family, friends and food.

13. What is your favorite of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?

The first, although it seems a bit cliché to say so.

14. What is the difference between genius and talent?

I think genius is defined by originality of thoughts and ideas, whereas talent is an exceptional ability to carry out such things.


15. On a scale of 1-10, how lucky are you?

Depends whether "1" is the most or least lucky. I feel like I've been pretty lucky in my life so far.


16. What is your definition of luxury?

An indulgence. To me, a luxury doesn't have to be expensive or rare, but does have to be something enjoyable *and* unessential.


17. Do you make your bed every day?

No—but please don't tell my mother.

18. You own three novels by the same author—who is it?

Ian McEwan, Will Self, Isaac Asimov.

19. What has been the most extreme opposition to your work and way of thinking?


Closed-minded reviewers! Or maybe that's just an excuse for my writing not being sufficiently clear…

20. Vanilla bean, dark chocolate or Bing cherry?

Definitely dark chocolate

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