Featuring C-DEBI scientist Victoria Orphan


Victoria Orphan was on a boat off the Southern California coast in 1993 when she asked a graduate student sampling seawater about his research. He stained a sample with fluorescent dye and put it under a microscope. Orphan, then a UC Santa Barbara undergraduate, stared at the dense constellations of glowing microbes.

“It was like looking at the Milky Way,” she said. “It was just an incredible amount of microscopic life. I’ve never looked at a glass of seawater the same way since.”

That was the beginning of a path that put Orphan on the list of 2016 MacArthur fellows. The award comes with a $625,000 no-strings-attached “genius grant” meant to encourage creative scientists, artists and other thinkers who are pushing the boundaries of their fields.