5. Jennifer Richeson, PhD, 37

Distinction: A social psychologist and associate professor at Northwestern University (and a 2006 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner), Richeson researches the underpinnings of prejudice, discrimination, and intergroup relations.

Describe your work. Our culture tells us what certain groups are supposed to do, what their status is, what stereotypes they're associated with. I study how people think about and counter these stereotypes.

Describe yourself in one word. Curious. And intense.

What's your biggest fault? Research is by nature slow, so I'm working on having more patience with myself, with my life, with politicians, and in general.

Do you have a mantra? I have a little sticky note on my computer monitor with a quote from Aristotle: " not an act but a habit."

How do you indulge yourself? I am as frugal as the day is long—although I did take a celebratory trip to Hawaii post-MacArthur.

What has been your most spectacular failure? There was a time of serious questioning when I started grad school and was the only black student in my program. I've gotten negative peer reviews on studies I've published. But if you're not able to handle failure, then this is not the right career for you.

People would be surprised to learn that... I watch America's Next Top Model.

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