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Iroquois Central graduate receives 'genius grant' Cornell professor focuses on networks

Jon Kleinberg always has been a pretty smart guy and a gifted academic researcher. This week, the Wales Center native officially became a "genius."

Kleinberg, a professor of computer science at Cornell University, has received one of 25 new fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago.

The MacArthur fellowships, popularly known as "genius grants," provide each recipient with a $500,000, five-year award without restrictions on use.

A foundation official informed Kleinberg of his award last week, but he had to promise he would tell only his wife.

Kleinberg, 33, grew up in Wales Center and attended Iroquois Central High School in Elma, where he was valedictorian of his graduating class and played varsity tennis. The Buffalo News in 1989 noted his selection from among 145,000 high-school students to a four-student team participating in a chemistry competition in Germany.

Brains seem to run in his family. Kleinberg's father, Eugene, is a professor of mathematics at the University at Buffalo, and his mother, Evelyn, worked as a computer consultant.

Kleinberg earned his undergraduate degree from Cornell and has served on the faculty there since 1996, when he received his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As a researcher, Kleinberg focuses on the point at which the technological networks that underpin the Internet meet the social networks that govern how people use the Internet.

He said he is attempting to use the social information that is embedded in the World Wide Web to help make search engines work more effectively.

He also worked with Cornell biologists to compare the genomes of rice and maize, helping them make in a matter of hours "gene maps" that used to take months or years to create.

Kleinberg said he is humbled by the award and hasn't decided what he will do with the money. "I'm still considering how best to use it, of course," he said.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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